Just another Masters Sunday, a day of madness and despair, of great shots and shockers, a day when a couple of Englishmen made the flag of St George proud and the sweet-swinging Louis Oosthuizen made a valiant stand.
But in the end it was a day for the homemade swing and other-worldly talent of Bubba Watson.
Brilliant and wild in equal parts, the American finally gave in to his better instincts, hitting an astonishing shot from trees to the right of the 10th fairway — the second hole of a play-off — that won him his first major championship. His ball finished 10 feet from the flag, leaving him with two putts for the win after Oosthuizen had bogeyed. He took both and immediately burst into tears.
It would be wrong to say his triumph was a long time coming but it would be true to say one of the most extraordinary natural talents in the game has finally been rewarded.
The South African and the American were paired together throughout a classic day at Augusta National, slugging it out like a pair of well-dressed welterweights. Oosthuizen landed the heaviest blow in regulation play, a history-making approach on the par-five 2nd hole that went into the hole for an albatross two. But Watson declined the invitation to fade away, gradually chipping away at Oosthuizen’s day-long lead until they walked off the 18th green tied on 10 under par, with only Sweden’s Peter Hanson, the overnight leader, and Phil Mickelson following.
Behind them, a crammed leaderboard told a story that disappointed no one, not even those who came to Georgia this week expecting a battle between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. Both finished well down the pack. Big deal.
The fun started early when Bo Van Pelt and Adam Scott, both of whom were well down the field when they made a hole-in-one at the par-three 16th. They will earn a piece of crystal for their efforts but were clear runners-up in the unofficial shot-of-the-day competition.
That was a walk-over for Oosthuizen, who moments later stood at the top of the hill on the second fairway looking down at the distant target, no doubt thinking the middle of the green would be good. It would have been. But the middle of the hole was better. In the ball went, all the way from 260 yards, from the left side of the green across the slope and down.
Only three players have ever made an albatross at the Masters before. The South African became the fourth. Better still he vaulted into a two-shot lead. Best of all from his perspective this piece of brilliance was rapidly followed by another episode in the life and crazy times of Mickelson, who hit his tee shot at the par-three 4th off the stand at the back of the green and into a bush.
The left-handed American declined the option of a penalty drop, preferring instead to take a couple of right-handed swats at his ball, eventually making his way into the greenside bunker. By the time he finished he had taken six shots. It was his second triple bogey of the week, more evidence — not that any more was needed — that, while Mickelson is never boring, he is occasionally a bit daft.
Luckily for him, and for us, he is also blessed with sublime talent and the guts of a trapeze artist. Gradually he battled his way back into contention with birdies at three remaining par-fives, the 8th, 13th and 15th holes. It was good stuff but it was not vintage Mickelson when the moment required vintage Mickelson.
Gone are the days when the great ocean liners of American golf, Woods and Mickelson, had only to hove into view and the others would start quaking in their spikes. Reputations do not count for much these days. There is too much talent, too much hunger, too many players grappling for control of centre stage. No one is scared any more.
And as the afternoon progressed so the pool of potential winners expanded.
Padraig Harrington was suddenly in the hunt courtesy of a couple of early birdies. Then came Ian Poulter, whose brilliance with the putter will always give him a puncher’s chance around this dear green place.
The issue with golf’s king of twitter is his occasionally variable ball-striking, though it did not let him down on this particular day.
Starting the day at two under par, he went out in 33 shots – better than anyone else on the leaderboard. If he had taken another 33 shots on the back nine, he would have had a serious chance of putting additional pressure on the leaders. He could come home only in a level-par 36, though, his hopes undone time and again by putts that slipped narrowly past the hole. The vultures have been hovering over Poulter for a while now, ready to dismiss his credentials as a top-class player. Perhaps this will shut them up for a while.
Lee Westwood is another who has come under scrutiny from those who argue that he does not possess the short game required to win a major championship. There may be something in that — after all the Englishman finished 59th in putting out of 62 players who played all four rounds — but there is also a weight of evidence to suggest that his ball-striking is so good that it might one day be good enough to carry him to the promised land.
All he needs is a bit a luck, just enough to make the ball fall into the hole rather than run round the back of the cup, as it did on the 15th green on Sunday. Thus an eagle was transformed into a birdie — a good score, no doubt, but not good enough. “When you consider the way I putted, there are a lot of positives to take from this. I am obviously playing very well,” he said afterwards.
It was a familiar refrain from Westwood but it was the truth. He finished two of the pace, level with Hanson, Mickelson and Matt Kuchar, after a final round of 68.