Bubba Watson’s second Masters championship in three years doesn’t make him one of golf’s elite players. Or at least that’s what he thinks.
“I just got lucky enough to have two green jackets,” Watson said Sunday after winning the Masters by three strokes over tournament rookies Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt. “I’m just trying to keep my (PGA) Tour card every year and if people say I’m a good player, great. I’m not playing golf for everybody to tell me how great I am. I play golf because I love it.”
But in taking down playing partner Spieth – who, at 20, was trying to become the youngest player to win the Masters – Watson placed himself in some elite company. Only 17 golfers have won multiple Masters. And Watson joined Arnold Palmer as the only player to win two titles in his first six years of playing the tournament.
Watson did it by shooting a 3-under-par 69 Sunday, to go 8-under (280) for the tournament.
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Watson and Spieth were tied for the lead heading in to the final round. Spieth, whose poise and confidence he showed all week belied his youth, jumped to an early advantage over Watson but ultimately couldn’t adequately handle his first Sunday at Augusta.
“I feel like I can take a ton of positives out of this week,” said Spieth, who shot even par Sunday. “I feel like I’m ready to win (the Masters). It’s just a matter of time and maybe a little bit of course knowledge.”
For a while, it looked as if Spieth was already there. He had holed a bunker shot on No. 4 for birdie that seemed to indicate he would be impervious to any Sunday pressure the Masters might put on a 20-year-old.
Spieth had a two-stroke lead when he and Watson walked to the eighth tee. Then the tournament changed.
“Eight and nine were the turning points of the day,” Spieth said.
Watson already had answered Spieth’s blast from the sand with a birdie putt of his own, then he did the same two holes later when they both made birdie putts on No. 6.
But Spieth bogeyed Nos. 8 and 9. Watson birdied both, and suddenly what was a two-stroke deficit for Watson was a two-shot lead. Despite bogeying No. 10, Watson had a clear path to his second green jacket.
“I was just trying to hang on,” Watson said. “I knew I had a couple of shots to play with. I knew how tough it was going to be. I knew once the momentum switched, it was a little bit in my favor.”
The tournament really ended for Spieth on the par-3 12th hole, where his tee shot rolled into Rae’s Creek. Although Spieth took a penalty and salvaged bogey, it increased Watson’s lead to a truly insurmountable three strokes.
Watson still had a few moments on the second nine. On the par-5 13th, he crushed his tee shot about 360 yards, scraping some pine trees before settling about 150 yards from the hole. From there, he birdied it to go 8-under.
On the 530-yard, par-5 15th, Watson elected not to lay up on his second shot in front of the pond. Playing from the trees, he said he had a better angle for going for the green (which he missed long). Still, he succeeded and made par.
“Yes, having a three-shot lead, as long as my playing partner didn’t hole it from the fairway (on No. 18), I was very comfortable,” Watson said.
Blixt, who played hockey when he was a kid in Sweden before coming to the United States to play golf at Florida State, never strayed far from the 4-under score with which he began the day.
“I’m kind of lost for words here,” Blixt said. “It was a great day. When you shoot under-par at Augusta National, you should be happy.”
Miguel Angel Jimenez finished third at 4 under, closing with a 1-under 71. Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar tied for fifth two strokes behind Jimenez.
Watson said he didn’t appreciate or enjoy his first Masters title, which came in 2012, when he returned to Augusta last year. He was a first-time father in 2012 and was overwhelmed by everything that went with that and being a defending Masters champion.
“This one will be a little different,” Watson said. “(Now), I’m just trying to win the net tournament, trying to make the next cut.”
Ordinary goals for someone who has become an extraordinary golfer, whether he cares to believe it or not.