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Masters Recap: Bubba Wears Green Again

Len Hochberg

Hochberg covers golf for RotoWire. A veteran sports journalist, he contributes to Sports on Earth and was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years.

After a golfer wins a major championship, it doesn't take reporters long to ask: Will he ever win another? We barely let the victor savor his crowning moment, one he spent a lifetime trying to achieve.

The general consensus after Bubba Watson won the 2012 Masters was that, yes, the sport's longest hitter who also possesses a deft touch would indeed win another major. He was just too talented not to.

But Watson took the time to savor his title, and his new son, who was adopted just before the tournament began. He also struggled with his new-found celebrity, as well as being a first-time father.

So as Watson didn't win again the rest of 2012, and then all of 2013, you had to wonder about him. The golfer who from 2010 to 2012 finished eighth, eighth and fifth in the FedEx Cup standings fell to 38th in 2013. Was he a one-and-done major champion, after all?

It turns out, no. He was just learning how to deal with all the changes in his life, personally and professionally. We should've seen this week's tour de force of a 2013 Masters coming: Watson lost in a playoff in Phoenix in February, followed by victory at Riviera, his first win since that breakthrough major. Then he was runner-up at the WGC-Cadillac Championship last month. Watson, clearly, was back.

In one of the most humdrum Masters in recent memory, Watson won comfortably by three strokes over young, gallant Jordan Spieth and surprisingly steady Jonas Blixt. There was little drama on Sunday, really none after Spieth found Rae's Creek on No. 12. Blixt was on the first page of the leaderboard all day, but he was never in contention. Even after Watson fell two behind Spieth through seven holes, he quickly rebounded, making the turn with the lead, and he was never headed.

Watson opened with a 3-under 69. They say you can't win the tournament on Thursday or Friday, but you can lose it. But Watson kind of did win it on Friday, or at least put himself in position to do so with five straight birdies on Nos. 12-16. From that point, he seemed to have a good grasp on the tournament, even though he had some hiccups and lost the lead here and there.

So now there is another question about Watson. It's not, Will he win a third major? It's, Can he win a major outside of the Masters? His game is perfectly suited for Augusta, not only being crazy-long but also hitting his ball so high that it lands so softly.

Presumably Watson will deal with this second Masters championship much better than he did his first, and he surely can add multiple green jackets to his collection. Even though there was no Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson clearly was not on his game in missing the cut, no asterisk belongs next to Watson's name.


Jonas Blixt

Maybe Blixt tying for second as a Masters rookie was a surprise, but he's obviously a good player. The Swede won as a Tour rookie in 2012 and followed it up with another win in 2013. Blixt was the only golfer to shoot four rounds under par. Who knows whether he'll ever win a major, but that seems a lot less farfetched after this week.

Matt Kuchar

Kuchar has been booting away leads with regularity lately, and he did it again on Sunday. After birdieing Nos. 2 and 3 to gain a share of the lead, he promptly four-jacked the fourth green, and that was that. Kuchar closed with a 74 to tie Rickie Fowler for fifth. Best golfer to have never won a major? Probably not, but close.

Lee Westwood

Worse than being called the best golfer to have never won a major is losing that title not because you actually won a major but because you're just no longer the best golfer who hasn't won one. Westwood wore that left-handed compliment for years, and now he doesn't. He probably won't win a major, but he's on quite an impressive run at Augusta, since 2010 finishing second, 11th, third, eighth and, this year, seventh. Westwood has 17 career top-10s in majors.

Rory McIlroy

If McIlroy's chances weren't dashed with a double on No. 4 on Friday, they surely were with another double six holes later. He had to drain a six-footer on 18 just to make the cut on the number. McIlroy then shot 1-under and 3-under on the weekend, rallying for a backdoor top-8 finish.

Jimmy Walker

Walker was the Player of the Year until Sunday, when he was usurped by Watson. But he acquitted himself admirably in his first Masters, never really contending but tying for eighth, his 12th top-25 this season.

Adam Scott

Scott looked like a true threat to repeat as champion, opening with a 3-under 69 despite a double on No. 12. But a front-nine 40 on Saturday ended his hopes. Still, it's easy to see Scott contending in some or all of the three remaining majors.

Phil Mickelson

Mickelson's balky back held up, but his worst season in memory continues. With two triples and a double, Mickelson missed the cut for the first time since 1997. Surely someone in your league thinks Mickelson has geared his entire season toward the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. If you identify that someone, trade him Phil.

Patrick Reed

So many top players missed the cut, and so did Patrick Reed (kidding!). Playing alongside Spieth and McIlroy, Reed ran off an impressive stretch of seven straight bogeys bridging his first and second rounds. Then he had six bogeys on the back nine on Friday for a 79, and he missed the cut. Augusta is a hard for a Masters rookie, even a self-perceived top-five player (though Spieth was also a Masters rookie).

Johnson and Johnson

Zach took home Low Johnson honors, but that wasn't saying much, as two of the top players on Tour this season surprisingly missed the cut. Zach's 78-72 edged Dustin's 77-74. Someone, who might've been me, actually thought Zach Johnson was the guy to beat in this week's Tiger-free field.