For Bubba Watson, a second Green Jacket isn’t about proving himself a great golfer.
But the reality is that few things are more important at Augusta National Golf Club than tradition, honor and the great champions who have won the Masters.
On Sunday, Watson became the 17th golfer to win multiple Masters and, yes, the victory did validate what he first accomplished in 2012. Additionally, his 2-year-old son, Caleb, came on the 18th green, two years after he was adopted by Bubba and his wife Angie just before the 2012 Tournament.
Watson withstood the challenges of 20-year-old Jordan Spieth and Sweden’s Jonas Blixt. More significantly, Watson, who 24 hours earlier had talked about having “issues,” erased his own doubts, thanks largely to a booming driver which unlocked the challenges of Augusta National’s 7,435-yard layout.
Watson shot a 3-under-par 69 for an 8-under 280 total, and a three-stroke victory over Spieth (72) and Blixt (71). Miguel Angel Jimenez shot 71 to finish fourth at 284.
“Never loved green so much,” Watson said after receiving the Green Jacket from 2013 champion Adam Scott in the Butler Cabin.
“This one is a lot different. The first one I kind of lucked into.”
Not this time.
Watson, who had trouble with the putter in Saturday’s third round with two three-putts and 33 total putts, had 10 one-putt greens Sunday in a total of 25. During a final round in which nobody came after him on the second nine, Watson did what he needed to do, making seven pars and a birdie at the par-5 13th hole.
“I didn’t put any pressure on (Watson) and he was able to make pars coming in,” Spieth said.
Watson said, “Nobody caught fire. There weren’t too many birdies after No. 10, I think.”
Blixt, who was trying to become the first male Swede to win a major golf championship, was delighted with his under-par round.
“Anytime you shoot under-par at Augusta National on a Sunday, you should be pretty happy,” said Blixt, a Masters rookie. “Bubba Watson played better. I got beat and he deserves to win. I congratulate him for that. I learned a lot, have a lot of new experiences and can’t wait to come back.”
Watson, a 35-year-old left-hander, joins Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, Ben Crenshaw, Jose Maria Olazabal, Bernhard Langer and Horton Smith as a two-time winner. Only eight golfers have won the Masters more often. That list begins with golf legends Jack Nicklaus (6), Arnold Palmer (4) and Tiger Woods (4), and ends with three-time winners Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Nick Faldo and Phil Mickelson.
Watson, a Floridian with an unconventional swing and an approach to match, put his name alongside the great champions at the greatest major championship venue in golf.
There’s plenty of validation in that.
“If people say that I'm a good player, that's great,” Watson said. “But I'm not. I'm not trying to play golf for everybody to tell me how great I am or I'm one of the greats of the game.
“I play golf because I love it, I love the game, I want to grow the game. The game has brought me everything that I've ever owned in my life.”
Watson became the third left-hander to win the Masters in 2012, and his second Green Jacket marked the sixth victory by a lefty since 2003. Mike Weir won in 2003, and Mickelson won in 2004, 2006 and 2010.
“It's overwhelming,” Watson said. “As a kid all you want to do is make the PGA Tour. Nine years on Tour now. Somehow six wins, two of them have Green Jackets wrapped around them. It's something I could never dream of.”
Watson and Spieth started the final round as co-leaders at 5-under. Spieth charged into a two-stroke lead on the third hole before Watson started a decisive and convincing comeback. Spieth and Watson both made birdie at the sixth hole, again halving the par-3 holes with birdies. Spieth’s putt was from three feet, while Watson made from 10.
A precise approach shot at the seventh hole left Spieth with a short, but tricky, downhill putt for birdie. He rolled it in to reach 8-under and extend his lead over Watson to two.
There was a dramatic turn at the par-5 eighth, where Spieth three-putted for bogey and Watson made a short birdie putt. Suddenly, they were tied again atop the leader board at 7-under.
There was another two-stroke swing at the ninth. Spieth's approach was short and rolled back off the green’s false front down the fairway. He failed to get it up-and-down for par and dropped to 6-under while Watson made a stress-free birdie to move ahead by two.
“Two two-stroke swings is difficult on this course to come back from,” said Spieth, acknowledging that his game wasn’t the same after the eighth hole. “Eight and nine were the turning points.”
As Watson and Spieth marched to the 10th fairway to begin the second nine at Augusta National, famed for its twists and turns, Watson was ahead by two. He extended the lead to three with a birdie at the par-5 13th hole, where he hit a 360-yard drive that caromed off trees back into the fairway. He used a 56-degree sand wedge from 144 yards for his second, and two putts later he had birdie to reach 8-under and lead by three over Spieth and Blixt.
“His drive on 13, I’ll never forget,” Spieth said. “I thought it was out of bounds 70 yards left, and it was perfect. He knew that, too.”
In the measured drives, Watson averaged 305.62 yards, tops in the field. In the final round, he averaged 316 yards. On the par-5 15th hole, his four drives during the tournament measured 325, 343, 340 and 343 yards.
“Hats off to Bubba,” Spieth said. “When he’s driving the ball well out here, he’s hard to beat. Bubba Watson is a deserving Masters champion this year.”