If anyone in the entire field of the 76th Masters should have been dumbstruck, immobilized and incapacitated by Oosthuizen’s historic and almost unbelievable double eagle at the 575-yard par-5 second hole on Easter Sunday, it should have been Watson, who played with “West-hi-zen” and took the full impact of his two, his deuce, on the jaw.
Instead, Watson, who fell four shots behind at that hole, proved that four birdies in a row, at the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th holes, can neutralize even a 3-under-par albatross. No such thing is supposed to happen after a nearly unprecedented shot — a 235-yard 4-iron that spun dead sideways and trickled 60 feet into the hole on the last turn. In the first Masters, Gene Sarazen’s double eagle on the 15th hole was the margin of victory and one of the original pieces of lore that helped make the Masters so famous.
Watson, from the University of Georgia, caught the crisp, precise South African after 70 holes at 10 under. Then the lefty Watson, who dressed in white head to toe all week, beat Oosthuizen on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with a stupendously powerful recovery shot which he hooked through a tunnel in the Georgia pinewoods. For degree-of-difficultly in the elite golf world, it easily outstripped the double eagle.
Before his final winning six-inch putt, Watson called for silence and a moment to compose himself. His feelings run so high, so close to the surface, that it wasn’t entirely a joke. Only a month ago, he and his wife Angie adopted their first child, Caleb. Everybody loves Watson, a natural-born blubberer. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, except when they slip down to his wrist. He cries if his eggs are cooked right.
“I never got this far in my dreams,” said a red-eyed Watson, whose late father was in the U.S. Special Forces. Typical of Watson, he told Oosthuizen after his double eagle, “I’d have run over and given you a high-five, but it wouldn’t have looked right.”
If Oosthuizen landed a roundhouse at No. 2, where Watson made a birdie, yet still dropped two shots, then Watson’s recovery after one of his 50-yard-offline drives, did equivalent damage on the second playoff hole. Oosthuizen couldn’t get up and down from 20 feet off the front of the green, a basic shot for him, and Watson needed only two gently nudged putts to win.
“I don’t even remember it all. I was nervous on every shot,” said Watson. “Then I hit a crazy shot [on 10] I saw in my head and here I am talking to you in a green jacket.”
Even though there were trees and a tower to avoid, Watson’s caddie said, “We’ve been here before.” Watson laughed. Call him Marco Polo, he discovers points unknown.
“Bubba hit an unbelievable shot there [in the playoff]. Great stuff to him . . . It looked like a curveball coming out of there,” said Oosthuizen, a close friend of fellow South African Charl Schwartzel, last year’s green jacket winner.
“When you hit a shot like that — my first double eagle ever — you think, ‘This is it,’ ” said Oosthuizen.