Sunday evening, the sun slowly setting behind tall Georgia pines, the tension unbearable…okay, enough poetry.
Two men were still trying to win the Masters in a sudden-death playoff. One, Louis Oosthuizen, had just left his second shot on the 10th hole short of the green. A tough spot, yes, but still better than his opponent, whose tee shot was jailed deep right in the trees, his ball sitting on pine needles.
In other words, a perfect sport for Bubba Watson to be Bubba Watson and launch a 155-yard shot that ducked under the tree in front of him, got in the air, and then hooked 40 yards (at least) until it thumped down on the putting surface, bounced dead right and stopped 10 feet from perfection.
So a stirring final day that began with Oosthuizen’s electrifying albatross on the 2nd hole ended with Bubba tapping in for a winning par and burying himself in the arms of his caddie, his mother and his friends, the tears copious.
Minutes later, he put on a green jacket. And American golf had a new hero, a fun and refreshing alternative to the Will-Tiger-Ever-Dominate-Again storyline that tends to run out of permutations the hundredth or so time it’s repeated.
More importantly, the emergence of Bubba Watson brings back a classic narrative in the game – that of a self-made player who, through hard work and all kinds of trials and errors, propelled himself to the top, defying doubters and skeptics.
We find its best previous versions in two sons of Texas. Ben Hogan was small and slight, started out with a brutal hook, was drummed from the fledgling tour twice, and nearly a third time, as the country still tried to recover from the Depression.
But through religious practice regimes never seen before, Hogan was, by his mid 30s, dominant, winning as many as 10 tournaments a year. That same tireless, dogged work ethic also helped him make a miraculous comeback from a near-fatal car crash in 1949 to claim six more majors, adding to the legend.