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20.04 – Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the final round of the 76th Masters Tournament!
You join us in the aftermath of a genuinely historic event. Louis Oosthuizen – Shrek lookalike and smooth-swinging South African – has, with a single magnificent strike, turned the tournament on his head.
His long-iron approach to the 2nd, struck from a steep downhill lie, bounced short and funnelled the entire length of the green before finding the bottom of the cup with its final roll. Dead weight.
The first ever albatross at the second, it’s reconfigured the leaderboard thusly:
Oosthuizen -10; Mickelson, Hanson -8; Watson -6; Harrington, Kuchar -5
20.11 – Best Louis Oosthuizen joke so far:
“Class. Man successfully hits ball in small hole from 250 yards, then misses high five.”
20.24 – Augusta National has become a reverberating cauldron of cheers…
Oosthuizen, displaying an uncharacteristic level of nervous energy (understandable), rescues par with a frankly ridiculous up-and-down on the second. He remains at 10-under-par…
Padraig Harrington, fresh from a tidy par save at that same hole, has just raked a draw to a tight back pin position at the fifth. He’s five feet away from going two-under for the round.
20.27 – Peter Hanson, though outwardly calm, is playing with the leaden touch of a man thoroughly out of his depth. His second bogey of the round, again coming courtesy of a clumsy pitch, sees him slip a further shot to -7.
His playing partner – Big Phil – on the other hand: his birdie putt slips by on the high (left) side. He’ll remain at -8.
20.34 – For the second time in three holes, Harrington spurns a makeable birdie opportunity. His attempt at the fifth, a sliding, downhill left-to-righter, is little more than a re-run of his effort at the third. A touch tentative, is takes the break early and slides across the face of the hole.
Elsewhere, Louis Oosthuizen has taken his medicine and two-putted for a sensible, if lacklustre bogey.
In the final group – thus far devoid of momentum – Phil Mickelson has hit a mammoth wide. His tee shot at the fourth clatters into the grandstand short-right of the green and ricochets into the shadowy depths of a nearby cluster of pines.
20.38 – As Louis Oosthuizen thumps his tee shot a figurative mile down the fifth fairway, let’s take a quick glance at the leaderboard:
Oosthuizen -9; Mickelson -8; Hanson -7; Harrington, Kuchar, Watson -6
20.46 – Your eyes don’t deceive you! The online leaderboard tells me Harrington has birdied the sixth to go six-under-par for the tournament. We’ve yet to see televisual confirmation of this, but given what’s going on at the fourth, the Dubliner is fast becoming Oosthuizen’s biggest challenger.
What’s happening at the fourth, you ask?
How remiss of me!
Having spent several minutes footering around at the base of a shrub-clad pine, Phil Mickelson identifies and attempts to play his golf ball. It moves a couple of inches. Stunned, the left-hander ignores the pleas of caddy Bones McKay to declare the ball unplayable and scuffs a right-handed effort onto a patch of hardpan short of the right greenside bunker. The next effort – too clean, too high – drops short, leaving him a bunker shot to save double bogey… the result is a six.
20.49 – Bubba Watson, resplendent in a pink-fringed all-white ensemble, finds an unlikely birdie at the fifth. Suddenly, he’s alongside hapless Peter Hanson and within two shots of Oosthuizen’s lead.
Oosthuizen -9; Watson, Hanson -7; Harrington, Kuchar -6
20.57 – Padraig, you break my heart!
The Stackstown lad stripes a majestic approach to the seventh, his ball pitching beyond the pin and spinning to within five feet, but squanders the opportunity with a tentative pull.
It’s an opportunity missed, particularly given Louis Oosthuizen’s inability to find the putting surface in two at the par-3 6th. He’ll face a 20-footer from the fringe to save par. Bubba Watson, who played with the benefit of seeing the leader’s second shot struggle to reach the green, rolls his second to within a foot of the hole.
21.00 – As my finger hovered over the “publish” button, ready to cut Oosthuizen’s lead to a single shot, the South African summoned the energy to convert his second miracle save of the round to remain at -9.
21.06 – Phil Mickelson, playing with the wide eyes of man helpless to influence the course of life-changing events, struggles his way to par at the fifth.
His approach to the par-3 sixth lands on the ridge bisecting the green and spins away to the left edge of the surface.
21.11 – Over at the seventh, Louis Oosthuizen is hovering over an eight-foot putt for birdie. His approach, a high fade from the right semi-rough just clambered over the front edge and stopped dead…
The putt’s a weak one, though, and slips by on the low side. His playing partner, Watson (Bubba to his mates), completes the decisive leg of an impressive par save from all of two feet.
21.15 – Luke Donald’s wife, Diane, caught a glimpse of Adam Scott’s caddy on the coverage and didn’t like what she saw… or really liked. I’m not sure.
21.17 – Here’s Phil’s meltdown at the fourth:
And Louis’s albatross at the second (“disliked” by a lone YouTube misanthrope):
21.23 – Padraig Harrington didn’t birdie the eighth. He’s currently within sight of the turn, no doubt girding himself for the trials of Amen Corner.
21.31 – Some gobsh*te shouts “Happy Gilmore!” as Phil heaves a driver up the hill at the eighth. Peter Hanson, who’s declared a fragile truce with his short game, hoiks his tee shot into the trees. It comes to a sudden halt only when it makes contact with the fleshy body of a spectator.
Up ahead, Watson’s six-footer for birdie slingshots around the back of the hole. He’s not pleased, and lets everyone know it before tapping in from short range.
21.33 – National treasure and inveterate tinkerer Padraig Harrington has dropped his first shot of the day at the ninth. He’ll head to the 10th tee four shots in arrears.
Oosthuizen -9; Hanson, Watson, Kuchar -7; Poulter, Harrington, Mickelson -5
21.39 – Holy moly! Matt Kuchar suffers a catastrophic misfire at the ninth, three putting from no more than six feet. That’s a double bogey for the cheesetastic Yank and perfect illustration of the frightening speed at which these greens are rolling.
And he’d only just graduated to the page(s) of this liveblog! Coincidence?
21.42 – Big Phil’s do-or-die attempt to regain a foothold on the leaderboard yields a birdie at the eighth…
Ooshuizen -9; Watson, Hanson -7; Mickelson -6; Harrington, Poulter, Kuchar -5
21.45 – Harrington, safely aboard the 10th in two, can afford to be aggressive with his birdie putt, a 20-footer straight up hill. His second, a two-footer from the other side, is a different matter altogether. He makes the most delicate of contacts and has time to stand and watch as it trickles in the front door.
Phew. Amen Corner beckons.
21.51 – Mickelson, being all Mickelson-esque, recovers from an errant tee shot at the ninth, manufacturing a low cut from pine straw left of the fairway. It doesn’t quite have the juice to find the front edge, nestling just short.
The big-hitting twoball of Oosthuizen and Watson has reached the tenth tee. Starved of dramatic happenings in recent holes, they immediately set about creating some. The Floridian with the buttoned-up polo (all the way, like! Who does that, really?) sets up for a trademark cut, but drags a dead pull into the trees wide right. The leader follows a similar, marginally less destructive line.
21.53 – Harrington dispatches a mid-iron from the shadows flanking the right edge of the eleventh fairway and slumps into a finish that suggests a slight pull – towards the water! NO! – but there’s an audible gasp as his ball clears the hazard and trundles its way to within 10 feet!
He’ll have that putt to return to six-under.
21.59 – Ole Bubba gouges his way clear of the pine straw on the 10th, then watches as his ball… finds the green (!), bites and spins back towards the front edge. That’s a ridiculously muscular strike.
Louis pops a less spectacular approach into the right bunker. His third, a delicate flop clears the lip and slow motions its way to within 15 feet.
For the fourth time, Harrington can only look on as an eminently makeable birdie putt tiptoes its way across the edge of the hole.
22.02 – Shrek – so named, I’m told, because he looks like popular children’s television character Miley Cyrus – records his second bogey of the round…
Oosthuizen -8; Watson, Hanson -7; Mickelson -6; Harrington, Poulter, Kuchar -5
22.05 – Bubba, pink driver in hand, spanks a low cut along line of pines guarding the right of the 11th. Landing softly, it spins into the heart of the fairway.
Up ahead, Harrington’s tee shot at the 12th leaves the crowd murmuring in anticipation before dropping fifteen feet over the pin. Sensing a dip in his potassium levels, he reaches for a banana.
22.09 – Phil’s approach to the 10th looks good – so good, in fact, the left-hander can be overheard pleading with it to “Be right!” – but takes a hard first bounce and rolls to the back edge. His next effort doesn’t threaten before settling a foot short.
Harrington’s birdie effort at the 12th – you guessed it! – slides by on the low side. He desperately needs to take full advantage of the 13th.
22.11 – Both Watson and Oosthuizen are safely aboard the 10th in two. The left-hander, whose penchant for taking colossal high-velocity divots is beginning to take its toll on his ultra-white ensemble, is beginning to look agitated.
22.17 – Harrington finds a spot on the extreme right of the 13th teebox and attempts to shape a long, slinging draw around the dogleg. Anxious to avoid the Rae’s Creek winding its way along the left edge, he fails to commit and launches a push high into the trees on the opposite side.
“I expect he’ll be laying up from there,” grumbles Andrew Cotter. Don’t count your chickens, sir!
22.24 – Pars secured, Oosthuizen and Bubba stride to the 12th tee, ceding the putting surface to Phil and birdie-less overnight leader Peter Hanson.
The lefty flirts with disaster but finds the left edge of the green. Suspecting the worst, he looks about in disbelief. Bones – his caddy/babysitter/golfing brain – intervenes to whisper soothing reassurances.
22.28 – While Louis Oosthuizen contemplates a 10-foot look at birdie, his nearest challenger jabs his way to a clumsy bogey. Suddenly calm, the South African coasts his way to a par.
Ahead on the 13th, a par deals Harrington’s chances of securing a fourth major championship a severe blow.
22.33 – A brace of birdies at the 13th and 14th heaved Lee Westwood from the periphery of contention to six-under-par, a stunning long-iron approach to the 15th raised the possibility of an eagle to tie the lead!
The 12th claims its first casualty of the final round in Peter Hanson. Overawed – by the occasion, the hole, the panorama – the Swede shanks his tee shot wide of the stream on the right. The indignity.
22.35 – Lee Westwood’s eagle putt at the 15th is a slight push and crawls wide of the right edge before settling directly behind the hole.
His major championship career in a putt.
22.39 – Hanson’s lob wedge over the stream guarding the 12th is thin and sails over the pin before catching the back edge of the green and spinning to a halt. His par attempt – from over 30 feet – glides by on the low side.
Ahead, Kuchar manufactures a stunning up-and-down from the back of the 13th green… it’s all changing, I tells ya!
Oosthuizen -8; Westwood, Kuchar -7; Hanson, Poulter, Watson -6; Harrington -5
22.41 – Unwilling to give up the ghost, Harrington dispatches another crisp iron shot at the 14th. Clearing the bank guarding the pin, it bounds to the back edge, grabs and spins to within six feet of the hole. His birdie putt comes to a heartbreaking halt on the left lip.
He needs four birdies.
22.45 – Building on a mammoth strike with the driver, Watson finds the heart of the par-5 13th with a short iron. Oosthuizen, after deliberating with his caddy, tweaks his approach slightly and finishes long and left of the putting surface.
Just as momentum seems to ebbing the way of his nearest challengers, the 2010 Open champion experiences another flash of inspiration. His third, from the highest point of the green complex, runs a long, lazy arc befoore grazing the edge and settling four feet below the hole.
22.47 – Westwood’s birdie at the 16th fails to materialise.
Watson two-putts for a four at the 13th… and so does Louis. Voilá!
Oosthuizen -9; Westwood, Kuchar, Watson -7; Poulter, Hanson, Mickelson -6; Harrington -5
22.54 – Fresh from the embarrassment of socketing his approach to the golf’s most iconic par-3, Peter Hanson’s day gets a little bit weirder. His second shot at the 13th finds the bottom of Rae’s Creek but makes solid contact with a rocky outcrop and ricochets to safety.
As if to underscore his playing partner’s ineptitude, Mickelson thumps an iron into the heart of the green.
Two holes ahead, Harrington pitches and putts from the bank short of the 15th green for his first birdie of the back nine! Three more required.
22.58 – Mickelson fails to repeat the heroics of yesterday and looks on as his eagle attempt burns the high side of the hole. There will be no eagle, then; but there will be a birdie.
From 14th fairway, Oosthuizen steers a slightly careless approach wide right. Encouraged, Watson pummels a wedge over the flags and strides purposefully onwards as gravity does the heavy lifting. The ball finally comes to rest within six feet of the hole.
23.01 – Louis, again proving he’s made of sterner stuff than his cheery demeanour would suggest, rescues an improbable par from the front edge. A quiet fist pump betrays his emotion.
Watson follows up with a conversion of his own to nudge a shot nearer the summit of the leaderboard.
23.05 – Harrington’s hopes of securing a green jacket (this year) come to an end on the 16th, his birdie putt missing a ball clear of the left side.
Matt Kuchar, quiet (boring) man of the leaderboard, dispatches a glorious fairway wood to the within a few feet of the 15th hole. An eagle would take the American – who looks a little like a serial killer – to nine-under-par… but I’m letting my imagination run away with me! Get a grip, Nagle, give them the leaderboard:
Oosthuizen -9; Watson -8; Westwood, Kuchar, Mickelson -7; Poulter, Harrington -7
23.12 – Kuchar to nine-under! Looking like a Midwestern tourist in chinos, navy polo, shirt, pink cap and white shoes, he raises an arm in feeble salute of the gallery.
Unsettled by the looming presence of both Kuchar and Watson, Oosthuizen flares a long iron wide of the green. Straining to conjure a wry smile, he ambles his way level with Watson, who gouges an approach 40 feet below the hole.
23.18 – Kuchar’s tee shot at the sixteenth is miles (not literally) off line, eventually settling at the base of a run-off area right of the green. His second, angled across a precipitous hog’s back, comes to rest 15 feet short.
A hole back, Louis converts a seven-footer to keep pace with Watson, whose putting stroke is beginning to looks a little wavy. To think he was dismissed as a one-major wonder but two short years ago (at the age of 25, might I add!)…
23.20 – NEWSFLASH: Michael Vaughan is failing hard at a post-round interview with Ian Poulter. He’s like some kind of stiff, journalism robot – think a more wooden version of television’s Pat Kenny.
23.23 – Leaderboard time, you guys!
Oosthuizen -10; Watson -9; Westwood, Kuchar -8; Mickelson -7; Harrington, Hanson -6
23.27 – Bubba’s putting stroke may be looking a little sha-aaaakey, but his golf swing still looks good (to the extent that a wild, flat-footed gouge can, anyway). The left-hander’s approach to the sixteenth trickles to a halt five-feet short of the pin.
Beginning to feed off the support of the galleries – patrons, if Masters pretension is allowed to have its way – he guides a putt into the heart of the hole.
23.30 – Intrigue, ahoy!
Riding a crest of enthusiasm to the 17th tee, Watson settles over the ball, draws himself taller and carves a drive into the trees short of the Eisenhower tree. Welcome to the summit of the leaderboard, friendo.
Looking a little deflated, Oosthuizen also misses the fairway.
23.33 – On the eighteenth, Harrington powers his par putt – a treacherous seven-footer from above the hole – through the break… and pulls his next effort straight off the blade. It’s a double bogey to finish: a sad conclusion to a world-class display of ball-striking.
23.39 – Fortunate to avoid the trees, Oosthuizen thumps an approach to the 17th from a severe uphill lie. It finds the greenside bunker just short.
On the other side of the fairway, Watson has found a patch of bare ground in the copse of trees surrounding the Eisenhower Tree. In typical Bubba fashion, he launches a wedge skyward – *audible gasp from crowd* – and recoils into an awkward slouch as it drops on the left edge of the green.
Undaunted , Oosthuizen parachutes his bunker shot to five feet.
Watson’s birdie attempt is motoring but catches the right lip and spin to a halt three feet behind the hole.
Both convert for par.
23.45 – Oosthuizen, Watson -10; Westwood, Kuchar, Mickelson -8; Hanson -7; Poulter -6
Phil has crept to within two of the lead, but this is a two horse race now. Playing to the galleries a little, Watson unleashes an enormous drive on the final tee and strides left to follow the flight of the ball as it reaches its apex and eases around the dogleg.
His swing says: “I can win a major.” His eyes say: “I will kill you and feast on the remains.”
Oosthuizen, back to his elegant self, pures an effort on the same line.
23.49 – Coversing with his caddie, Louis breaks from Afrikaans long enough to yelp “Get in the hole, yeah?” and settles over the ball. His swing is sound, contact is crisp, but the club – or shape – is wrong. Bounding clear of the ridge that acts as a backstop to the front-left pin, his ball settles 30 feet beyond the hole.
Bubba, 20 yards closer, finds the right edge of the correct level. Mark O’Meara territory, y’all…
23.52 – Oosthuizen’s putt is barely moving when it passes the hole, but it keeps going… he’ll face a three-footer for par.
Bubba’s birdie putt is willed on by screams – drunken screams, judging by the size of the drinks containers some of the usaually demure “patrons” are wielding – but coasts by on the high (right) side.
23.55 – Louis’s putt is in!
Nerves of steel, this lad. We have a playoff on our hands.
Mickelson’s birdie putt on the 17th refuses to drop, and with it goes all (reasonable) hope of the Californian securing a fourth Masters title.
23.57 – Serial nearly man Lee Westwood is being harassed by Michael Vaughan, whose already dour tones have turned positively funereal:
“It’s just a case of grinding away and finding that key that to make it click.”
0.00 – From Dash Riprock (actual name):
“Dear Mr Oosthuizen,
that albatross really f**ked my betting for the masters. If you could kindly drop 3-4 shots over that last few holes I’d be happy to give you 10% of any of my winnings and my eternal gratitude.
A par and birdie at the last from Mickelson and Hanson, respectively, bring the 72 holes of regulation play to a close.
Oosthuizen, Watson -10; Westwood, Kuchar, Hanson, Mickelson -8
0.10 – The duellists have already made their way back to the eighteenth tee. It’s Watson – who lost the 2010 PGA Championship in a playoff to Martin Kaymer – to play first.
He draws that pink driver again and plants his tee on the extreme left of the area. His drive is a virtual replay of the one he struck 20 minutes earlier. Pure.
Louis, more deliberate, purposeful, fires another drive through the chute of pines and out into the open air of the fairway. He pauses but a moment before bending over to collect his tee. Pefect.
0.16 – With the late afternoon sunshine slowly giving way to twilight, Oosthuizen rehearses a couple of swings, settles, and with the ball below the level of his feet strikes a crisp iron to the right edge of the green. Spinning slightly, it banks left towards the hole and – to muted applause – trickles to a halt 12 feet short.
There’s an explosion of turf as Bubba’s approach sails greenward. Did he catch it fat? Not a bit of it. His ball bounces onto the upper tier before spinning back to within eight feet of the hole.
This is the stuff of which genuinely great major championships are made.
0.20 – Oosthuizen attempts a final, dramatic flourish, but the putt is not to be, coasting over the right edge. In the Butler Cabin, Louis’s best friend (and 2011 Masters champion) Charl Schwartzel covers his mouth in disbelief.
His face suddenly flushed, his head cocked at an awkward angle, Bubba looks unsure of himself. His putt, a weak push, doesn’t even threaten the hole.
0.24 – On the 10th tee:
Watson, fresh from a lengthy debrief with his caddy, hits an enormous pull into the trees lining the right side. The camera pans towards some clueless-looking spectators slumped on deck chairs. Not a good sign.
With the fairway at his mercy, Shrek dispatches a towering push on a similar line.
0.30 – A stroke of good fortune – the kind of fortune that decides major championships? – sees Oosthuizen’s ball rebound to within a yard of the fairway. 231 yards from the green, he drills a long iron onto the front apron.
Bubba, whose ball bounded to within spitting distance of the putting surface, is left to size up a 20-yard hook around an enormous pine. The swing looks ridiculous – wild, ungainly – but the strike is perfect. Loaded with spin, it finds the green and zips uphill to within 12 feet.
0.32 – Louis’s pitch is weighted beautifully, but within a foot of drawing to a natural close, catches the downslope beyond the hole and rolls to the back fringe.
Bubba is stretching, striding about.
Oosthuizen’s putt is struck beautifully, catching the low side en route to a resting place inches beyond the hole.
Watson has two putts for his first major championship.
0.37 – His first drifts just past… he backs off, calms the crowd and taps in to a rapturous reception. Cheers of “Bubba! Bubba!” ring out as Watson collapses into a series of hugs – with his mother, fellow devout Christians Ben Crane and Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan.
Louis: “It was a great day. We had a lot of fun. I had an opportunity there on the 10th. He hit a bad tee shot; I should have hit one down the middle…”
Bill Macatee (of CBS) has AMAZING hair.
0.43 – Bubba Watson has, in the past, done little to endear himself to European audiences, but in the United States at least, the man with the diamond watch will be a hugely popular winner.
And who knows, it may just prove the making of him.
LPGA Tour veteran Christina Kim is having none of it, though:
0.51 – We’ve yet to hear from the champion, who’s just taking his place alongside Charl Schwartzel in the Butler Cabin, but I anticipate God-bothering:
And there we have it: “It’s a blessing.”
Jim Nantz, a schmaltzmeister of truly epic proportions, twists the knife and asks Bubba about his wife and newly-adopted son, even including a shameless, if oblique, reference to the risen Jesus Christ. Somewhat predictably, tears ensue.
Bubba shrugs on the green jacket to comically muted congratulations from the 2011 champion.
1.01 – Say what you like about Bubba – and many will – but his performance today was little short of spectacular. An irresistable blend of powerful hitting and old-school shot-making, it deserved a major victory.
A father of a little under a month and now a major champion, this could be the start of something beautiful.
Time to roll the credits on this thing, I’m afraid: you’ve got work in the morning, and I’ve got another eight-hour period of listless procrastination to rest up for.
Cue exit music…