He has had previous success at Augusta National. He has already won on Tour this season. He hits plenty of greens in regulation. A long hitter, he makes plenty of birdies on par-5 holes. He rarely three-putts (at least not this year). He’s left-handed. Bubba Watson meets all the requirements of a Masters champion. So tell me again why I didn’t pick him to win the tournament this week?
Watson’s second Masters title, coming two years after his first, was statistically similar to his win in 2012. He didn’t need a playoff this time, beating Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt by three strokes, but his greens in regulation, fairways hit and total putts were similar to his results when he beat Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff.
Watson’s stats in his two Masters victories
|37 (T-46)||Fairways hit||40 (T-13)|
|53 (T-4)||Greens in regulation||50 (T-5)|
|120 (T-37)||Putts||116 (T-16)|
Watson didn’t post his best numbers Sunday. He hit only seven fairways and 10 greens, his lowest figures of the week. Still, his final-round 69 was his third sub-70 score for the tournament (which ties the Masters record). He countered his relative failure to hit greens Sunday by taking just 25 putts in the final round. He needed just one putt on 11 holes.
Watson’s Masters stats by round
|Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Total|
|Greens in regulation||16||12||12||10||50|
Long one of the best shapers of the golf ball, Watson’s ball-striking skills were on display at Augusta National. His greens in regulation and putting totals were among the best he’s had in major championships.
Bubba Watson’s most greens hit in a major
|2010 British Open||56|
|2013 U.S. Open||49|
Bubba Watson’s fewest putts taken at a major
|2009 U.S. Open||112|
|2004 U.S. Open||114|
|2010 PGA Championship||114|
|2012 British Open||119|
Watson’s second Masters title came in his sixth start at Augusta National. Only Horton Smith needed fewer appearances to get his second Masters victory. All of the players on this list, except Watson, are in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Fewest starts needed for two Masters victories
|Starts||Champion||Years of victories|
|3||Horton Smith||1934, 1936|
|6||Jimmy Demaret||1940, 1947|
|6||Arnold Palmer||1958, 1960|
|6||Bubba Watson||2012, 2014|
With two major championships and six PGA Tour victories, Watson is well on his way toward his own hall-of-fame career. (Don’t forget how close he came to a third major, having lost the 2010 PGA Championship in a playoff to Martin Kaymer.) He does, however, need to avoid the pitfalls that befell him after his 2012 Masters victory. Emotionally exhausted after a month that saw him not only win the Masters, but also become a father for the first time after he and wife, Angie, adopted baby Caleb, Watson didn’t win again in 2012 and 2013. But 2014 has been a different story. With two wins and two seconds this season, Watson is first on the PGA Tour money list, second in FedEx Cup points and second in scoring average.
Bubba Watson in 2013-14
But this Masters wasn’t all about Bubba Watson. Seniors and first-timers also made waves. More Champions Tour eligible players made the cut (6) than ever before and 11 Masters rookies played the weekend, tieing the tournament record. At age 20, Jordan Spieth almost became the youngest Masters champion, settling for a tie for second with fellow first-timer Jonas Blixt. It was the fifth runner-up finish in 43 starts for Spieth, golf’s new Nearly Man. There were four rookies in the top-10, including Kevin Stadler and Jimmy Walker, who were T-8.
Low finish by first-timers since 1980
In his first four treks around Augusta National, Spieth hit 53 greens in regulation, more than anyone in the field. He was also T-13 in fairways hit (40) and T-30 in total putts (120). But he wasn’t the only player with his eye on history. Fifty-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez, 30 years older than Spieth, shot 66 Saturday to move into contention, and was looking to become the oldest major champion of all time. The Spaniard shot 71 Sunday to finish fourth, four strokes back of Watson. It was the second-best finish by a player age 50 or older at the Masters. Jimenez was joined in the top-10 by fellow senior Bernhard Langer, whose 69 Sunday gave him a T-8 finish. It was his first top-10 at the Masters since he was T-4 in 2004.
Best Masters finish by a player 50 or older
|Miguel Angel Jimenez||4||2014||50|
One final thought: Next up on the major schedule is the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in June. Watson has played in seven national championships, making the cut four times with a best finish of T-5 in 2007. He was T-32 a year ago at Merion.