Phil's costly blunder, Louis' albatross and Bubba's big gamble: The 2012 Masters Rewatch
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?
If providence sees fit, a sports event will have a flashbulb moment. A clip that lives in perpetuity in montages and highlight reels and commercials, its visuals immediately serving as a reminder from which it came. The Masters is blessed with more of these twinkles than most, with the 2012 tournament providing two indelible instances: Louis Oosthuizen's albatross and Bubba Watson's "He did WHAT?!?" playoff approach from the pines.
And yet those moments hardly encapsulate the tournament. The 54-hole lead was held by a player who quickly fell off the map. Matt Kuchar, then one of the sport's more popular faces, had the green jacket in his sights with just three holes to go. Phil Mickelson was a hole away from becoming a four-time Masters champ. Louie and Bubba's shots are the headstones of the 2012 Masters. But there were smaller moments that made those markers possible.
Here are those moments, along with general observations and ramblings, from the 2012 Masters Rewatch.
__1.)__We're in Day 20-something of the stay-at-home order. I'm blessed that I have the ability to work from the couch; heck, to even have a job against the horror others are facing. Conversely, aside from grocery runs and walks around the neighborhood, the isolation and the toll that wreaks is becoming real (this, from a person who used to enjoy going at it alone). So to fire up past Masters, to have Jim Nantz welcome his friends, to hear those famous roars ... if you haven't been watching alone, I promise you, it will do your soul good.
2.) Our first Sunday shots are from ... Bo Van Pelt! Mentioned in the 2011 write-up, the Notorious BVP made a run at the Masters record with a final-round 64 featuring four birdies and two eagles, one of which was an ace at the 16th. It matched the lowest final-round shot at Augusta.
3.) Your 54-hole leader: Peter Hanson at eight under. The former Ryder Cupper came down Magnolia Lane on a heater with three top fives in his six starts leading up to the Masters and captured the third-round lead with eight birdies on Saturday.
Starting the day with a one-shot lead over Mickelson, Hanson bogeyed the first, parred the second and bogeyed the third. Technically he was still hovering around the lead by the turn, but by the time he made his first birdie of the day at 15, he was four shots back. Hanson would birdie the final hole to jump into a tie for third.
Although he would go on to finish T-7 at the 2012 PGA Championship, he would make only six more career major starts, his last appearance a DQ at the 2016 U.S. Open for signing an incorrect card. What was peculiar about Hanson is he admittedly couldn't visual non-straight shots. It's both astonishing that a guy can make it that far in golf with that struggle and a testament to how good he was that he reached the levels he did without that ability. (Conversely, I don't think Bubba has ever looked at a shot to be hit straight.) As of this writing, Hanson has played just twice this season and is ranked 1,010th in the world.
__4.)__To be fair to Hanson, the conditions (BVP aside) weren't conducive to going low on Sunday. The scoring average was 72.871, the highest final-round mark of the decade.
__5.)__OK, know it was only the second hole, and David Feherty was excellent on the call ... but doesn't it feel like the overall reaction to Oosthuizen's albatross is a bit sedated?
Still, what an all-timer. Yes, the shot, but also the patented player-caddie high five fail:
"He can manage to get the ball in from 260 yards," Feherty wonders, "but he can't make contact with his caddie's hand." Maybe these guys were ahead of their time with social distancing?
Also unbelievable: Oosthuizen tossed the ball into the crowd! The first double eagle on Pink Dogwood, and just the fourth in Masters history, and Louie heaved it with the nonchalance of a cheerleader firing t-shirts into a crowd. I triple-checked the video to make sure he didn't switch the ball for another in his pocket. Altruism at its finest.
6.) Alas, though the shot thrust Oosthuizen into the lead, he played his final 18 holes (16 regulation, two in playoff) in one over par.
__7.)__We've come to the part of the programming where, if you're a Phil fan, you may want to skip ahead.
Opening with three pars, Mickelson was one behind Oosthuizen when he stepped on the par-3 fourth. His tee shot sailed WAY left, his ball ricocheting off the grandstands and into the woods. Though it was found under the brush, Mickelson's second shot, attempting to hit right-handed, moved the ball less than a yard. His third swing barely made contact, but got it out into the trampled-down ground where the patrons have been walking. He dumps that shot into a bunker.
Phil almost holed the sand shot, but the damage is done. Triple-bogey six, knocking Phil four shots behind the lead. He was three under on his round after the fourth hole, but never got closer than two of the leader. Phil would later say it was one of his biggest misses at the Masters. “It was a great opportunity to collect another green jacket,” Mickelson said the following year. "I played really well that final round. I birdied the par-5s on the back when I was supposed to. I didn’t make any putts (he took 30 putts for the day). I didn’t make any birdies from 30, 40, 50 feet that you need to make there on those Sunday pins that you can’t get it close.”
Phil would finish T-3.
__8.)__The next two-and-a-half hours of the broadcast are relatively dull, as Oosthuizen, Hanson and Watson stayed in place. Augusta's front nine tends to do that. Which begs the question: Should the final round of the Masters involve playing the back nine twice? Speak among yourselves.
__9.)__There was a small Lee Westwood run—there's always one—but he was never truly in the mix. A bogey by Bubba at the 12th seemingly dropped him out of it. Ahead, there's another ace at 16, this one from Adam Scott! The Aussie enjoyed one of the better rounds of the day, a six-under 66, to jump into T-8. True bliss, however, was still a year away.
__10.)__Bubba bounces back from Golden Bell with four straight birdies to catch Oosthuizen. Also in the mix: Matt Kuchar, as an eagle at 15 (he darned near holed out for albatross, gee golly) puts him temporarily tied for the lead. Unfortunately for Kuchar, he would bogey 16 and fail to birdie the final two, also finishing in a tie for third.
11.) There was a nifty up-and-down from Oosthuizen for birdie on 15, a great tee shot and clean-up by Bubba at 16 to even things at 10 under. Bubba lipped out a 25-footer for birdie on 17, and neither came came close to making 3 at 18. We are headed to a playoff.
12.) Admittedly forgot how good the approaches from Watson and Oosthuizen were on the first playoff hole at 18, Louie to 15 feet and Bubba to 10. But Louie’s putt JUST slipped by on the right and Bubba's stayed left the entire time.
On the 10th, both players blew their shots to the right, with Bubba deep in the pines. Asked if Bubba had any chance of reaching the green, Nick Faldo responds, "I doubt it." (Foreshadowing.)
Playing first, Oosthuizen's 4-iron comes up well short of the green. Then Bubba ... well, take it away, Bubba:
COLD. BLOODED. Every year I've been to the Masters since, there are always at least three patrons milling around this area, looking up through the window, then down at the straw, up again towards the green, all leaving shaking their heads in disbelief. Given the situation and stage, it is one of the biggest shots, in any sport, this century. It warrants its own plaque, honestly.
13.) For the second straight hole, Oosthuizen's putt just misses, only this attempt was for par. It's funny; Oosthuizen is a guy routinely cited as a dark horse at every Masters since 2012, and yet his best finish since this playoff is a T-12.
Bubba lags his eight footer to tap-in range and the tears come out. And damn if it isn't getting a tad dusty in the room here as well.