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Inside Augusta National

Inside Augusta National

An oral history of Bubba Watson's incredible hook shot that set up his Masters triumph

Louis Oosthuizen, Masters 2012, Albatross
Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated
Louis Oosthuizen celebrates his historic albatross on the second hole during the final round at Augusta.

SUDDEN DEATH
Watson and Oosthuizen return to the 18th tee for the first playoff hole. Bubba draws the honor. Both players find the fairway and then the green in regulation. Oosthuizen has an 18-foot birdie putt, while Watson is left with a 10-footer.

Oosthuizen: I had the putt Mickelson [in 2004] and O'Meara made to get their victories. I felt it was a putt a lot of people over the years had made, so I felt I knew the line, just a ball outside on the right. It should turn the whole way. I hit a great putt -- good speed, perfect line. It turned all the way and then two feet in front of the hole it decided to stop turning. I still thought it might catch the right side and lip in, but it just stayed straight and went over the right side of the cup. At that stage I thought, That's it. It's over. I had my shot at it.

Watson: I don't know how he missed. He put it on the edge of the cup, and it never moved. So now I have another putt to win the Masters. It's human nature to think about what might happen: putting on the green jacket, lifting the trophy, kissing your mom, doing this, doing that.

Angie: The only other person with me was my sister, Amy. We wanted to get the perfect picture of Bubba winning, with me facing the TV and Caleb on my shoulder looking at the camera. We must've taken 20 pictures when Bubba was putting on the 72nd hole. We did it again on the first playoff hole. It kind of took my nerves away -- I was less worried about him making the putt than getting the photo right!

Watson: I felt pretty composed when I was over the ball. I was on pretty much the same line as Louis. Because of how his reacted, I aimed dead center. It can't break. But it did.

Ted Scott, Watson's caddie: There's a mystery to golf, because you can hit the same putt twice from the same spot and sometimes it will break and sometimes it won't. Even at Augusta.

Oosthuizen: You think if a playoff goes more than one hole, you had a shot somewhere for the title. After he missed that putt, I thought it was mine to win.

MATCH PLAY
The playoff moves to number 10, the sweeping 495-yard downhill dogleg left that over the years has played to a stroke average of 4.32, making it Augusta National's toughest hole.

Gary Player, three-time Masters champion and patriarch of South African golf: I firmly believe in a playoff you must be aggressive. You can think only of making birdies. But number 10 is a very difficult hole. Par there is usually a good score. So when a playoff goes to number 10, the psychology is interesting. Do you attack, or play conservatively?

Oosthuizen: The guy who goes first can put the pressure on, or he can take it off, so it wasn't a big thing to me that he went first.

Scott: That hole sets up perfectly for Bubba. He loves to hit that big cut around the corner. There was never any question he'd hit driver. He always does. He hits that fairway pretty much every time. I was shocked to see his ball headed for the trees.

Watson: It was a cut that didn't cut. Must've been the nerves. If you watch the replay, my head drops, my shoulders go down. I'm in trouble. I know it, [Louis] knows it. But now there's a lot riding on his tee shot.

Oosthuizen: It's never a driver for me. I can't turn driver over that much. I hit a nice draw with my three-wood, and it usually pitches onto the middle half of the slope and runs down the hill, leaving about a seven-iron. I had three-wood in my head even before he hit his shot. Unfortunately, I heeled it. It didn't turn at all, so I lost a lot of distance.

Oosthuizen's drive comes to rest in the right rough, 228 yards from a treacherous back-hole location. Watson disappears into the forest in search of his ball, but his playing partner does not follow to inspect what kind of shot Bubba faces.

Oosthuizen: Even if he was in the middle of a bush I would have done the same thing. I wanted to hit it into the middle of the green and give myself an uphill putt. To make a par there is always good, especially where he was. I was thinking a par could definitely win that hole.

Player: Nine times out of 10, when a guy is in the trees on 10 he's going to make bogey. But this is a match-play scenario. Louis had to assume Bubba was going to do something miraculous, so he needed to think birdie.

Oosthuizen: The lie was fine, just a little downhill. It was between five-iron and four-iron. I felt the four would pitch too far and be in danger of going over the back [of the green]. I was thinking of the adrenaline, thinking I might carry the irons a little farther than usual. I hit a great five-iron, but by then it was a little cold, so the ball didn't travel that far. It landed just short of the green and stopped dead, and it left me with a really tough chip. I should have hit the four.

BUBBA GOLF
Watson's errant tee shot is sitting on pine needles, and the dense forest precludes a shot directly at the green; he will have to play out almost sideways and try to draw his ball sharply toward the green.

Watson: I have issues, you know? I'm really conscious of my surroundings. I don't like enclosed spaces. I don't like fans on top of me, and when I get off the fairway I move them around a lot. But when I get down there, I don't want anyone to move an inch. The way the fans are fanned out -- that tunnel they made through the trees -- is a perfect visual for how I want to play the shot. As soon as I get to my ball I'm pumped up, because I can see the shot. I know immediately I can pull it off. Of course, by pull the shot off, I mean hit the green. I'm not thinking about hitting it next to the hole. That's once in a lifetime.

Scott: This is going to sound crazy, but it wasn't that hard a shot for Bubba. What made it hard was the moment. In our seven years, I've seen him hit shots like that hundreds of time.

Jens Beck, Watson's manager: It's become a bit of a cliché, but Bubba always says, "If I've got a swing, I've got a shot." Just a month before, on the final hole at Doral, he pulled off what I believe was a more difficult shot. He was one back of Justin Rose and needed a birdie. Bubba drove it way right. It was 190 yards to the flag, into the wind, water all down the left, and he had to thread the needle with a long-iron between two palm trees and all these low-hanging leaves. The gap was barely big enough to squeeze a ball through. He hit it inside of 10 feet. That was a classic example of Bubba Golf.

Angie: The coolest shot I've even seen Bubba hit was years ago when we were playing with friends at the Country Club of Brewton in Alabama. He drove into the trees on a long par-5. He had at least 250 yards to the green. There was the tiniest gap for him to hit through, and the trees were right in front of him. This shot had at least 50 yards of fade. He hit it to six feet.

Fowler: I'm trying to remember where it was when we both missed the cut and went to play with some buddies. Anyway, there was a telephone pole to the right of the tee, and Bubba said, "All right, I'm going to cut the ball around it," so he hit a big cut that started right of the telephone pole and then went around it and came back in. That's what we do in practice rounds -- we try to have fun and mess around and invent shots.

Watson: The greatest shot I hit all week wasn't in the playoff, it was on number 11 [during the first round]. My ball was in the pine straw down the right side, but it wasn't a clean lie. It was almost like in a bird's nest, with straw all around it. There's the pond left of the green. I had to aim it at the pond and hook it back to the green. But I was under a tree so I could only hit it about head-high. I had 180-something to the hole. I told Teddy I was gonna hit nine-iron. He said, "Nine iron?! You have to hit it low!" I said, "I'm gonna hit nine-iron, keep it low, rope-hook it over the pond and stop it on the green." He said, "I don't think we should do it." I said, "No, no, I got this." He took a really deep breath and was like, Uh, O.K.

Scott: That was one where, taking the club back, I'm thinking, What the heck are we doing? This isn't even possible.

Watson: I hit this low screaming hook, 40 feet from hole. That shot had more hook than what I faced on 10. Sometimes I have a tough time focusing. But that's never the case when I'm facing a really tough shot. That's when I focus the best.

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