Why This Was the Greatest Masters in 25 Years

By Jake Simpson

High drama, historic shots, and players with compelling backstories combined to make the golf tournament unforgettable.

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AP Images

In the hour before CBS opened its live coverage of the final round of the Masters on Sunday, the network commemorated the 25th anniversary of the unforgettable 1987 Masters, when Larry Mize chipped in from 40 yards on the second playoff hole to defeat a stunned Greg Norman.

Over the next five and a half hours, the 2012 edition of golf's greatest tournament unveiled the most memorable final round at Augusta since Mize's chip, with an ending that was just as spectacular.

Sunday's final round did not have the almost-divine feel of Tiger Woods' 12-shot win in 1997, nor the cresting tidal wave of emotions of Phil Mickelson's come-from-behind victory in 2004. But Bubba Watson's victorious day had every ingredient needed for an Easter Sunday to remember at Augusta. Here are the factors that contributed to its greatness:

A marquee leaderboard Six men had a shot to win on the back nine Sunday, and other than affable Swede Peter Hanson, all of them were household names with compelling storylines. There was Mickelson, knocking on the doorstep of a fourth green jacket that would tie him with Tiger and Arnold Palmer for second all-time (Jack Nicklaus has six). There was Lee Westwood, the latest Best-Player-To-Never-Win-A-Major, looking to finally break through at Augusta. There was Matt Kuchar, a Georgia boy with a smile wider than a gimme putt and a loyal following in the gallery.

And then there were the two lead actors: 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (that's WOOST-hey-zen, for all non-diehard golf fans out there) and Bubba, whose swashbuckling manner and high-risk, high-reward game have made him a fan and player favorite on the PGA Tour. Even without Tiger or Rory McIlroy in contention, there were no shortage of compelling characters on Sunday.

Memorable moments You knew it would be a final round to remember when Oosthuizen's second shot at the par-5 second hole bounced on the front left of the green, rolled up and over a ridge, began tracking towards the hole 20 feet away, and finally dropped in as the crowd went ballistic.

That's right: a double eagle, known as an albatross because it's by far the rarest of golf scores. It was only the fourth double eagle in the Masters' 78-year history and it propelled the young South African into the lead.

The albatross was hardly the only spectacular shot of the day. Bo Van Pelt and Adam Scott each had a hole-in-one at the par-3 16th. Kuchar hit a perfect approach shot with a five-wood to three feet at the par-5 15th, setting up an eagle that briefly got him into a tie for the lead. And of course, there was Bubba's unreal iron shot on the second playoff hole (more on that later).

The day also produced its share of incredibly poor shots, highlighted by Hanson's honest-to-God shank at the par-3 12th that went all of 70 yards. Mickelson's miscue was less bad but more memorable, a pushed tee shot at the par-3 4th that hit a gallery railing and bounded off into the dense undergrowth next to the stands. The shot led to a triple bogey that Phil never recovered from.

High drama Oosthuizen seized the lead with his double eagle and held it for most of the day. But Bubba doggedly narrowed the gap on the back nine and finally tied Louie at -10 with a birdie on the 16th hole, his fourth birdie in a row. The pair parred 17 and had birdie putts to win it on 18, but they both settled for par, as Oosthuizen drained a knee-knocking five-foot putt to stay tied with Bubba.

The playoff was even more dramatic. Both players hit it within 12 feet at the 18th (the first playoff hole), which meant they had dueling birdies putts for the win for the second time in 40 minutes. Again, both failed to convert, and Bubba's missed seven-footer prompted groans from the crowd. On the second playoff hole (the par-4 10th), Bubba hit a screaming hook deep into the woods to the right of the fairway, and Oosthuizen seemed to have the advantage after his tee shot avoided the trees and settled in the rough.

Oosthuizen then hit his second shot short of the green, setting up Bubba's impossibly brilliant second shot, a hooked gap wedge out of the trees that probably turned 40 yards to the right in the air. The shot settled 12 feet below the hole, and after Louie failed to get up and down for par, it was all over.

A deserving champion Few players are as universally liked as Bubba. The guy has no swing coach, rarely practices, and hasn't taken a golf lesson in his life. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, memorably breaking down after his first PGA Tour win in June 2010 as he dedicated the victory to his father, who was battling throat cancer. His father died in November of that year, and he and his wife Angie spent much of 2011 trying to adopt a child.

Now the man who already owned the real-life "General Lee"—the Dodge Charger famously used in The Dukes of Hazzard—and swings a pink driver really does have it all. He and his wife successfully adopted a baby boy, Caleb, on March 26. Now he has the most coveted menswear in all of sports and a lifetime entry to the Masters. For those who don't think that golf matters, or that it can't elicit real emotions, Bubba's celebration speaks volumes.

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