Bubba Watson withstood an inspired early challenge from playing partner Jordan Spieth to clinch the Masters for a second time in three years with a three-shot victory at Augusta National on Sunday.
Trailing the prodigiously talented Spieth by two strokes after seven holes, the left-handed Watson took advantage of a faltering run by his fellow American around the turn as he upped his own game, then maintained control on the back nine.
Fan favourite Watson, who landed his first major title with a thrilling playoff win over South African Louis Oosthuizen in 2012, mixed five birdies with two bogeys to card a three-under-par 69 on a warm but mainly overcast afternoon.
The 35-year-old from Florida, known for his distance off the tee, his pink-shafted driver with a pink head and his often audacious shot-making, covered the back nine in even par to post an eight-under total of 280.
After being warmly embraced by his caddie, Watson shook hands with Spieth before he was then congratulated greenside by his wife Angie and their two-year-old boy Caleb.
“This one is a lot different,” a teary-eyed Watson, who had produced surprisingly disciplined golf for most of the week, said before being helped into the coveted green jacket by last year’s Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia.
“The first one for me (his 2012 Masters win), it’s almost like I lucked into it. This one was a lot of hard work and dedication.
“After giving away that jacket last year, I wanted it back. I told Adam we could just swap it back and forth every year. I never loved green so much,” added the American, who became the 17th player to win the Masters more than once.
Spieth, at 20 aiming to eclipse Tiger Woods by becoming the youngest player to win the Masters, had to settle for a share of second place at five under after signing off with a 72, finishing level with Swede Jonas Blixt (71).
“That was fun, but at the same time, it hurts right now,” Spieth said. “I wanted to get in contention on the back nine Sunday, but didn’t come out on top.
“Although it sits a little hard right now, I’ll be back and I can’t wait to be back. It was an incredible experience. It was so much fun, it really was. Even if I didn’t show it there on the back nine, it was.
“I took it all in, standing ovations for both of us to each green. It was a dream come true. Hats off obviously to Bubba, because when he’s driving the ball well out here, he’s very tough to beat.”
Pony-tailed Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, at the ripe age of 50 and aiming to surpass Jack Nicklaus by becoming the oldest Masters winner, placed fourth after also carding a 71.
American world number seven Matt Kuchar, seeking his first major continued…