x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The little guys who take their big chance

The Masters just spat out a comic-book finish featuring pine needles, a television tower and a big-hitting Bubba who went in the woods and foresaw a crazy shot in his head. Audio interviews

Bubba Watson takes his 'crazy' shot on the 10th during the play-off against Louis Oosthuizen. Timothy A Clary / AFP
Bubba Watson takes his 'crazy' shot on the 10th during the play-off against Louis Oosthuizen. Timothy A Clary / AFP

Bubba Watson's victory in the Masters on Sunday is just the latest surprise major winner

Previous major winners in golf's hotchpotch era had included The Guy Who Never Played A Major Before, The Guy Who Had Missed Seven Major Cuts And Finished 73rd The Only Other Time, The Guy Who Had Missed Five Cuts And Finished 47th And 30th The Other Two Times, The Guy Who Had Never Made The Top 10 In 16 Tries and The Guy Who Never Made The Top 19 In 11 Tries.

It figured that soon they just had to get around to The Guy Who Never Took A Lesson And Has No Swing Coach.

The Masters just spat out a comic-book finish featuring pine needles, a television tower and a big-hitting Bubba who went in the woods and foresaw a crazy shot in his head.

"I've never had a dream go this far … so I can't really say it's a dream come true," Bubba Watson said.

How perfect for post-Tiger Woods times. The 14th different winner in the last 14 majors won it without ever dreaming he would win it.

The game's most recent deathless shot came from 164 yards, from atop pine straw and from a point from which the occluded cup might as well have been in wonderland. "So I just used [the TV tower]as like my aiming stroke to hook it about 40 yards," the left-hander said.

The ball hooked 40 yards, landed magically on the green, took a giddy little tour rightward, seemed to giggle at the cup as it went by, stopped, curled back a bit to its left and, if you looked very closely, did seem to bow to the audience as to say, Applaud me.

So, sure, bring on Watson. Let him in. So many players of such diverse backgrounds play so well in these days that you might as well have a new champion who says: "I don't know, less than two years ago, it seems like, I didn't have a win. Now I've got four." In a spread-the-wealth era, of course you would have a guy who says: "You know, if I go get me lessons and change my swing tomorrow … [but] I've won four times and a major, so who knows?"

 

In a time when Woods's game confuses and anarchy diffuses, welcome the man who says: "I got in these trees and hit a crazy shot that I saw in my head and somehow I'm here talking to you with a green jacket on."

Take these Watson quotations - "I'm used to missing fairways", "I'm used to the woods" and "I'm used to the rough" - and etch them somewhere. Frame them along with a photograph and a strand of 10th-hole pine straw. They tell a story and signal an era.

Quite a conversion has happened to the majors. With exceptions here and there - Ben Curtis, Shaun Micheel, Todd Hamilton, Paul Lawrie, Steve Jones - they used to cement a chronic contender or introduce a wunderkind (Woods, Ernie Els, John Daly).

Yet if you look at what the sudden winners have done since their wins, a curious thing seems afoot.

Keegan Bradley, a debutant while winning the 2011 PGA Championship, commendably placed 27th at this Masters.

YE Yang, unseen before his 2009 US PGA win, has followed with four top-20 major finishes, two top-10s and one top-three.

Charl Schwartzel, never in the top 10 in 16 tries before the 2011 Masters, tacked on a fantastic rest-of-the-year in the majors: T-9, T-16 and T-12.

Lucas Glover, never higher than 20th in 11 tries before the 2009 US Open, has logged a fifth and a 12th since even if cut five times otherwise.

And Mr Louis Oosthuizen, cut seven times and 73rd once before the 2010 British Open at St Andrews, has added another top-10 plus a Masters performance so big-time that he spent all Sunday staving off a fearsome cavalry with big-boy par putts, reaching the play-off with Watson and almost attaining outright stardom.

So Woods won that 2008 US Open with a broken leg ... and Padraig Harrington took the two majors after that ... and Woods went to surgeries and wrecked the car ... and the whole thing went berserk.

The majors have gone from coronation to cultivation, as if they are a method of informing oneself of one's capabilities rather than cementing prowess long since realised, until one day, Sunday, they took that merry vein and stretched it all the way to cartoonish.

cculpepper@thenational.ae

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