• The Masters

Bubba, golf's great maverick, becomes the Master

Alex Dimond April 9, 2012

"Even in my dreams, I never got this far."

- Bubba Watson, 2012 Masters champion

It wasn't the left-hander many expected receiving the green jacket from Charl Schwartzel on Sunday evening, but he sure wasn't any less worthy for it.

Masters 2012: Final round report
Masters 2012: Final round in pictures
Masters 2012: What They Said
Masters 2012: Plays of the Day

Bubba Watson may stand the same side of the ball, approach the game with the same happy-go-lucky attitude and roam the course in the same quixotic way as Phil Mickelson - the man who seemed destined to storm through for a fourth Masters win, for a few holes at least - but he's very much his own man.

A little longer off the tee (okay, a lot); a little less adept around the greens (okay, a lot). Pretty even in terms of his penchant for the low-percentage, high reward shot in big situations. But, when it mattered most, Watson - the man born 'Gerry' but quickly renamed after one of the 'Police Academy' actors - produced the goods and marked himself as a worthy winner of the green jacket.

Having recently adopted a baby boy, Caleb, along with wife Angie, to win the biggest event of his life on Easter Sunday was all too much for the devout Christian to take.

"This day means so much more than putting on this Green Jacket, in many ways," Watson said in the Butler Cabin, crying for at least the second time since holing the winning putt. "But it is a special time to do it.

"It was amazing. The last nine holes, I don't remember anything."

The 33-year-old would be wise to watch the replay. What he would see was a brave victory from a gallant competitor who held back on nothing and reaped the rewards for it. But then what would you expect from a man who has rocked a pink driver all year, and wore the same all-white (with pink edging) outfit every day this week, in support of a breast cancer charity?

No one can say he got the most luck of the week - indeed that went to his playing partner on Sunday, and the man he beat in a playoff, Louis Oosthuizen. When the 2010 Open champion holed out for albatross at the second (only the fourth such score every recorded at the Masters), he moved four shots clear of his playing partner. It seemed like a decisive moment at the time, yet in the end it wasn't.

No one can say he was handed the tournament either - if anything the opposite is true, as he missed two makeable birdie putts (one in regulation, one at the first sudden death hole) that would have won him the big prize. It felt like maybe his chance(s) had come and gone, and yet they hadn't.

No one can say Watson did anything but earn the victory. He clawed his way back against a competitor in Oosthuizen who made par-saving putts time and time again on the back nine. Watson had to hit beautiful shots at 14 and 16, while making keep-up birdies at 13 and 15 to reel in his rival.

Then, with the memories of his last experience in such a situation no doubt ringing around his head, he held his nerve in what was effectively a four-hole playoff to triumph. Eighteen months ago, at the 2010 US PGA Championship, his composure let him down against Martin Kaymer. Not this time.

The decisive shot, when it came, deflated Oosthuizen completely. From deep in the trees alongside the 10th - completely unsighted, just as he had been from a similar spot during the final round - Watson pulled off a spectacular hooked wedge to 20 feet that gave him an improbable run at birdie.

But with Oosthuizen demoralised, par would prove enough.

"I was there earlier today, in regulation," Watson noted. "I had a good lie and a gap to hook it and I'm good at hooking so I hit it."

Bubba Watson wore the same outfit every day ... as you do © Getty Images
Enlarge

Once the preserve of the keen golf fan, now Watson will be the property of a far wider golfing audience. That's modern life, that's the trappings of this sort of success. Now everyone will know how he spent over $100,000 to win an auction for the original General Lee from 'The Dukes of Hazzard', a car he regularly drives to tournaments.

Now many more people - 50,000 within an hour of his victory - will follow him on Twitter, a site he joined "to show everyone how stupid I am" and where his most recent tweet reads, "How do I get my hair to look so good???? Goat's milk."

Cult heroes aren't often successful too. Bubba Watson is seemingly set to be one of the exceptions.

Oosthuizen, for his part, was bidding to join a group of players to win at both St Andrew's and Augusta National that includes only Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods. It would have been harsh to suggest that the South African does not warrant inclusion among that illustrious list (especially with only three other low-key European Tour wins to add to his CV), but that was undoubtedly going to be the case if he had won.

As it his, his play - and his technically precise swing - should give him a couple more opportunities to earn his spot among those legendary names.

Bubba, of course, already has secured his own piece of real estate in golfing Valhalla.

He never could dream it, but in the end that didn't matter. His talent and attitude took him there all the same.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Alex Dimond Close
Alex Dimond is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk