Bubba Watson collected his second green jacket in three years, winning the 2014 Masters in a final round duel with Jordan Spieth, who was playing in the tournament for the first time.
Watson’s first win at Augusta National came in a playoff in 2012 over Louis Oosthuizen, highlighted by Watson’s sensational recovery shot from the trees right of the 10th fairway that proved to be the winning shot on the second extra hole.
There wasn’t as much drama this time, as Watson took a two-shot lead going to the back nine and led by three from the 12th hole in.
Watson, who played his college golf at UGA, was the only player in the final 11 groups Sunday to break 70, closing with a 69 to finish at 8-under 280. Spieth and fellow Masters rookie Jonas Blixt tied for 2nd at 283, with 50-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez 4th at 284.
Spieth and Watson were tied for the lead entering the final round, with Spieth on top for most of the opening nine. Spieth led by two after three holes and again by two after his fourth birdie of the day on the seventh.
But Watson birdied 8 and 9 while Spieth bogeyed both holes, with the four-shot swing giving Watson a two-stroke advantage going to the back nine. Spieth closed within one after a Watson bogey on the 10th, but Spieth made bogey after hitting his tee shot in Rae’s Creek at the 12th and Watson built the lead back to three with a two-putt birdie at the 13th.
Watson shot 69-68-74-69, letting a three-shot lead after 36 holes slip away after some early struggles in the third round. He trailed Bill Haas by one shot after a bogey-free opening round, and moved three in front after 36, taking control of the tournament with five straight bogeys on the back nine.
Four bogeys on his first seven holes Saturday brought Watson back to the field, but he righted himself after that and was back in front by the time he and Spieth reached the back nine Sunday.
Watson was winless for almost two years after his first Masters victory, winning earlier this year in Los Angeles thanks to a final round 64 at Riviera. Watson had let a victory get away two weeks earlier in Phoenix, and added a second runner-up finish several weeks later in the WGC event at Doral, setting himself up for a strong showing in Augusta.
With the victory, former UGA golfers have combined for seven wins in the 2013-14 season, including two by Patrick Reed, who played one season in Athens before transferring to Augusta State.
Like Reed, Watson’s career at UGA was a little rocky. After transferring from a junior college, Watson played well as a junior in Athens, but spent his entire senior season on the bench, playing only one event as an individual.
Former Georgia Tech standout Matt Kuchar made a run at victory in Augusta for a third straight year, tying for 5th at 286. Fellow ex-Yellow Jacket Stewart Cink shot 68 the final round and tied for 14th at 289. Chris Kirk, an Atlanta area resident like Cink and former Georgia Bulldog, tied for 20th at 290 in his first Masters.