A gunslinger's last stand, Spieth's star-studded debut and Bubba plays it cool: 13 takeaways from the 2014 Masters
This is the latest installment of our Masters Rewatch series, in which we watch and recap the last 23 final rounds of the Masters while we’re working from home due to the coronavirus. What better way to get your Masters fix while in quarantine than by firing up YouTube and remembering all the stuff you might have missed from past Sundays at Augusta National?
The patrons desperately a coronation. For a fledgling prodigy, without a doubt. If not him, two of the game’s more popular figures—one in his mid-20s, the other close to leaving his prime—waited in the wings. Should those plans fail, there was promise of a 54-year-old gunslinger who has become as one with the Augusta scenery as the azaleas.
None of that transpired, because the 2014 Masters forgot its first commandment: “Thou shall not start the Masters until the back nine.”
OK, that’s an exaggeration. The issue was still in doubt, as Bubba Watson held a two-stroke lead over 20-year-old Jordan Spieth when they made the turn that Sunday. But there were no fireworks, beautiful or accidental, on the most exciting stretch in golf. Watson played the back nine in even par, one birdie and one bogey, while Spieth made one bogey and eight pars. That challengers Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar likewise petered out didn’t help. Hey, even the Masters occasionally produces a dud.
But it was not without its moments. Here are 13 takeaways from the 2014 Masters Rewatch.
1.) Let’s get the hard part out of the way, because it hurts the most. To be fair, Fred Couples was a long shot beginning the day four back. But he opened birdie-birdie, with Bill Macatee purring “The roars have started early for Freddie” as he gave himself a look for birdie at 3. For a flash, it seemed like Couples, a man who stubbornly refused to finish outside the top 20 at the Masters, yet won just once, might get a second green-jacket ceremony, and the thought of that conjured all the mawkish feelings associated with this tournament.
However, the roars would not last. He parred the next seven holes and opened with bogey-double on the back, ultimately shooting a 41 on the backside to drop to T-20. Which is a reminder that there are golf gods, and they are cruel.
2.) Fowler birdied the first to get within one of Watson and Spieth. But Rick would only have one more birdie on the day (the 14th), and paired them with two bogeys for an even-par 72. In the rewatch, it’s clear Fowler’s swing was off, a bit long and rushed. He hit just four fairways and 10 greens on the day, never giving himself a chance to go low. Fowler finished six back, in a tie for fifth. He would go on to post runner-ups that summer at the U.S. Open and Open Championship, along with a T-3 at the PGA Championship.
3.) I forgot Kuchar briefly tied for the lead on Sunday thanks to birdies at the second and third. I probably forgot because he doubled the fourth while Spieth birdied the second and fourth, turning that co-lead into a three-shot deficit. Things did not improve from there, playing the final 14 holes in two over. Kuchar’s T-5 was his third straight finish of eighth or better at the Masters, however.
4.) Here’s your indispensable “Hey, there’s Lee Westwood!” observation that’s become a staple of the Masters Rewatch series. There would be no Westy Run in 2014, though. Starting the day three back, the Englishman parred the second, bogeyed the third and doubled the fourth to drop quickly out of contention.
5.) CBS has been hammered for its PGA Tour coverage over the past few years, but this telecast was darn near flawless. The crew struck the right timbre in hyping a 20-year-old LEADING THE MASTERS ON SUNDAY while not being overly gooey on the matter, and simultaneously spreading the love around to the rest of the field. It’s a balance that’s trickier than it sounds.
As for Spieth, he held a two-shot lead after a birdie on 7, and appeared to be in good shape at 8 when his second shot left him 50 yards and change and a clear angle at the pin. But his third wasn’t great, finishing 25 feet for the cup, and the birdie try wasn’t much better. From three feet, Spieth’s attempt goes low and lips out, giving him a bogey, while Watson ties things up with par. Watson gained another two shots on 9 after Spieth’s approach catches the false front and he can’t get up and down, and Bubba converts from a testy 10 feet for his second straight birdie.
6.) Six of the top seven finishers played the back nine in a combined one over. The lone player to make a move: Miguel Angel Jimenez! The Mechanic had four birdies on the back to place fourth at age 50, the best Masters finish in his career. Jimenez could have really made some noise had he not carded three bogeys on the front. But I’m going out on a limb and guessing Miguel still enjoyed himself on Sunday night.
7.) Side note: What makes Augusta National such a compelling, electric layout is the range of games it welcomes, a sentiment echoed by the 2014 leader board. There are young (Spieth, Fowler) and old (Jimenez, Couples, Bernhard Langer, Thomas Bjorn), bombers (Rory McIlroy, Jimmy Walker) and finesse players (Jonas Blixt, Matt Kuchar), the bold (Watson) and the patient (Jim Furyk). That’s a diversity you don’t see at most U.S. Open or PGA Championship venues.
8.) Oh yeah, Jonas Blixt. He finished T-2. That warrants mentioning, right? I wish there was more to say, but he birdied 8 and 13 and bogeyed 7 and was never really in contention.
9.) This is a shot that has mostly been forgotten. Bubba was up three at the time, Spieth had a tough up-and-down for bird (which he failed to convert) and Watson walked away with par. But, Holy Moses, the stones it took to attempt, let alone pull off, this shot:
So, so, so much could have gone wrong. What ultimately transpired was its best outcome, which is not a great spot to be on the 15th. And yet Watson said, “The hell with it,” and went for it anyway. Augusta National may be a thinking man’s course, but you also need a bit of dumb cowboy to tame that bull.
(Also, what a call by David Feherty. I understand why some don’t like his schtick, but I can’t think of another broadcaster who could handle that shot with a perfectly calibrated mix of insight, hilarity and awestruck.)
10.) Maybe I’m going stir crazy, but there’s something undefinably hilarious about this group of six that tied for eighth, in that I can’t think of a more random dissection of the field: Bjorn, Langer, McIlroy, Walker, John Senden and Kevin Stadler.
11.) Spieth had his chances on the back, but bogeying 12 and pars at 13 and 15 did him in. That said, it’s enlightening to watch 2014 with the knowledge that 2015 is on the horizon. Spieth’s reactions to missed putts and denied approaches are that of curiosity rather than agitation. His inner workings are visible, storing away what’s he experiencing for future use. In short, I blame myself for not dumping my life savings on Spieth in 2015 Masters odds immediately following this tournament.
12.) After his birdie at 13 gave him a three-shot lead, Bubba parred out, winning his second green jacket by three over Spieth and Blixt. Which brings us to our final point …
13.) We often think that once a player has won a major, they’ve done it. They’ve climbed golf’s tallest mountain, their career earns a layer of bronze that cannot be waxed off. That is true, to an extent. In that same breath, as the roll call of major winners shows, there are no requisites to winning a title. There are the one-offs, the Cinderellas. All it takes is four good rounds and a little luck.
But capturing two majors? That is unassailable, a stratosphere with no backdoor. Bubba Watson may be unconventional, his personality an acquired taste (or a taste some don’t find palatable). But, hold your ears U.S. Open traditionalists, the cauldron of Masters Sunday is golf’s true ultimate test. And it’s a test Bubba has passed twice, a feat only 16 other players have accomplished.
2014 Masters—Final Round Broadcast