American Bubba Watson shot a final round 69 to claim his second US Masters title in three years at Augusta National Golf Club, holding off the challenge of debutants Jordan Speith and Sweden’s Jonas Blixt on his way to victory.
Watson became the 17th player to win two Masters titles, eight of who have gone on to win three or more Green Jackets, after finishing the tournament on eight-under-par, three shots clear of Speith and Blixt.
Americans Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar ended their campaigns a further shot behind, along with Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Watson and Speith began the final day as co-leaders on five-under-par and it was the 20-year-old who settled the quickest, edging into a two-shot lead after the first three holes and a magnificent bunker shot at the fourth had the 2013 rookie of the year three shots clear before Watson rolled in his putt to stay within two.
Speith, who was bidding to become the youngest Masters champion in history, maintained his two-shot advantage through seven holes but the turning point came at the par-five eighth.
The youngster recorded his first six of the week while Watson got up-and-down for birdie and a two-shot swing to tie for the lead.
Speith appeared to be temporarily rattled as he played a poor approach to the ninth resulting in a second successive bogey, while his opponent rolled in for another birdie and two-shot lead.
Watson dropped a shot at the tenth after hitting a poor chip across the green but a wayward tee shot on the infamous 12th saw Speith find Rae’s Creek and a Watson birdie on the 13th restored a three-shot cushion for the man from Florida, who held his nerve and parred his way home for victory.
The left-hander now joins an illustrious list of multiple Masters champions that includes the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Watson.
“To win twice [and] to be with those great names.
“A small-town guy named Bubba now has two Green Jackets.
“It’s pretty wild.”
In 2012, Watson won his first title at Augusta following a dramatic play-off win over South African Louis Oosthuizen.
“This one was a lot better for me and my nerves and my family,” added the 35-year-old.
“Walking up 18 was a little bit easier this time.
“This one is a lot different.
“The first one I kind of lucked into it, but this is a lot of hard work.”
Texan Speith was playing in only his third major as a professional and had “mixed emotions” following his first outing at the famous course where he could not manage to build on his early two-shot lead in the final round.
“It was very close on the back nine,” he said.
“I hit a lot of putts where I wanted to but they didn’t go in.
“To play this course all week without worse than a bogey is something I’m proud of.”
Defending champion Adam Scott of Australia eventually finished on one-over-par on the return to the scene of his first major triumph, as did England’s reigning US Open champion Justin Rose and pre-tournament favourite Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.
Rose is next to put his major title on the line when the US Open takes place at Pinehurst, North Carolina, which is due to take place from June 12 to 15.
This article first appeared in www.insidethegames.biz and is reproduced with permission.