Musings from the Masters
AUGUSTA, Georgia (AP) — Bubba Watson gave a masterful performance but the Masters will be remembered more as a bore than for its roars.
On a golf course so firm and fast that only 19 players shot in the 60s, Watson did it three times. He joined a distinguished list of players to win the Masters twice in three years — Horton Smith, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
But the final group produced only one birdie on the back nine, and that was Watson’s two-putt on the par-5 13th hole after a sand wedge he could hit no closer than 25 feet. There were only three eagles on the back nine the entire day, all on the 13th hole, none by anyone who had a chance to win.
Before attention shifts to Pinehurst No. 2 for the U.S. Open that starts in 57 days, here are some final musings from the 78th Masters:
THE TIGER FACTOR: Professional golf faced its first big test last week — a Masters without Woods for the first time in 20 years — and failed to break par.
CBS overnight ratings were down 24 percent from a year ago. It was the lowest overnight rating since 2004 when Phil Mickelson won his first Masters on Easter Sunday, when ratings typically are lower.
That’s no surprise. The Masters is the best TV in golf. Woods is the biggest star.
But the time is coming when Woods and Mickelson (who missed the cut for the first time in 17 years) will no longer be active. Golf is better when there is a dominant player, and golf has had Woods for nearly two decades.
Would having a 20-year-old Jordan Spieth in a green jacket have helped? Possibly. One reason the ratings were not better is that Spieth was never closer than three shots over the final hour. The last time the Masters limped to the finish was when Trevor Immelman built a big lead in 2008.
In the absence of a star, sport needs a good rivalry. Golf has neither at the moment.
SIGNATURE MOMENT: The defining shot for Watson might have been his drive on the 13th hole.
During a surprise visit to Golf Channel on Tuesday, Watson said he once reached the par 5 in two with a pitching wedge when he played college golf at Georgia. This time, he came out of his shoes with a big fade that started further left than he wanted, clipped a tree and still came back to earth 366 yards away.
“His drive on 13, I’ll never forget,” Spieth said.
Even though Watson followed with a most ordinary sand wedge to 25 feet and left the eagle putt woefully short, it was a psychological blow. With that kind of power, Watson wasn’t losing a three-shot lead over the final five holes unless he gave it away. And he didn’t.
FLOWERING CRAB APPLE: That’s the name of the par-3 fourth hole, and it was poison to a couple of players. Spieth made No. 4 memorable for holing his bunker shot in the final round for birdie. Go back to Saturday to find Brandt Snedeker coming off back-to-back birdies to reach 2-under par. He hit into the bunker, blasted out to about 5 feet, and then five-putted from there for triple bogey.
Matt Kuchar chipped in from behind the third green to briefly share the lead on Sunday. He hit a reasonable tee shot, about 60 feet away, and four-putted for double bogey. He made only one birdie the rest of the way.
NEXT YEAR: The top 12 are invited back to the Masters next year (it used to be top 16 until last year).
For the last five years, someone who finished one shot out of the top 12 or top 16 failed to get back to Augusta the following April — David Toms, Ben Crane, Ricky Barnes, Scott Verplank and Aaron Baddeley. In the final year of his exemption from winning the 2009 British Open, Stewart Cink closed with a bogey-free 68. He finished one shot out of the top 12.
Cink has work to do to get back to Augusta National.