On Monday morning, Bubba Watson probably got out of bed and promptly put on his Green Jacket. Then again – he might’ve worn it to bed Sunday night for all that we know. While I speculate on such trivial things, like thinking back to that famous snapshot of Phil Mickelson wearing his Green Jacket in the Krispy Kreme drive thru that Monday morning following his remarkable Masters win that Sunday back in 2010, one thing is certain: Bubba Watson had never awakened on a Monday morning as a Major Champion prior to today. To us – it would be like waking up Saturday morning and finding out that we purchased the winning ticket for the Mega Millions lottery. Or something spectacular like that anyway. But as life-changing as something that seemingly unlikely, something that enormously significant would mean for us, it would still pale in comparison to waking up one morning and having our lives changed forever because of our own ambitions and efforts, which couldn’t be more different than enjoying a miraculous, fortuitous situation that essentially fell into our laps. Wealth and fortune will someday fall by the wayside, rest assured. But the realization of hopes and dreams that were earned through years of blood, sweat, tears and undying patience? Those things last forever and only appreciate in value as time moves on.
It would be foolish to assume that Bubba Watson reached the pinnacle of his career Sunday afternoon. But even if he did, he’ll forever be a part of a very small, distinguished list of elite players who’ve achieved what has historically been considered the ultimate level of greatness, joining the legendary ranks of players like Hagan, Jones, Nelson, Snead, Hogan, Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Mickelson, and Woods…. in the span of a weekend, he became a contemporary to those great golfing legends, past and current. Maybe in some way he does feel like he won the lottery, but his reward for winning this one will go far beyond monetary value. To be associated with those names that have captured the prestige associated with winning a major championship will be something that no one will ever deny him.
When asked Sunday evening what it felt like winning his first major championship, Watson’s emotional reply was, “I don’t know… I can’t explain it because I never got this far in my dreams.” Here’s to Bubba Watson, the everyday guy from Baghdad, Florida who believed in himself enough Sunday afternoon to finish writing the script of that dream he never considered. Well done, Bubba. You’re a Green Jacket Member for life now.
The Essence of The Masters Revisited
Those of us who felt that the 2012 Masters would primarily come down to two players got our plates of Crow that we deserved. As much as some of us wanted and/or expected it to come down to a Sunday duel between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, we learned yet again that the sacred layout that is Augusta National doesn’t play favorites. It’s a lesson that most of us should’ve learned by now, as numerous occasions before have revealed… like last year with Charl Schwartzel, or back in 2009 with Angel Cabrera, or a year earlier with Trevor Immelman, or the year before that with Zach Johnson. Lest we forget 2003 when Mike Weir donned the Green Jacket that Sunday as well? We can all remember several notable instances of unexciting final rounds in the other three major championships, but The Masters always seems to deliver a more exciting, dramatic conclusion each and every year. Say what you want about the social politics of the place, but there’s no denying that they have perfected the nearly impossible art of giving fans a 4-day excursion to the Mecca of Professional Golf.
Screw the Money – Show Me the Green Jacket
We all remember the plot in the movie Jerry Maguire – where a young up-n-coming sports agent quickly grows tired of watching backdoor deals and enormous signing bonuses taint the profession he’s become a part of. In a similar vane, it reminded me of Bubba Watson last weekend.
It’s uncommon nowadays to see a Tour player at any tournament without a posse of so-called specialists tagging along behind, all of them getting paid to ensure that he eats the right foods, does the right exercises in the fitness trailer, says the right things in his interviews, has the right attitude to win, and swings the club the proper way in his pre-tournament round practice sessions. How some of these players can put all of these unneeded distractions behind them and still be able to focus well enough to play is beyond me, as they seem utterly dependent on everyone but themselves to compete and conduct themselves accordingly at this level. And more times than not, to nary avail no less. One of the refreshing things about Bubba Watson’s win last week was that he didn’t rely on a swing coach, a psychologist, or a PR spokesperson. To steal a quote from that great movie Jerry Maguire, Bubba is his own Ambassador of Kwan. He swings the golf club his way, he plays the golf course his way, and he doesn’t need to pay someone a handsome 6-figure salary to help him feel better about not winning each and every week. I don’t say this in a demeaning way whatsoever, but Bubba’s win on Sunday was also a victory to all of us weekend hackers who aspire to play the game our own ways.
The Greatest Flop
No, I’m not talking about Mickelson’s 64-degree thing of beauty green-side at the par5 15th on Saturday, but rather the enormous showdown-of-the-century-turned-gag-fest between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. Tiger continued his usual
state of denial about the realities of his golf game, despite not being able to break par in any round of a Masters tournament for only the second time in his career. While he constantly reminded everyone that he was “this close” in each of his post-round interviews last week, it left most of us finishing his incomplete statement with “to never winning another major tournament.” Or better yet, maybe “this close” to having Clifford Roberts return from the dead and having him escorted off of the property for his numerous instances of profanity and club throwing last week. Compare that to Rory McIlroy, who despite choking on his own vomit on Saturday continued to show a degree of professionalism and decency that often escapes Tiger when his chips are down. Professional behaviors and etiquette aside, it was anything but a memorable week for either of them. I suspect, however, that Rory will rebound, just as he did last year. As for Tiger – the increased level of confidence that he’d enjoyed heading into the Masters last week took a major hit. The funk that overcame his golf swing might not put him all the way back to square-one, but it does dredge up those mental scars that many thought had completely healed with his win a few weeks ago at Bay Hill. Alas, his “process” continues.
The Game Remains Healthy
As if the results of last year’s Major Championships didn’t provide enough proof, we learned once again over the weekend that the absences of yesteryear’s greatest player and the game’s current young star doesn’t devalue the interest or the excitement in Pro Golf today. We’ll look back on the 2012 Masters and remember the numerous characters who played their own roles in writing another thrilling chapter in Masters Lore.
We’ll recall the silky-smooth textbook swing that authored the miraculous double eagle that Oosthuizen executed on Sunday, boosting his confidence in the final round right to the very end. We’ll remember Matt Kuchar’s timely eagle on the par5 15th that would unfortunately be a short-lived moment of glory, as his hopes of winning were dashed with a bogey on the very next hole. We’ll reflect on another enjoyable run by the ageless Freddie Couples, who reminded us that experience doesn’t always play second fiddle to youth in major championships. We’ll think back on the opportunities that Lee Westwood had last week to earn his first major win, pondering whether or not he missed his last real chance at winning the one major tournament that he’s played well in over recent years. Akin to the 72nd hole at Winged Foot back in 2006 – Phil Mickelson once again proved just how easily one bad swing in the final round can potentially change destiny, courtesy of the par3 4th Sunday at Augusta. And last but certainly not least, we’ll look back on Bubba Watson’s incredibly clutch shotmaking skills from the trees, on both the 71st hole in regulation play and of course the most unbelievable shot from no-man’s land on the 10th hole in the playoff… revealing that it was indeed his week to realize a lifelong dream.
Not that there was any real questions about the overall state of the game, but had there been – I think it received a clean bill of health last weekend based on the first major of the season.
But of course, those of us who are true fans of the Game and not just fanboys of one or two players – we already knew that.