An oral account of Watson's miraculous Masters shot

By Rex HoggardApril 8, 2013, 11:30 am

Nestled into a patch of straw between a collection of pine trees and towering magnolias, Gerry Lester Watson Jr. studied the most important shot of his career with all the concern of an assembly line worker halfway through the graveyard shift.

If Bubba Watson’s heart was racing, his mind – normally a collision of disjointed thoughts – was quiet and content. As the crow flies, if said crow had directional issues, Watson had 165 winding yards between his ball right of Augusta National’s 10th fairway and the hole.

Or, as his friend Rickie Fowler pointed out, Watson was “in the wrong place at the right time.”

The Shot

Following four consecutive birdies starting at the 13th hole during an eventful final turn at last year’s Masters, Watson finished regulation with a 68 and tied for the lead with Louis Oosthuizen at 10 under par.

After trading pars with the South African at the first extra frame (No. 18), the big left-hander pulled a mammoth drive into the trees right of the 10th fairway. With little debate, Watson and caddie Ted Scott settled on a 52-degree gap wedge that roped some 50 yards out of the trees and spun – up the hill, no less – to 15 feet.

Two putts later chairman Billy Payne uttered the words few outside of Bagdad, Fla., ever thought possible – Your 2012 Masters champion, Bubba Watson.

Few will remember Watson’s birdie barrage to finish his final round, or even more insanely inspired shots on Thursday and Friday, according to his caddie. But every golf fan will remember The Shot.

The Situation

Scott had been here before. Through countless Tour stops and casual rounds, Watson has made a career out of hitting the impossible shot – the byproduct of surreal hand-eye coordination and off-the-charts clubhead speed. When Watson and Scott arrived at the wayward drive deep in the woods at No. 10 there was no panic, no discussion. There was no need.

“It was a perfect lie, the ball was a little above his feet, everything was set up for that shot,” said Scott, who never suggested that maybe Watson should consider playing the safe shot and chipping out. “We weren’t worried. We have a saying, ‘If Bubba has a swing, Bubba has a shot.’”

In fact, Scott contends the instant classic Watson hit on the second overtime hole wasn’t even the best shot he hit at the 2012 Masters.

“It was the third-best (shot) that week,” said Scott without a hint of hyperbole.

Bubba Masters shot

An aerial graphic of Watson's shot on the 10th hole in the 2012 Masters playoff

The second-best shot for Watson at last year’s Masters was on Friday at the seventh when Watson’s drive again found trees right of the fairway and he carved a 9-iron out of a 10-foot wide opening in the trees to 8 feet.

A day earlier Watson had hit the week’s best, at least according to Scott, when he pinched his ball from a “fluffy” lie in the pine straw right of the 11th fairway onto the green.

“He has to hit it low and aim left of the water and at the scoreboard sign and hook it enough to miss the water. I say to him, ‘Let’s just chip out.’ He says, ‘You know I’m known for hooking it,’” Scott said. “He says, ‘I got this, back up.’ To this day I didn’t think that was possible. Who does that?”

So forgive Watson if his predicament right of the 10th fairway in the playoff on Sunday didn’t exactly send chills down his spine.

What to most would have been akin to a half-court buzzer beater was to Watson about as close to a stock shot as he has in his twisting repertoire.

“Because my nickname is ‘Freak Show,’ because I can hit shots that people don’t hit,” Watson said. “You can have the most-educated man in the world, and he can put a hypothesis on it but it doesn’t make sense.”

Cue arguably the game’s most-educated man.

The Science

Sean Foley has carved an impressive career out of combining the art and science of the golf swing. With a combination of TrackMan data and centuries of swing theory, Foley enjoys a stable of players who seamlessly mix powerful athleticism (Tiger Woods) and repeatable mechanics (Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose).

When Foley watched Watson hook his approach into Masters lore last April he was, like most golf fans, entertained and impressed. But few, if any, could also appreciate the pure science of the winding wedge like Foley.

Masters: Articles, videos and photos

Hawkins: Big shot pays big dividends for Bubba

“Looking at where the ball started, the face was probably slightly closed, maybe 2 degrees closed. The path, the movement of the face at impact, was probably close to 10 to 12 degrees in to out,” Foley said.

Got that?

Foley also pointed out that few in the game have the tools to move the ball the way Watson did, regardless of the situation.

“Mike Weir can do the same thing but the ball will never curve as much,” Foley said. “One of the reasons Bubba is one of the only players who can do that, left- or right-handed, is because of the velocity he can create. The more speed you have the more you can curve the ball. It’s not talent or skill, it’s straight speed.”

Although Watson appeared to start The Shot at the leading edge of the fairway bunker, which is about 100 yards short of the putting surface, Scott said that true to form Watson was simply trying to get his golf ball through the trees and then “hook the dog out of it.” Aerodynamics, geometry and genetics would take care of the rest.

The Opponent

Oosthuizen had already enjoyed his own “shot” 18 holes earlier. From 210 yards, the South African’s towering 4-iron second shot at the par-5 second hole bounced twice and slowly curved to the right before dropping into the hole for the first double eagle in Masters history at the second.

“You know those type of shots happen to win an event,” said Oosthuizen, who moved to 10 under par and two strokes clear of the field with the double eagle. “But I knew it was early. If that happened on the 15th hole it was a different situation. It took me awhile to get over having the lead. That front nine I was defending a lead pretty much, which was not very good.”

Oosthuizen’s take was prophetic, and following his approach into the 10th hole in the playoff, a 5-iron which dropped short of the putting surface, he had perhaps the best vantage of Watson’s hooking wedge shot as he walked to the green.

“I was level with him when I walked up the fairway and saw the shot and saw it was curving quite a bit,” Oosthuizen laughed. “You have to be a left-hander to hit that shot. It was a great shot. It was his week. If it was me, no right-hander (who would have had to cut the golf ball) could have hit that shot.”

Like many, Oosthuizen was stunned when Watson’s ball dropped on the green and spun up the slope to 15 feet.

“It spun left to right maybe 3 yards. It shows you how much hook he had to hit,” Oostshuizen said. “To pull that shot off in a playoff situation at Augusta, it goes down as one of the great shots in his career.”

The Patrons

Among the hordes flocking to catch a glimpse of history around Augusta National’s 10th green late Sunday was a high-profile threesome who had been watching the proceedings with particular interest.

When Ben Crane completed his final round at the 2012 Masters, an eventful 73 that left him one stroke outside the top 16 and an automatic invitation back to the 2013 Masters, he joined Rickie Fowler – who had already changed into his “street clothes” and was preparing to make the drive to Hilton Head Island, S.C., for the next Tour stop – in the “caddie barn” to watch the frenzied finish.

As the duo’s friend inched closer to his green jacket the two realized something special was in the making.

“All of a sudden I look at Rickie and I’m like, ‘Buddy, are you ready? This could happen.’” Crane said. “He had to change clothes. He couldn’t go out on this golf course in street clothes.”

Fowler suited back up in his signature Sunday orange and the two met Aaron Baddeley, who had already left Augusta National to pick up his kids from daycare but raced back as the finish loomed, behind the 10th green. They couldn’t see the lie or the swing, but could tell Watson had hit by the crowd reaction.

“I actually ducked,” Crane said. “I was behind the green and I heard him hit and saw the ball, it was right at us. Instinctively I started ducking and then I heard five seconds later people were going nuts. Someone said, ‘It’s on the green.’ I couldn’t believe it.”

Fowler had a similar reaction.

“I was saying, ‘hook,’” Fowler said. “It started out pretty far left of the green and from a golfer’s perspective you can normally see the shot, but from the other side coming out it looks a little different. I said 'hook' a couple of times.”

Watson’s shot, on command, kept hooking until it rolled out, 15 feet and two putts from history. It was a shot that was made to order for a guy who bends it like Bubba, an attempt that on any other day wouldn’t have even rated a high-five. But in overtime with the Masters hanging in the balance it was nothing short of brilliant.

“If I was just playing with my buddies, they are like, whatever,” Watson said. “But because of the situation, I put the green jacket on after, so yeah, I made it a big deal.”

Getty Images

Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

Getty Images

Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

Getty Images

Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

Getty Images

Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."