And now we wait and hope, hope the next major golf championship of 2012, the U.S. Open at San Francisco’s Olympic Club in June, can be as full of tension and greatness — and, of course, drama — as the Masters.
What an ending Sunday, in the shadows after the setting sun dipped below the Georgia pines, a day of history, only the fourth double-eagle in 77 Masters and, because the winner couldn’t be determined until a sudden-death playoff, mystery.
Two extra holes and suddenly Bubba Watson, the other left-hander, dressed all in white, was hugging his caddie and tearing up, a Masters champion who hits the ball a country mile — hey, he’s a country kid from Bagdad, Fla. — and is wonderfully outspoken.
Watson came out of the trees with a semi-miracle shot on the 495-yard 10th hole, after Louis Oosthuizen, who hours earlier had produced a full miracle shot, a 2 on a par-5, couldn’t do the same.
So minutes later, after Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion from South Africa, made bogey, the 33-year-old Watson tapped in a six-inch putt to win.
The Masters, some thought, would belong to Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy — they tied for 40th. The Masters, that Sunday morning everyone believed for a fourth time would belong to Phil Mickelson, he tied for third. It instead became the Masters that was batted around like a beach ball, until after finishing with the same 10-under total of 278 was Oosthuizen, ended up belonging to Watson.
What made the Masters famous so long ago in its second year, 1935, was the double-eagle, or albatross, by Gene Sarazen; a 2 on the par-5 15th. The tournament that started off in the Great Depression had the jolt that took it around the sporting world.
Twice since there have been double-eagles, and then Sunday, for the first time on television, Oosthuizen, the guy nicknamed “Shrek” because of the gap in his teeth, holed a 260-yard 4-iron shot on the downhill second hole. He jumped to 10-under par and a three-shot lead. But nothing is certain at Augusta.
Except that the finish will be frenzied.
“I never got this far in my dreams,” Watson said. He almost got as far in the 2010 PGA at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, losing a playoff. His late father, Gerry, was stricken with terminal cancer, and Bubba (Gerry Jr.) desperately wanted to win for him. It wasn’t to be. Now it is to be.
“Somehow I got into the playoff,” Bubba said. “I almost don’t know the rest, but suddenly I was there crying.”
Olympic, with no water hazards, with only one fairway bunker, surely will produce a different sort of tournament than Augusta National, designed for rapid lead changes.
U.S. Opens are tournaments of patience and high rough, not that the 1966 Open at Olympic, when the great Arnold Palmer squandered a seven-shot lead the last nine holes to Billy Casper, didn’t have enough excitement.
That also finished in a playoff, at 18 holes, Casper winning.
Watson never has had a lesson. He’s a natural. He buttons the top button on his golf shirts. He drives more than 340 yards at times.
He’ll have to be more accurate at Olympic, but he — and we — have two months to think about that.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mixing it up
The last 14 major championship winners after Bubba Watson became the 14th different victor when he clinched the 76th Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday.