Greed is good when green is the objective. Although Bubba Watson will take home a hefty paycheck for his three-stroke victory at the 2014 Masters Tournament, the real prestigious item he got his hands on at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday was the revered green jacket.
Bubba Watson shoots 69 in the final round to win the Masters for the second time in three years.— Masters Tournament (@The_Masters) April 13, 2014
Watson should learn to share, as he selfishly dons professional golf's most coveted clothing for the second time in three years. Others who were pursuing their first Masters—in some cases their first major titles—fell short as Watson cruised on the back nine to cap off a final-round 69.
The top challenger in 20-year-old Jordan Spieth had Watson's number in taking a two-shot lead after seven holes in the final round, but he eventually folded. Spieth figures to have plenty of other opportunities, and he can at least take solace in the fact that his high finish was unprecedented for his age, per ESPN's Justin Ray:
Not the distinction he was hoping for, but - Jordan Spieth is the youngest in Masters history to finish runner-up or T-2nd.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) April 13, 2014
There were a ton of potential storylines, but Watson played like the golfer with the least to lose over the last 18 holes, and it eventually showed when he was the official victor on the 18th green.
Here is a look at the top takeaways from the season's first major, along with some of the quotes that reflect how the players who were in contention are feeling after this emotionally draining, yet wonderful, tradition unlike any other.
'Bubba Golf' Beats Augusta National
To keep with the greed-themed premise—in this instance it has a positive connotation, of course—Watson's course management is not one that often takes into account the risk associated with his style of play.
The Masters doesn't require a lot of power, but Watson has proven that his huge distance off the tee is an advantage that can help him run away from the field. He is also unfazed no matter how difficult a shot is, and he can work it both ways well enough to pull it off.
Watson combined those two attributes on a momentous, intimidating tee shot on the par-five 13th that left him a short iron approach, where he two-putted for birdie. After the round, Spieth said he'd never forget how much hook Watson put on the shot to avoid the water up the left and land in a perfect position, per Golf Digest's Mike O'Malley:
Jordan Spieth on Bubba's 366-yard drive at 13: "I'll never forget it--I thought it was out-of-bounds 70 yards left."— Mike O'Malley (@GD_MikeO) April 13, 2014
This event may be a tradition unlike any other, but conventions and traditions have to be thrown out the window when discussing Watson's game. The two-time Masters champion shatters the mold, refusing to compromise his creativity amid even the most trying circumstances.
Even with a three-shot lead on the 15th hole, he took an insane risk by threading his second shot between a gap in the trees and hitting it over the water. Kyle Porter of CBS Sports connected the dots as to why Watson seemingly lost his head:
Bubba: "I was telling my caddie coming up 18 'I don't remember the last few holes.'" 15 makes sense now!— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) April 13, 2014
O'Malley reported what Thomas Bjorn had to say about Watson and other golfers taking on the shorter par fives on the back nine:
Thomas Bjorn on players not laying up on 13 or 15 "even though you sometimes feel like you want to....Great players take on great shots."— Mike O'Malley (@GD_MikeO) April 13, 2014
Despite sporting such a unique game and legendary length off the tee, Watson remains ever humble, per Golf.com:
How did you do it Bubba? "I really don't know." #Masters— Golf.com (@si_golf) April 13, 2014
"A small-town guy named Bubba now has two green jackets." — Bubba Watson.— Golf.com (@si_golf) April 13, 2014
Just to be on the PGA Tour was a dream of Watson's. Winning two Masters is something else entirely, and he has never been afraid to show his emotions on such a worldwide stage, per Golf Digest's Ashley Mayo:
Bubba: "It's a dream to be on the PGA Tour, it's a dream to win. ... So yea, I'm gonna cry." #Masters2014— Ashley Mayo (@AshleyKMayo) April 13, 2014
The raw emotion is something Watson has been able to keep in check well enough to win two of the past three Masters. On the ultimate shot maker's golf course, he's hit shots that have seldom been seen in the history of the game—if ever, in some cases.
There should be no stopping "Bubba Golf" from continuing to conquer Augusta—and really any other major championship course—as long as his putter cooperates.
Spieth Has Teeth, Remains Upbeat
It's no doubt disappointing for Spieth to come up short, but he proved Sunday that he won't shrink from the spotlight under any circumstances. His nerve finally wilted on the greens and his swing got out of sync, yet he never gave up and shot a respectable 72 in the final round.
GolfChannel.com's Jay Coffin documented the precocious perspective Spieth had when his bid for the top prize at his maiden Masters appearance fell just a bit short:
Spieth: "Didn’t come out on top but I can take a lot of positives away. I think I’m ready to win a major, and that’s a great feeling."— Jay Coffin (@JayCoffinGC) April 13, 2014
Spieth with a good mindset about majors: "There's still three more this year." Not looking back, only looking forward.— Jay Coffin (@JayCoffinGC) April 13, 2014
Spieth should be psychologically crushed after such a close call, where he would have become the youngest green jacket winner in history. Instead, he couldn't have had a better attitude and oozed with confidence about the year's remaining three majors, per Mayo:
Spieth: "It stings right now. ... I've waited my whole life to lead at Augusta on Sunday." #Masters2014— Ashley Mayo (@AshleyKMayo) April 13, 2014
Spieth: "I'm ready to win. It's just a matter of time." #masters2014— Ashley Mayo (@AshleyKMayo) April 13, 2014
Yes, he is ready to win. It just wasn't meant to be on this Sunday, but Spieth should be a fixture in the Masters for years to come if this is any indication.
For some perspective on the magnitude of Spieth's accomplishment, here is not a quote but a staggering stat from Ray:
When the '13 season started, @JordanSpieth was outside the top-800 in the world & without status on any tour.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) April 12, 2014
Rory McIlroy has proven himself as the premier young player in golf with two runaway victories in majors. However, Spieth is the next great American hope of the incoming generation, which is loaded with golf talent all around the globe.
This is a long way in the future; yet it will nevertheless be compelling to see what happens when McIlroy and Spieth hit their respective primes. They figure to lead the youth movement that has taken the golf world by storm, and they played together in the first two rounds at the Masters for the first of hopefully many times in majors.
Analyzing The Experience Factor at The Masters
Watson was in clear control as the final 11 holes unfolded, which can be attributed to his past prowess and the lack of pressure he felt having been in the heat of Masters contention before.
Rookies such as Spieth and fellow joint runner-up Jonas Blixt had never competed in this tournament, though, and beat a slew of superstars.
Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt are just the fifth and sixth players to open their Masters career w/3 consecutive sub-par rounds. #masters— Stephanie Wei (@StephanieWei) April 13, 2014
Who will win more career majors?
Fred Couples has received a lot of attention for staying in the hunt over the past several Masters and had another strong showing this time around by finishing tied for 21st. Lost in some of that deserved hype was another 50-something in Bernhard Langer.
The German won the Masters in 1987 and again the year after Couples did in 1993 and proved he can still get it done. Langer turns 57 in August, yet he used his knowledge of Augusta National to his advantage in climbing the leaderboard on the final day with a three-under 69—matching Watson's round—to tie for eighth.
That was good enough to match McIlroy and even FedEx Cup points leader Jimmy Walker. Sky Sports Golf documented what Langer said about the 50-something upstarts who can still play at the highest level:
Bernhard Langer, 56 is T8."There's lots of good over-50 players. We can compete at the highest level even on a very long course like this."— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) April 13, 2014
Miguel Angel Jimenez had the low round of the tournament with a six-under 66 in Round 3 and backed it up in shooting 71 Sunday to finish in fourth on his own. He feels it's possible for a more seasoned veteran to win the green jacket:
Miguel Angel Jimenez, on whether a senior could win the Masters: "Why not? Fred Couples played nice, Langer played nice, I played nice."— Mike O'Malley (@GD_MikeO) April 14, 2014
To be sure, Jimenez is a notable exception to the trend of golfers getting into prime physical condition. That's part of what is driving the proliferation of young talent, though—and it's also keeping golfers like Langer and Couples, who has battled back problems, relevant even in major championships.
Some others such as Jimenez simply know how to get it done thanks to experience. A lot of that lack of experience can be made up for by the prodigies coming along who begin conditioning themselves and focusing on golf from a younger age than ever before, with Spieth being a prime example of that.
This is a scenario that should contribute to the continued, unprecedented depth of major championship fields in the future. The Masters will reward experience over all else, yet it appears about time that a debut entrant triumphs in 2015 for the first time since Fuzzy Zoeller broke through in his first Augusta appearance in 1979.