People who made wild predictions about Bubba Watson entering the final round at The Masters began biting their nails in the first half of Sunday’s play.
While Watson hung on, Jordan Spieth remained on or near his heels the majority of the front nine. As scores fluctuated, at some points it looked like Watson’s run at a second green jacket may be fizzling out. With Spieth playing inspired golf, recording only one bogey on the front nine, Watson had reason to sweat.
Outside of the final pairing, Jonas Blixt kept the co-leaders honest, refusing to move out of the rear-view mirror of Watson or Spieth.
Spieth’s biggest advantage was his solid knowledge and understanding of golf strategy and theory. The majority of his choices and shots were well thought out and could make up the bulk of a golf textbook. This is to be respected of a 20-year-old playing in the final pairing of The Masters.
The Masters however, is not played in a textbook.
On the back nine, nerves got the better of Spieth as he saw many shots go completely awry. It was obvious that he had been rattled and had lost the mental aspect of his game; even his insane highlight reel approach shot on 17 ended up being an up-and-down to save par. All the while, Watson maintained a lead.
Watson has been here before; he’s seen the best Augusta National has had to offer, and he’s beaten it. He’s been on the Tour long enough to know how to keep his head on straight in a pressure situation. He showed the creativity and out-of-the-box thinking that has brought him to where he is on the Tour today — the kind of experience Spieth can barely spell at this point in his career.
What Spieth can hang his hat on is that he did — for a few holes — put the scare into one of the best on the Tour; he did have Watson on the run for a while there. However, there is nothing that youth and bravado can do in the face of experience and confidence.
Spieth has his place in golf’s future. He’s a much better youth icon than Rickie Fowler, who prances about the course dressed like a Lego construction man figure. Spieth is a young player kids can look up to, and he will have another shot at the green jacket — that is a guarantee.
Storylines are nice to think about, and a ‘youngest ever’ would have been cool to see, but Watson is big-time when he has eyes on the prize, and in a game of chicken with a youngster like Spieth — Watson will always blink last.