The Masters, by its very name, is about the men who win it each April.
And sometimes, it’s about a shot they hit, golf’s version of a lightning bolt.
Two more shots were added to the Masters collection Sunday – Louis Oosthuizen’s double-eagle at the par-5 second hole and Bubba Watson’s 164-yard wedge shot into the 10th green on the second extra hole, setting up his victory.
The shots were hit by the two players in the penultimate Sunday pairing, struck 18 holes and nearly five hours apart, ultimately deciding and defining the championship.
“The two of us had a lot of fun out there,” Oosthuizen said.
The tournament’s history began with Gene Sarazen’s double-eagle at No. 15 in 1935, in just the second Masters played, and since then, it has built a collection of moments and memories from swings that changed both history and the men who made it.
There was Billy Joe Patton’s ace at No. 6 in 1954; Jack Nicklaus’s long birdie putt at 16 to win the ’75 Masters; the Golden Bear’s near-ace at the same hole 11 years later; Tiger Woods’ chip-in at No. 16 in 2005; and, Phil Mickelson’s 6-iron between the trees at the 13th hole two years ago, among others.
And now two more.
When Oosthuizen stepped over his second shot on the second hole Sunday – at approximately 2:55 p.m. – third-round leader Peter Hanson was making a bogey that would momentarily drop him into a tie with Phil Mickelson after their first hole, one in front of Oosthuizen.
Double eagles are far more rare than holes-in-one and in the 76-year history of the Masters. No one had made a deuce on the 575-yard downhill dogleg left par-5.
With the hole cut on the right corner of the long, narrow and rolling green, getting the ball close to the hole meant doing one of two things – laying up the second shot then hitting a short wedge shot into the green or, as Oosthuizen decided to do, trying to land the ball in the front section of the green, a tongue of putting surface between two bunkers, then allowing the ball to ride the slope of the green from left to right toward the hole.
“It was a good 4-iron for me,” said Oosthuizen, who estimated his distance from the hole at 235 yards. “I needed to pitch it about five, six paces on the green and I knew if I get it right, it’s going to feed toward the hole. But I never thought it would go in.”
Oosthuizen’s ball rolled for more than 10 seconds on the green, moving left to right before tumbling into the cup. From one stroke behind to two in front with one swing.
Watson, watching from the fairway, wanted to run over a give Oosthuizen a high-five but didn’t.
“As a fan of golf, that’s what you love watching and I got to see it front row,” Watson said. “I wasn’t thinking about he was leading at that time. ... I was just thinking how amazing that shot was.”
As they walked up the 18th fairway at the end of regulation play, Watson told Oosthuizen about the high-five he’d almost given his playing partner.
“But that probably would not have come over well,” Oosthuizen said. “He just said, ‘Well done,’ and ‘great stuff.’ ”
On the second extra hole, the 495-yard downhill par-4 10th, it was Watson’s turn to create magic. Both players had missed birdie putts inside 18 feet on the first extra hole when they arrived at the 10th tee at nearly 7:30 p.m.
Watson went first and sprayed his tee shot far to the right, deep in a forest of towering oaks and pines. Oosthuizen’s slightly mis-hit tee shot went right but not as far, leaving him a 5-iron shot from the light rough. In the gathering cool near dusk, Oosthuizen’s approach shot came up short of the green, a critical mistake that would lead to a bogey.
Fate helped Watson. His ball could have ended up in far worse shape that it did. Phil Mickelson had missed his target by just a few yards at the par-3 fourth hole earlier in the day and his ball caromed off a grandstand railing, leading to a championship-killing triple-bogey.
Watson’s ball landed in a small clearing, giving him room to make a swing. Still, he had to contend with trees blocking his path to the green, a television tower, an upslope in front of the green and bunkers guarding the putting surface. Watson plays golf with a simple credo: “I attack. I always attack.”
To give himself a putt, Watson had to turn his 164-yard shot nearly 40 yards from left to right.
“Pretty easy,” Watson joked afterward.
Unable to see Watson in the woods, Oosthuizen waited.
“When the ball came out, it looked like a curveball going to the right,” Oosthuizen said. “An unbelievable shot.”
It was a remarkable recovery, stunning almost everyone but Watson when his ball stopped 15 feet from the hole, allowing him to two-putt for the victory.
“He must have a great feel for the game,” Oosthuizen said. “It’s great knowing you have almost every little shot there is.”
And, like Oosthuizen, one that will be remembered for ages.