Masters Sunday was full of entertainment, but what was the biggest surprise? GolfChannel.com senior writer Rex Hoggard and editorial director Jay Coffin weigh in with the most unexpected happening of the final round.
By REX HOGGARD
AUGUSTA, Ga. – On an afternoon filled with more turns than a Bubba Watson tee ball, the day’s biggest surprise is what Phil Mickelson didn’t do.
Lefty, who began the day a stroke behind overnight leader Peter Hanson following a near-flawless back-nine 30 on Saturday, could only watch the day’s best shot – Louis Oosthuizen’s 4-iron from 253 yards for a double eagle at the second hole – and produced more chills than thrills in what was positioned as a historical breakthrough.
A victory on Sunday would have been Mickelson’s fourth green jacket, matching Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer for second place on the all-time list, and his record at Augusta National was all the evidence many needed to proclaim the 76th Masters over late Saturday.
But Mickelson failed to birdie the par-5 second hole and his tee shot at the fourth caromed off the bleachers left of the green and into the woods, taking with it Lefty’s title chances.
Yet more surprising than Mickelson’s fourth-hole meltdown was his inability to mount a back-nine charge when Oosthuizen faltered. Mickelson managed just three birdies the rest of the way and never got closer to the lead than two shots.
Augusta National is, as Fred Couples figured last week, Mickelson’s “playground,” which is why his Sunday swoon was the day’s biggest surprise.
By JAY COFFIN
AUGUSTA, Ga. – The biggest Sunday surprise at the Masters was the biggest winner, Bubba Watson.
A Bubba victory is good for golf, it’s good for American golf and it’s good to have another first-time major championship winner. But it’s still a huge surprise.
Remember, this is the same dude who shot a final-round 74 a month ago to blow the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He cruised for the first three rounds to shoot 69-64-69, but when the pressure was on, he ballooned to 74. He could not control his emotions enough to pull off the proper shots.
Where else in golf is there more pressure than the back nine Sunday at Augusta National? Yet Watson carved his way around the game’s most historic holes – birdies on Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 16 – and then pulled off one of the most imaginative shots on the second playoff hole to win the green jacket.
Phil Mickelson’s triple-bogey 6 on the fourth hole was stunning, but with Phil the Thrill it’s not altogether unexpected. Louis Oosthuizen hung tough until the end, but he’s already won a major championship and he’s been in this type of environment before.
Watson hasn’t performed well in these circumstances. Until now. Next time he’s in contention to win a tournament, we likely won’t question his fortitude. That makes his Masters march the biggest surprise.