Are you from Mars or something? Because I don’t believe you hit some of these shots you hit,” asked caddy Ted Scott after Bubba Watson unleashed yet another preposterous, well-over-300-yards-long drive on the 72nd hole of the Augusta Masters earlier this month. The ball soared over the woods on the right only to swoop back 40 yards to the left, finally coming to rest in the middle of the fairway. An easy approach and two putts later, Watson was being helped into his second Green Jacket in three years by defending champion Adam Scott. The 2014 Masters will be remembered in the annals of the hallowed tournament for one of the most audacious, devil-may-care performances by the eventual winner. This is not how the script is supposed to run: you don’t win Augusta by playing like a swashbuckling pirate—flailing and swinging hard, going for every pin, and throwing the last vestiges of caution to the wind. You can certainly lose Augusta by playing like that—Rory McIlroy’s final-round meltdown in 2011 comes to mind—but you don’t stand a chance of donning the Green Jacket without a judicious mix of conservative and aggressive golf. Unless you are Phil Mickelson that is, or as it turns out, Watson.
Gumption, bravado, call it what you will, Watson’s choice of shots during his final-day duel with Jordan Spieth defied convention, rationale, and what most could consider plain common sense. The massive drive on the par-5 13th, which cut the corner a bit too close (and clipped a few branches along the way), could have easily been out of bounds. Instead, it ended up bang in the centre and set up an easy two putt birdie, which pretty much clinched the tournament for the southpaw. In trouble from the woods two holes later, Watson manufactured a miraculous escape through a sliver of a gap that most golfers wouldn’t have seen, let alone attempted a shot through. That shot was reminiscent of the swooping hook he hit from the pine straw to win the playoff at the 2012 Masters. This time though, he got home with three shots to spare.
A sustained, inspired barrage of this nature would have broken any opponent. But the precocious Spieth, astoundingly a mere 18 months past his amateur days, turned in a gallant performance: fighting tooth and nail until it became apparent to the rookie that he was