Sunday, April 8, 2012

Another classic Sunday At Augusta National

(A little sidebar from Sunday night at The Masters...)

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Louis Oosthuizen helped give Masters' fans something they'd never seen before, and something they had.

His historic double-eagle, a Masters' first on No. 2, set the tone for something more familiar, a Sunday horse race on Augusta National's dicey back nine.

Bubba Watson won it on the second hole of a playoff, picking up speed late to catch Oosthuizen on 16 and beat him on the second hole of the playoff to end an Easter afternoon that had everything Augusta advertises.

Like that double-eagle, the one that shot Oosthuizen from two back to one ahead and got things cooking Sunday: it was a 4-iron, 210 to the front of the green and about 235 to the pin, from a bit right of center and just past the fairway trap. The ball rolled up between the two green-guarding traps. The patrons applauded politely. On the green in two.

Except the ball kept rolling. And rolling. A half-moon it made, deliberately, doing everything but stopping for gas until finally finding the cup nearly 10 seconds after hitting the green. This time, the crowd exploded.

Oosthuizen, who had to wait like everyone else, seemed as surprised as everyone else. And about as shocked. Since no one knew what to do -- again, this was a Masters' first -- he sort of awkwardly double-high-fived his caddie and started walking.

"Bubba said later he felt like running over and giving me a high-five," Oosthuizen said. "I wish he had; that would have been fun."

"Like nothing we've ever seen," said Bill Alexander of Charlotte, N.C., who sat three rows back on the pin side of green 2. "I kept saying the same thing as the crowd: 'It's gonna stop, it's gonna stop, it...' NOT gonna stop, it's NOT gonna stop.' It just kept coming."

Alexander had his own double-eagle of sorts. Less than an hour before Oosthuizen's heroics, the rookie Masters patron had witnessed the ace at 16 by Brad Van Pelt on his way to a tournament-low round of 64.

"It was the most unbelievable thing," Alexander said. "I mean, I might as well go home."

Well, no. Probably best not. Go home and you miss Oosthuizen, the likeable South African and winner of the 2010 British Open, duking it out with the equally likeable Bubba Watson, a former Georgia Bulldog, three-time PGA Tour winner and golf's equivalent of a NASCAR driver. In Wednesday's Par 3 Tournament, Denny Hamlin even caddied for him. Really.

And like the speedy Hamlin, Watson, four strokes back after his bogey on 1 and King Louie's magic at 2, finally caught up just before the finish line with a birdie on 16.

It was actually Oosthuizen who had to rally on 18, making a testy putt to force the playoff after Watson had parred. The solid putting was vintage Oosthuizen on this afternoon, who had similar putts for par on 3, 5, 14, 16 and 17 -- and made them all.

The last two hours-plus over the storied back 9 were all jab and weave, punch and move. With Oosthuizen leading at 11, four players were two back, one was three back. After 13, one was three back and three were one back. Going into 15, Watson was alone in second place, three were two back and three more were three back.

You get the picture.

"This is a great golf course for great finishes," said Oosthuizen.

When it was over, Watson had his first major and Oosthuizen had his best finish in four starts at Augusta. He never made the cut here before.

King Louie took the lead Saturday and held at least a share of it Sunday until right about the time his tee shot on No. 10, the second playoff hole, handcuffed him. Watson didn't drive it better, but his shot from the trees to 10 green to set up his winning par was one the Masters will remember.

"I hit a bad tee shot; should have put a big one down the middle," Oosthuizen said, moments after hugging the 2012 champion. "The I left myself an awkward little chip, didn't get it as far up as I'd have liked. But I can't be angry. I played really well today.

"And Bubba was brilliant," he said. "I had no idea where he was after his tee shot on 10, but when I saw his ball coming out through the trees, it looked like a curve ball going to the right side. Brilliant shot. It won him the tournament."