Hole 16 at Augusta National. Photo courtesy of HookedOnGolfBlog.com
Once again the Masters was a tournament like no other. The course as always, was in immaculate condition. As always, the greens were extremely fast and difficult. The green speed doesn’t just tax putting. It makes approach shots and their accuracy much more important. The speed also makes short game extremely important. Players who putted well and came to the tournament with solid short games, performed well.
With Tiger Woods gone, there was a different feel this week. Many thought the tournament was “wide open.” Well, it certainly wasn’t open for the 60+ crowd, or most of the older and shorter hitting crowd. For the most part the Masters is with a few exceptions, a long hitter’s course. Those exceptions would be players like Mike Weir and Zach Johnson.
The first surprises of the week came Friday as many big names missed the cut, including Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Dustin Johnson, Angel Cabrera, Keegan Bradley, and Jason Dufner.
Rory McIlory struggle to make the cut on the number and would not be a factor through the weekend. One oddity was the fact that McIlory was the first out on Saturday. As a single he had to play with a marker, a player from the golf club, for scoring. The marker beat McIlory by one shot, shooting 70 to his 71.
As the weekend unfolded a few players rose to the top of the leader board. Jonas Blixt John Senden, Thomas Bjorn, Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott were all in great shape, with long time favorite Fred Couples in the hunt. Couples would stay close to the lead through the weekend until hitting his second shot on hole 11 into the water during the final round.
By Sunday the players who had a chance to win thinned out. Jordan Spieth, a 20 year old who turned pro in late 2012, was tied for the lead with former champion Bubba Watson. One shot back was Matt Kuchar and Jonas Blixt, with “The Mechanic” Miguel Angel Jimenez and Rickie Fowler two back.
As the front nine unfolded Sunday, Spieth and Watson separated themselves from the field with a birdie barrage. Amazingly both players made birdie on both par-3’s on the front. These are not easy holes either. On hole nine Watson made birdie while Spieth struggled to make bogey, a two shot swing. Spieth’s two shot lead on the front nine evaporated and he started the back one shot back of Watson.
The back nine was not quite as exciting as the front, quite unusual for the Masters. Watson kept his foot on the gas and Spieth struggled making no birdies on the back. By the 13th hole Watson would hold a 3-shot lead over Spieth, and keep it until play was completed.
With the amazing win Watson joins an elite group of multiple Masters winners, and an even more elite group of players, like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, who won the Masters twice in three years.