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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

Bubba Watson, Molly Watson, Masters 2012
John Biever/Sports Illustrated
Bubba Watson cries in the arms of his mother, Molly, after winning the playoff against Louis Oosthuizen.

THE SHOT
Before playing off the pine needles in the playoff, Watson carefully examines his lie, 164 yards from the hole.

Watson: Couldn't ask for a better lie. The ball was a little above my feet, so that made it easier to hook it. It was just enough uphill to get me excited. I moved a few twigs and leaves, but I was just trying to slow myself down. The whole time I'm saying to myself, This is perfect.

In 2010, after Mickelson hit his memorable shot out of the trees on the 13th hole during the final round, he said his biggest concern was that his feet would slip on the pine straw during the downswing.

Watson: I wasn't worried about my footing. The ground was pretty firm. The longer the club, the faster the swing, so with a six-iron like Phil had, it's more of a fear.

Watson opts for his gap wedge.

Watson: Off pine straw I always think the ball [a 2011 version of the Titleist Pro V1x] is going to go farther because the lie is cushiony. It's like hitting off a mat at the range -- the club bounces into the ball. I normally hit my gap wedge 135, maybe 140. The extra 25 yards was adrenaline and the hook spin.

Matt Rollins, Ping Golf's senior PGA Tour rep: He used a Tour-S 52° gap wedge, True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shaft, D5 swing weight. The unique thing about the clubhead is that it's made of 8620 steel, which is softer than the 1704 we typically put in. Bubba likes the increased feel.

Watson: It wasn't the club, it wasn't the ball. It all comes down to technique and belief.

Sam Snead, another feel player extraordinaire, was once asked how he hits a draw. "I think draw," Snead said.

Watson: I'm like Sam Snead -- I think about the shot I want to hit, and my body and my mind create it. But with a hook, it's all about the hands. All I thought about was rolling over my wrists. But belief is more important than technique. One thing about Augusta -- we've seen shot after shot out of the trees. We've seen Phil on 13, Tiger's hit a couple amazing ones at 11, and I remember Ernie [Els] had a great one there too. That was a big thing for me, knowing it's been done. When I stand over that ball, I'm not thinking about the crowd, I'm not thinking winning. All I'm thinking is, I gotta hook this ball. A lot. I got into that zone where everything went blank.

Oosthuizen: I was walking down the fairway, probably just level with him when he hit it. When it came out, it looked 30 yards left of the green, but I could see it had a big hook on it. I didn't know if it was going to turn enough.

Crane: I was standing to the left of the green. I was like, Oh, no, that's coming right at me! So my instinct was to duck.

Watson: As soon as I hit it, the crowd swarms around me. That takes my feel away because I can't see the ball. I'm saying, "Where is it?" I start thinking I didn't turn it enough, it's in the trees, I'm in trouble. I'm a wreck. We get out to the fairway, and I ask Teddy, "Where is it?" He says it's on the green. I'm looking front of the green, looking left side. I never looked near the pin, because why would you do that? He says, "Look 15 feet below the hole." I was like, No way! Then I see it, and I go, "Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh!"

Angie: I'm usually pretty calm anyway, but especially then because Caleb was falling asleep on my shoulder. When they showed the ball land on the green and spin toward the pin, I couldn't help it. I let out a yelp and jumped a little bit. Caleb lifted his head and kinda looked around like, What just happened? But he just kept snoozing.

Player: That will go down as one of the greatest shots in the history of golf. Period.

Oosthuizen: He hit a great shot, but the playoff wasn't over. He still he had a tough sidehill putt for birdie. It's a very fast green, and he couldn't really chase the birdie because it's easily a putt he could run six feet past. I felt I had a chip and a putt to take it to the next hole.

Watson: As we're walking to the green, I'm already getting too excited, but here goes Teddy again in my ear: He's going to get up-and-down a hundred times out of a hundred. He might even chip it in. You have to make the putt. You have to make it. He was unbelievable about keeping me focused on what I had to do.

Scott: I was thinking about what Larry Mize did to Greg Norman [in 1987].

LOUIS'S LAST GASP
The conservatism that left Oosthuizen short of the green affects his club selection for his third shot.

Oosthuizen: On a shot of that distance, I normally would take a sand wedge. But it's such a big hill to climb, I took a pitching wedge, so I knew it would release and roll up. A sand wedge, I had to pitch it perfect. To throw it farther up the hill with a little check, it has to be perfect. [Pitching wedge] was the low-risk shot. The last thing I wanted to do was have it check too much and leave myself below the bank, 40 feet for a par.

As Oosthuizen sizes up his pitch, Beck arrives behind the green with Watson's mother, Molly. Bubba's father, Gerry, a Green Beret, died in 2010 after a long battle with throat cancer.

Beck: In 15 years of doing this I've never pushed my way through a crowd. But we had to get Molly to the edge of the green, so she could see the finish and be there for Bubba. I very politely tapped people on the shoulder and explained this was Bubba's mom. The crowd just parted for us.

Oosthuizen's chip races 18 feet by. He hasn't lost his turn.

Oosthuizen: I just overcooked it a little. It was probably a yard too far. Past that hole it's very, very fast and the ball just kept rolling.

Oosthuizen's attempt to save par looks good the whole way, but at the last instant it dives on the low side. Bubba now has two putts for the green jacket.

Watson: When you have to make it, it frees your mind. But having to two-putt from 15 feet is the hardest thing in the world. And I notice everything, unfortunately. Before he missed his putt, I saw my mom behind the green, I saw Rickie and Aaron and Ben, I saw my manager and my trainer [Andrew Fischer], I saw a bunch of friends. I saw everything.

THE MOMENT
The delicate lag putt leaves Watson only a foot for victory. But he pauses to take a few deep breaths, then motions for the boisterous crowd to settle down.

Watson: The reason why I took so long on the short putt was I was keeping my emotions in check. I didn't want to start crying yet. Because of my dad passing away, my mom being there by herself, the struggles they went through to get me where I am, the struggles she's gone through without my dad, all the people who encouraged me throughout my life, my friends at the golf course growing up, all the people who were there for me behind the green, all the support I've had through the years, all the heartache I've had doing it my way, thinking about my wife back home watching on TV with our baby boy, thinking about how he's changed my life, how much I love him already -- when you add all that up, the emotion overwhelms you.

Watson knocks in the putt to win the 76th Masters. He dissolves, sobbing, into the arms of his caddie and then his mother.

Angie: Oh, yeah, we shed a few tears too. But Amy still got that picture I wanted of Caleb and me with Bubba on the TV! I love that picture.

Oosthuizen: It's horrible, losing at Augusta like that. I felt sick for a few days. My caddie and I couldn't speak to each other; we felt we could burst out in tears at any moment. There's no comfort in losing to a shot like that. The hurt is the same. It's just the way it goes -- if I won it, I'd probably have the best shot in Masters history, with my four-iron on 2. But he won it, so now he has the best shot in Masters history.

Watson: So many things had to happen exactly right for me to be able to play that shot. What if my ball rolls another five feet down the hill? What if there was a big ol' branch hanging down in front of me? You could say it was luck, you could say it was fate, call it whatever you want. But that's the mystique of the Masters.
 

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