2014 Masters, Day 4: Hubba Bubba
By Torleif Sorenson on 4/13/14
Bubba Watson has captured his second Masters Tournament victory and green jacket in three years. But early this afternoon, it seemed as though the result might be different.

And of all the other players in the field, only Matt Kuchar was able to catch up to either of them at any point. Kooch fell out of the running with a disastrous four-putt double-bogey at the 4th hole, and it was a two-man race from there.

Turning point after turning point

With a birdie at the 2nd hole, first-time Masters competitor Jordan Spieth grabbed a share of the lead at the Masters for the first time ever, at 3:10 p.m. EDT.

At the third hole, Bubba hit a long tee shot to in front of the green, drawing criticism from CBS commentators Peter Oosterhuis and Sir Nick Faldo who, himself, won The Masters three times. The two Englishmen explained to viewers that Bubba's third shot left him a difficult pitch to the far left hole location. Oosterhuis and Faldo proved prescient; Bubba flubbed his chip, sending it over the back of the green. His chip came up 11 feet short and resulted in a bogey. Spieth holed his par-saver to take the solo lead.

At the 4th, Watson righted the ship with a magnificent tee-shot to about six feet. Spieth came up short in the bunker, but holed a dramatic sand wedge for a birdie. Unfazed, Bubba holed his own birdie putt to get back to -5.

Following a bogey at the 5th, Bubba birdied, but seconds later Spieth did the same to regain a one-shot lead at -7. At the 7th, Spieth correctly read a tricky downhiller to get back to a two-shot lead.

Amazingly, that was the high point of the day (and the tournament) for the 20-year-old Texan; it all came apart for him beginning at the 8th hole.

On that 570-yard uphill monster, Spieth curiously took a fairway metal off the tee, then slashed his second shot way right in what was his poorest shot of the day — up until that minute, anyway. Bubba absolutely cranked his tee shot, then reached the green with this second — in fact, an unlucky bounce took the ball off the back of the green. Spieth's third had a surprising amount of spin and would not filter up to the top shelf of the green, and his par-saver simply would not fall. Bubba got up-and-down to birdie, so Spieth's two-shot lead evaporated at that point; he and Watson were tied at -7, three shots ahead of Kuchar.

The so-called "conventional wisdom" is that the Masters really begins at the 10th tee on Sunday, but this fallacy was destroyed at the 9th hole on Sunday. The final turning point occurred on the green, when Spieth's approach rolled off the front of the green into a collection area. Bubba powered his approach to the top shelf, hole-high, and it held. Another par-saving putt failed to fall for Spieth, while Bubba birdied.

That four-shot swing in two holes proved to be the climax.

Watson's only costly mistake came at 10, when his pitch from off the green to the right went clear across, resulting in a bogey. But Spieth's tee-shot at the famous 12th hole bounced off the front embankment and plopped into Rae's Creek, resulting in a bogey. The young Texan was clearly frustrated by his inability to make his best efforts produce the way they did on the first seven holes.

"He's lost his marbles!!"

Watson had, in the eyes of many fans and observers, a somewhat tenuous hold on his game this week, but the skeptics had to be floored at the way Bubba played the 15th. He lost his tee-shot left, behind a stand of tall pines.

But when he pulled a long iron out of the bag for his second shot, CBS's David Feherty gasped, "He's lost his marbles! To even consider that shot in the position he's in!!"

But Bubba absolutely wired that second shot through the trees, onto and over the green. And even though he foozled his chip, he still saved par, while Spieth could not get a birdie putt to go in. The pair headed to the 16th green with Watson still ahead by three, and they played the final six holes at level par.

By virtue of a birdie at the 13th, Sweden's Jonas Blixt tied Spieth at -5. Only 50-year-old Spaniard Miguel Ángel Jiménez could keep up with them, finishing at -4.

Ultimately, four rookies finished in the top twelve, qualifying for the 2015 Masters: Spieth, Blixt, Jimmy Walker, and Kevin Stadler. Youth did not win at Augusta National this week, but youth was definitely served.

Finally and interestingly, six of the last 12 Masters Tournaments have been won by left-handed golfers: Mike Weir (2003), Phil Mickelson (2004, 2006, 2010), and Bubba Watson (2012, 2014).

Fore left, indeed.

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