When a recurring back injury enforced the absence of Tiger Woods from a US Masters Golf tournament for the first time in nearly 20 years and then the popular Phil Mickelson missed the half-way cut, it appeared that the 2014 renewal had lost a certain aspect of its glamour. Yet 2012 winner Bubba Watson and debutant Jordan Spieth proved that professional golfers of any description can ensure that the Augusta course can always serve an exciting spectacle for the watching public.
Gerry Lester ‘Bubba’ Watson assumed control of the 2014 Masters when leading after the second day with defending champion Adam Scott four shots adrift back in third position. A poor day on Saturday proved costly for Australian Scott as he faded from contention, but it was rookie Spieth who joined Watson at the head of the leaderboard at the end of the third session.
At 20 years old, Spieth was threatening to become the youngest ever wearer of the green jacket prize for winning the Masters and when he chipped into the fourth hole from a bunker on the final day to lead by two shots from Watson, a debut victory in the tournament suddenly became attainable.
Holes eight and nine were to change the direction of the final round. From holding a two shot lead, Spieth faltered while Watson summoned his great mental strength to establish his own two shot advantage as he moved to three under par for the day.
A misjudgement by Spieth at the twelfth hole cost him a penalty stroke as he his ball found the water and from that moment it appeared that Watson only needed to play defensive golf to regain his title.
He duly obliged by winning the tournament by three strokes but throughout the final round he never panicked, even when his player partner became outright leader, and continued to display an attitude suggesting that he knew he could win. In contrast, Spieth became increasingly frustrated and despondent as he witnessed his hopes of victory evaporating yet managed to recover his form in the wake of some poor mid-round shots, and that bodes well for his prospects in future tournaments.
As ever, the Masters produced its share of epic moments especially when Rory McIlroy produced a chip from a well-manicured bed of roses at the thirteenth hole and then Jonas Blixt was forced to putt at the ninth green with the hole behind his line of vision.
Yet, this week proved that Augusta remains a brutal course where only consistently good form and a bit of luck are basic requirements for success. Woods and Mickelson may also have been absent for the final two rounds but powerful hitting Watson and the young Spieth demonstrated their worth as adequate replacements in recreating the usual final day drama in the Masters.