BY GARY PLAYER
Another breath-taking final day at The Masters. Congratulations to Bubba Watson (pictured above, left). A home winner for the Augusta galleries is always a cause for celebration.
After the roller-coaster day we had, it did not surprise me that we needed sudden death to find the winner.
If you had asked me at the start of the week who that might be between, I don’t think I would have guessed Bubba and Louis Oosthuizen. But they more than deserved their chance.
Though I believe we have gone too far with new technology and the distances the tournament pro’s are hitting the ball today, you had to be impressed by the raw athletic power of Bubba Watson.
The highlights were that run of four birdies in a row from the 13th which moved him to the top of the leaderboard and his second shot from the trees on the second play-off hole, where he had to move the ball about 30 yards in the air.
That showed you something about his skill and his nerve when the pressure was on. That is the true hallmark of a champion.
As a South African, naturally it would have been a special moment for me to see last year’s champion Charl Schwartzel hand over the green jacket to Louis Oosthuizen, but that was not to be - though I am full of admiration for this new breed of young golfers from my country who are doing so well around the world.
Although Louis did not win, I think this year’s Masters will be remembered first and foremost for one of his shots, that double eagle (or albatross) at the 2nd hole.
Within about an hour at Augusta, I witnessed sporting triumph and disaster. Louis’ feat was followed by Phil Mickelson’s triple bogey six at the 4th hole which turned the championship on its head.
Phil was many people’s favourite and while he didn’t win a fourth green jacket I was very impressed with the way he accepted his fate, kept a positive attitude and fought his way back up the leaderboard, even if he was not able to catch Watson and Oosthuizen. He even managed to keep a smile on his face, another hallmark of a champion.
I also come away thinking once again that Lee Westwood is the finest and most consistent striker of a golf ball from tee to green in the world. Watching him drive the ball and hitting irons was a joy. If only he was a better putter, he would easily win that elusive first Major.
This has been a memorable Masters for me. Over the years, it has been a very special privilege for me to play at Augusta. I played 52 Masters, a record, have won three times, been second three times and made the most cuts in a row. It’s not surprising that I love the place.
It was a big honour to be at Augusta as official starter with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. I enjoyed every minute. And it has been a pleasure to share my thoughts with you through the Laureus website.
This year at the Laureus World Sports Awards we had two winners from golf in Darren Clarke, last year’s Open Championship winner, and Rory McIlory, after his US Open win. Bubba has made himself a contender now for the next Awards, so we will be watching his progress for the rest of the year with interest.