Bubba Watson closed with a three-under-par 69 to win his second Masters title in the space of three years.
The 35-year-old left-hander from Bagdad, Florida, produced an impressive combination of power and precision to finish on eight-under-par 280, three shots clear of Jordan Speith and Jonas Blixt and four in front of 50-year-old Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez.
American duo Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar finished tied fifth on 286, one shot ahead of England’s Lee Westwood, while Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy recovered from a second round 77 to close with rounds of 71 and 69 and share eighth place alongside Bernhard Langer, Kevin Stadler, Thomas Bjorn, John Senden and Jimmy Walker on level par 288.
McIlroy had started the tournament as favourite alongside defending champion Adam Scott, but in the end, no one had an answer to Watson’s unorthodox brilliance as he became just the 17th player to win two or more Masters titles.
Watson started the final round sharing the lead alongside Speith. He was briefly three shots behind when the 20-year-old Texan holed from the sand for a birdie on the par-3 4th, but he followed him into the hole to stay two back at six-under-par and then made his move as he approached the turn.
Speith was bidding to become the first rookie to don the Green Jacket since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 but he lost the initiative on the 8th and 9th where there was a four shot swing as Watson carded two birdies against Speith’s two bogeys. Speith did get one back when Watson dropped a shot on the 10th hole, but his tee shot spun back into the water on the 12th and thereafter there was nothing either he or the impressive Blixt could do to stop Watson from claiming a sixth victory for a left-hander since Mike Weir’s triumph in 2003.
Watson had burst into a flood of tears two years ago after beating 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen in a sudden-death play-off. He was equally emotional this time round as he ended a dismal run in which he had won just once on the previous nine occasions he held or shared the 54-hole lead.
“This felt very different from the last time,” he said after carrying adopted son, Caleb, all the way up to the recording area.
“I almost lucked out the last one. This one was down to a lot of hard work and dedication. I wanted that Green Jacket back so much after losing it last year. I said to Adam (Scott) that we should swap it back and forth from now on.
“I don’t remember the last few holes, I just remember hanging on.”
Speith felt a mixture of emotions as he closed with a rollercoaster round of level par 72 to finish alongside Blixt on 283. He felt disappointed but not distraught and in all likelihood can now look forward to facing up to the young Swede once more as they both make debuts in this year’s Ryder Cup match at Gleneagles.
“I had it in my hands,” he recalled ruefully after heading the field in Greens in Regulation having hit 53 out of 72 (73.61%).
“It’s definitely mixed emotions. It was very close on the back nine. I hit a lot of putts where I wanted to but they didn’t go in. To play this week without worse than a bogey is something I’m proud of …but at the same time it hurts.
“I felt very comfortable out there,” he added. “My game held up. I think I’m going forward from here. I’m ready to win (a Major). It’s just a matter of time.”
McIlroy was irritated that he could not take advantage of Tiger Woods’ absence and Phil Mickelson’s failure to make the cut.
“It’s frustrating because I felt like from tee to green I played as well as the leaders,” he said after hauling himself back to level par for the tournament despite bogeys on both the par-5 13th and 15th holes.
“I’m even par for the tournament and even par for the par fives. You’re looking to play the par fives in 10- or 12-under-par and obviously if I had done that it would have been a different story.
“But today was different. It was big,” he added. “I figured something out on the sixth green and then I putted better. The putter wasn’t aiming where I thought it was aiming. It was a little left of where I thought so I was missing a lot of left-to-rights.
“Hopefully I can start to see a few more putts go in and get more confidence because my long game is exactly where it needs to be.”
Defending champion, Adam Scott, closed with a level par 72 to share 14th place with Jamie Donaldson, Stewart Cink, Henrik Stenson, and Justin Rose. One Australian did pick up a prize, however, when Scott’s compatriot Oliver Goss became the first Australian to claim low amateur honours at The Masters.
Goss carded rounds of 76 and 71 to make the cut and then went on to post a 76 and a 75 over the weekend. The other five amateurs – Garrick Porteous, Matt Fitzpatrick, Chang-woo Lee, Michael McCoy and Jordan Niebrugge – all failed to make it to the weekend although US Amateur champion, Fitzpatrick, came agonisingly close before missing an 8-foot putt on the 36th green that would have seen him through.