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Bubba’s Masters

Bubba Watson waves after receiving the jacket from last year’s winner, Adam Scott.

From the 13th hole on Sunday’s final round of the 2014 Masters, Bubba Watson had a three-shot lead that would not be threatened. And that, for some, was what was wrong with this year’s event; a lack of tension, a lack of drama and a lack of some guy named T Woods.
To be fair, Bubba’s style of play is hardly conservative. “Bubba golf” as some refer to it can be entertaining. It certainly has an element of risk and daring. Like on the par-5 13th, where he cut a huge drive over and through the tree-tops, for the ball to eventually finish on the fairway, around the corner some 366 yards away – he played gap-wedge for his second. Or the par-5 15th where he played his second from 181 yards, behind trees. His ball had to be played low and cut, with enough length to get over the water front of the green. Not for Bubba to chip out and play his third on to the green for a regulation par. No, he decided to go for the green in two, even though he had a three-shot lead.
Bubba’s style of play suits Augusta National. He is exceptionally long, he is a leftie who loves playing high fades, and he has imagination in spades. Bubba shrunk the course. Just like Nicklaus and Woods did before him. By the time he returns next year, he will not be able to play the 13th as if it were a short par-4. The course will be Bubba-proofed.
Now a two-time Masters Champion, Bubba is being compared to some serious talent, and rightly so. He will be a contender at Augusta for some time, possibly long enough to secure another Green Jacket or two, such is his suitability to this course.
Why he wasn’t considered one of the leading favourites can be explained by his lack of success since his first Masters win in 2012. For a variety of reasons, many non-golf related, Bubba was not competitive until earlier this year, when he won the Northern Trust Open.
Following his second Masters success, Bubba gave us an insight into why his game went AWOL when talking of his adopted son, who was just one month old when Bubba won his first Masters: “We got him at a month old, so he didn’t have a male figure for the first month of his life,” Watson said. “So getting used to smell, touch, feel, sound, everything, I had to be there for my son. I was trying to be a good husband, a good dad. Golf was the farthest thing from my mind.”
He went on to say that the Green Jacket is not as important to him as his son, which, given the location and the timing of this press interview, was especially poignant. “I’m not playing this game for everybody to tell me that I’m one of the greats. I play it because I love it. But I love my son more. He is more important to me than golf or this Green Jacket.”
Yes, Bubba is a deserving champion, of that there can be no doubt. There is also no doubt that this year’s tournament was a TV ratings disaster, with the first two rounds viewing numbers down 30%. Sunday’s final round saw the lowest ratings since 2004! The reason, according to most commentators, can be attributed to the lack of drama as the tournament went into its final stretch, and the absence of Tiger Woods. Added to this was the game’s second-biggest star; Phil Mickelson, missing the cut and therefore not playing the weekend.
Love him or hate him, Tiger Woods is huge for the game of golf. Tournaments, especially majors, that do not include him appear to lack electricity, spark, that otherwise they would have. When fans watch a golf tournament on TV they tend to have two issues they wish to be informed on; the leader board and Tiger – in terms of where he is relative to the leaders and how is he going.
No-one, but no-one brings as much smouldering intensity to the game as does Tiger Woods. When he is absent, the game is not giving us as much as it is capable of. Sponsors know this, as do the various golfing bodies that run the game including, as evidenced last year, Augusta National. But the body of people who know it best are those who have benefitted most from his accomplishments – every professional golfer on the planet.
C’mon Tiger; get well soon.
Oh, and congratulations to Bubba Watson on winning his second Green Jacket.

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Bubba’s Masters