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Stat attack!: Masters review

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 27: Soren Kjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark pose with the trophy after winning the tournament during day four of the World Cup of Golf at Kingston Heath Golf Club on November 27, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

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

 2012 Stat 2014
 278 Score 280
 37 (T-46) Fairways hit 40 (T-13)
 53 (T-4) Greens in regulation 50 (T-5)
 120 (T-37) Putts 116 (T-16)
 4-under Par-3s 1-under
 2-over Par-4s 1-over
 8-under Par-5s 8-under

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
 Fairways hit 10 10 13 7 40
  Greens in regulation 16 12 12 10 50
 Putts 32 26 33 25 116
 Score 69 68 74 69 280

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

 Major Greens hit
 2010 British Open 56
 2012 Masters 53
 2011 Masters 52
 2014 Masters 50
 2013 U.S. Open 49

Bubba Watson’s fewest putts taken at a major

 Major Total putts
 2009 U.S. Open 112
 2004 U.S. Open 114
 2010 PGA Championship 114
 2014 Masters 116
 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

 Tournament Finish Scores Money
 CIMB Classic T-31 78-69-65-73—285 $44,450
 WGC-HSBC Champions T-8 68-69-69-68—274 161,666
 Farmers Insurance Open T-23 70-73-73-69—285 54,290
 Waste Management Phoenix T-2 64-44-48-71—269 545,600
 Northern Trust Open Won 70-71-64-64—269 1,206,000
 WGC-Accenture Match Play T-9   148,000
 WGC-Cadillac Championship T-2 73-72-72-68—285 753,000
 Arnold Palmer Invitational WD 83  
 Masters Won 69-68-74-69—280 1,620,000

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 

 Finish Player Year
 T-2 Jonas Blixt 2014
 T-2 Jordan Spieth 2014
 T-2 Jason Day 2011
 T-2 Dan Pohl 1982
 3 Tommy Tolles 1997
 T-3 Luke Donald 2005
 T-3 Tom Lehman 1993
 T-3 John Huston 1990
 T-3 David Edwards 1984

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 

 Player Finish Year Age
 Sam Snead T-3 1963 50
 Miguel Angel Jimenez 4 2014 50
 Jimmy Demaret T-5 1962 51
  Fred Couples 6 2010 50
 Jack Nicklaus T-6 1998 58
 Bernhard Langer T-8 2014 56
 Sam Snead T-10 1967 54
 Ben Hogan T-10 1967 54

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.