Once again the theater of the final round of the Masters did not disappoint, there were so many stories going on at the same time it took a white board to keep up with all the possibilities down the back nine. What stood out for me is what the pundits always say, the pin positions and contours of Augusta National reward creativity and imagination when coupled with clear decision making and precise execution. In other words, improvisation with a purpose.
No one improvises better on every shot he plays than the winner, Bubba Watson. A throwback to the old days of shafts that bent and wound balls with lots of spin, Bubba intentionally curves the ball more than any player out there. The ultimate feel player he craftily wields that pink shaft on his Ping driver manipulating his hands and wrists to create the curve he sees in his minds eye for the shot at hand. His philosophy is simple, “If I have a swing, I have a shot.”
The shot he played on the second playoff hole may be one of the ultimate golf improv bits we will ever witness. He was hitting off of the pine straw, out of a hallway of pines from 155 yards with no sight line to the green. He had to curve it a good 40 yards just to get it toward the target and managed to snuggle one in there about 20 feet below the hole to set up the winning par. This was like looking over Michelangelo’s shoulder as he dabbed just the right amount of paint to a cherub’s cheek on the curved Sistine Chapel ceiling from his back.
The day was full of improvisational wizardry. The Sunday pin on the 14th hole alone required a misdirectional approach that many of the players used to set up a crucial birdie in a charge at the lead. Two timely holes in one on sixteen-Adam Scott and Bo Van Pelt-were the source of thunderous cheers pretty early in the proceedings.
But the most incredible existential result of the day had to be the tremor created by Louie Oosthuizen’s albatross double eagle on the 2nd hole that propelled him to the top of the leader board. From a good 260 out he lashed a long iron down the hill that landed on the front of the green and then rolled a half acre or so up the green, banked hard right, and sought out the hole as if the ball had eyes.
The most amazing thing to me is that neither Oosthuizen or Bubba, who witnessed this feat first hand, let it change their approach to playing the next 16 holes. What transpired after that was just some of the most competent competitive play by band of leaders that you can ever imagine.
In the end, when the key putts did not drop for Padrig, Phil, Hanson, or Westwood or when an errant swing on 16 derailed Kootch, it just seemed that Bubba and Oosthuizen were feeding off of each other’s calm and making all the key shot that mattered to get to a playoff.
The first playoff hole was riveting as both guys thumped it well up the fairway, granted Bubba’s thump was about 30 yards longer than Louie’s, and put the ball on the makeable side of the hole into the 18th green. The two birdie putts missed by a total of two inches and sent them to the 10th for one more go. After Bubba side swiped the Pink Lady and sent his drive careening into Sherwood Forest Louie need to just stub one down the center and give himself a good look at the green.
Here Louie blinked-hitting it wild right as well he caught a tree and ended up a good 250 from the hole on the edge of the right rough. Failing to reach the green on his second gave Bubba Wizardry the opening, and I use that term facetiously, to work his magic.
It may seem hard to live with this result for Oosthuizen, but he played a mench of a final round in a major. It will be just for him to wonder how it wasn’t his day after the folkloric shot on two seemed to destine his name for a cubicle in the Champion’s Locker Room.