Bubba Watson and the 7 Most Emotional Major Champions
For new Masters champion Bubba Watson, the tears started flowing last Sunday almost immediately after he tapped in for victory on the second playoff hole.
Inspired by Bubba's emotional win, here are seven more heartwarming major championship moments—from triumphs over injury to performances that turned back the clock.
Tiger Woods: 2006 Open Championship
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If there's one person who could claim credit for Tiger Woods' success, it may have been his father Earl Woods.
Earl taught Tiger the game from the age of two, helped broker his sponsorship deals and acted as Tiger's unofficial swing coach for most of his career. So it was with a heavy heart that Tiger Woods played the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool just two months after Earl's death.
After capturing the title on Sunday (his 11th major victory), Woods embraced caddie Steve Williams and wife Elin with a rare public showing of emotion, walking off the course in tears.
Davis Love III: 1997 PGA Championship
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By 1997, Davis Love III was possibly the best player to have never won a major.
His record included 10 tour wins and two Ryder Cup appearances, but his major championship bids had been disappointing. That all changed at the PGA Championship at Winged Foot in 1997, where Love played like a man inspired.
He came to Winged Foot with his deceased father on his mind—Davis Love Jr. had competed there, and the PGA was his favorite major.
With that inspiration, Love III closed with four pars and an unforgettable birdie—a putt he sank just as a rainbow appeared on the horizon. "He knows his father is proud," his mother Penta said at the time, "and that he's with him. That was the rainbow."
Jack Nicklaus: 1986 Masters
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Six years removed from his last major victory, Jack Nicklaus came to the 1986 Masters reeling from media comments that he was "washed up" and finished as a competitive force on tour.
But with his son Jackie on the bag, Nicklaus took Augusta by storm in the final round. As an electric crowd looked on, the 46-year-old Nicklaus shot 30 on the second nine to charge past Tom Kite and Greg Norman.
Today, his victory is remembered as a moment when Masters patrons rallied behind one of the most unlikely champions—one who still gives hope to fading tour veterans.
Ben Hogan: 1950 U.S. Open
Forget Tiger Woods winning the 2008 U.S. Open with an injured leg—Hogan came back from unbelievable odds to capture the 1950 Open.
Less than a year-and-a-half after an epic car accident that broke Hogan's ribs, collarbone, pelvis and ankle (doctors said he might never walk again), Hogan hobbled through a 36-hole Sunday finish to tie for the lead.
Still struggling with injury, he then held off Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio in an 18-hole Monday playoff to take home the trophy. Today, Hogan's triumph over adversity remains one of the most iconic major victories ever.
Phil Mickelson: 2010 Masters
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As the 2010 Masters began, favorites Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson had sharply contrasting family dynamics: Woods' family was falling apart following his 2009 sex scandal, while Mickelson's was rallying together as both his mother and his wife, Amy, were undergoing cancer treatments.
Mickelson's decisive victory and his hug with Amy behind the 18th green further cemented his status as a crowd favorite in the golf world. As announcer Jim Nantz intoned, it was "a win for the family."
Tom Watson and Bruce Edwards: 2003 U.S. Open
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To Tom Watson, Bruce Edwards was more of a lifelong friend than an employee. They teamed up for 27 years of Watson's career, including his unforgettable win (and dramatic chip-in) at the 1982 U.S. Open.
But as Edwards battled the debilitating ALS disease in the early 2000s, their partnership was nearing an end. The stage was set for one final push when Watson received a special U.S. Open exemption in 2003 and then used it to full effect—with Edwards on the bag, he shot 65 to grab a share of the first-round lead.
Cheered on by a sympathetic crowd, Edwards helped guide Watson to a T28 finish. Edwards would succumb to his illness just 10 months later.
Ben Crenshaw: 1995 Masters
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Smooth-swinging Texan Ben Crenshaw had a close relationship with teacher Harvey Penick—one that lasted until Penick's final days in April 1995.
Just 24 hours after serving as a pallbearer at Penick's funeral, Crenshaw opened his Masters with a two-under par 70 and never looked back.
His emotional breakdown after tapping in for the win stands out as one of the enduring images of Masters champions.