AUGUSTA, GEORGIA – Bubba Watson’s second Masters title was nothing like the green jacket he won two years ago.
The only daring shot Watson hit was one he really didn’t need. The wild swing in momentum came on the front nine, not the back nine of Augusta National. And the sweetest difference of all Sunday was seeing his 2-year-old son walk toward him on the edge of the 18th green after his three-shot victory over Jordan Spieth.
Watson turned in another masterpiece and joined an elusive group as the 17th player to win the Masters more than once.
He turned a two-shot deficit into a two-shot lead on the final two holes of the front nine, then kept Spieth, 20, and everyone else at safe distance the rest of the way. Watson closed with a 3-under 69 to beat a pair of Masters rookies in Spieth and Jonas Blixt of Sweden.
Two years ago, when he hit that wild hook out of the trees on the 10th hole to win in a playoff, his wife and newly adopted son were watching at home in Florida. This time, young Caleb was decked out in a green-and-white striped Masters shirt and green tennis shoes as he waddled over to his father.
“This one’s a lot different,” Watson said. “The first one, for me, it was almost like I lucked into it.”
After high-fiving the crowd on his way to sign his card, Watson returned to Butler Cabin to take back that green jacket he slipped on Adam Scott a year ago.
“After giving it away last year, I wanted it back,” Watson said. “I told Adam we could just swap it back and forth every year.”
Spieth, trying to become the youngest Masters champion, could only watch from the side of the green.
He dazzled the massive crowd early by holing out for birdie from the front bunker on No. 4, and making back-to-back birdies to build a two-shot lead through seven holes. Bidding to become the first player in 35 years to win a green jacket in his first try, Spieth looked to be well on his way.
But he three-putted for bogey on No. 8 — the first 6 on his card all week — as Watson got up-and-down for birdie to tie for the lead. Spieth then made a rookie mistake, leaving his approach below the flagstick on No. 9 and watching it roll back into the fairway, setting up another bogey and two-shot swing.
Whatever prayer he had might have ended at Amen Corner.
His tee shot on No. 12 found Rae’s Creek. He missed a short birdie attempt on the 13th.
Watson was too powerful, too experienced, too tough to beat. Spieth closed with six pars for a 72 and tied for second with Blixt, who never went away but never really threatened. Blixt shot a 71.
“That was fun, but at the same time, it hurts right now,” Spieth said. “I wanted to get in contention on the back nine Sunday, but didn’t come out on top.”
Watson finished at 8-under 280 and goes to a career-best No. 4 in the world.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, the 50-year-old wonder from Spain, shot 71 and finished alone in fourth. Matt Kuchar lost a share of the lead with a four-putt double bogey on the fourth hole and never challenged again. He closed with a 74 and tied for fifth with Rickie Fowler (73).
This was nine holes of theater everyone expected out of Sunday at Augusta National — except it was the front nine.
Nine players were separated by three shots at the start of the final round only for this to turn into a two-man show.
After trading pars on the opening hole, either Watson or Spieth — sometimes both — made birdie or bogey over the next nine holes.
They matched birdies on the par-3 fourth hole when Spieth holed out from the front bunker and Watson hit his tee shot into 4 feet. Spieth led by as many as two shots for most of the front nine, and his spectacular play overshadowed a steady hand from Watson.
Two holes to close out the back nine changed everything. Amen Corner swung the Masters in Watson’s favor for good.
About the only excitement came on the par-5 15th hole, when Watson had a three-shot lead. He hit his tee shot well left, blocked by a few pine trees. Instead of laying up safely in front of the water, he hit through the trees with a shot that just cleared the false front of the green and went just over the back.
All he got was a par. Over the final hour, that’s all he really needed.