Augusta: For 54 holes the 78th US Masters was a strokeplay event. And then, on Sunday, it turned into a riveting matchplay contest, pitting Bubba Watson, a 20-year-old masquerading as a 35-year-old, against Jordan Spieth, who seems at least a decade-and-a-half older than his 20 years.
Spieth, bidding to become the first Masters rookie to win since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, led Watson by two shots after seven holes, before Watson, with booming drives and deft play on the greens, pulled away for a three-stroke victory.
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Bubba Watson wins US Masters
American Bubba Watson claims his second green jacket with a three-shot victory at the 2014 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.
Watson closed with a three-under-par 69 to finish at eight-under 280. Spieth, who carded a 72 on the final day, shared second with another first-timer, Jonas Blixt, who shot a 71 from the penultimate pairing.
Australia's slim hopes of a second green jacket were dashed early when defending champion Adam Scott started poorly and neither John Senden nor Jason Day could make a charge.
Senden did cement a return to the Masters in 2015 by finishing inside the top 12, his 73 leaving him tied for eighth at even par for the week.
Scott's final-day 72 left him one over and tied for 14th in his title defence.
Day (72) finished in a tie for 20th at two over par, while Steven Bowditch (72) finished four over in his Masters debut and Oliver Goss finished off his Silver Cup-winning run as the leading amateur at 10 over par with a final round 75.
Since turning pro in December 2012, the only time Spieth had remotely acted his age was during an actual matchplay contest two months ago against South African Ernie Els at a World Golf Championships event outside Tucson.
During a four-and-two quarter-final loss to Els, Spieth pouted about bad shots and punished his misbehaving clubs, as if they were to blame for the three bogeys he made on the back nine.
He later apologised for his behaviour on Twitter, writing: "I'm embarrassed about the way I acted on the course today. Played like the 13-year-old version of myself mentally."
Watson has had enough childish transgressions on the course over the years to fill a psychology handbook, including a tirade directed at his long-suffering caddie, Ted Scott, at last year's Travelers Championship when he made a triple bogey on a hole and blamed Scott for a couple of the club selections.
At the end of last year, as is his custom, Watson convened his inner circle and solicited feedback on how to become a better player and person. They urged him to reframe the way he looked at his golf career. Instead of treating it as work, why not approach it as play, and rejoice in what he has achieved instead of ruing his shortcomings?
That was what they were selling and Watson bought into it.
"I can tell you, last year was a rough year with the pressure of trying to prove yourself," Ted Scott said. "But this year his attitude has been great. It's been a lot of fun to work for him this year."
Sunday's victory was Watson's second of the wraparound season. His two-stroke triumph over Dustin Johnson at the Northern Trust Open outside Los Angeles was his first in nearly two years, since he broke down in tears while slipping on the green jacket.
Watson wears his emotions like outerwear; sunsets and his son can reduce him to tears, but so can autograph-seeking strangers.
In the months after his Masters win in 2012, he felt suffocated by his celebrity, as if he were living inside a Tupperware container. At the same time the outside demands on his time were expanding, he felt a father's pull to form a protective cocoon around his son.
"It took me a while learning to be a dad and learning to have a green jacket with me," Watson said.
"Those are two big things to adjust to. It took me a year to realise I'm not really that good, I've got to keep practising."
On Sunday, after Spieth holed a bunker shot for birdie on the par-three fourth, Watson calmly stepped up and drained his birdie attempt.
On the par-three sixth, Watson hit his tee shot to within six feet, then watched Spieth land his tee shot within tap-in range. Watson made his birdie and then took control of the tournament with birdies at the eighth and ninth.
"I didn't have to cheer him up, I didn't have to encourage him, he was flat pretty much in taking the good with the bad," Ted Scott said.
The tournament highlighted the circle of nature: when something is lost, something else inexorably takes root in its place.
The week began with pounds of pulp being converted into copy about two iconic figures missing from the club grounds, the Eisenhower Tree and Tiger Woods.
The loblolly pine on the 17th fairway that tormented President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a club member, was struck down by nature's fury. Woods was struck down by his swing's fury, as he sustained a back injury that required surgery and has sidelined him indefinitely.
While the tree has yet to be replaced, a verdant successor to Woods bloomed this week. Spieth may have come up short in his bid to supplant Woods, who was 21 in 1997, as the youngest champion in the tournament's history, but his ease in the leading-man role bodes well for golf's future.
"He's not your typical 20-year-old," said Rory McIlroy, Spieth's elder by four years, who rebounded from a 77 in the second round to card scores of 71 and 69 on the weekend to record his career-best finish at Augusta, a tie for eighth.
"He plays like he's been out here for a long time."
Watson had waited all his life to walk off the 18th green at Augusta and into the embrace of his family.
When he won in 2012, his wife, Angie, was back in Orlando with their months-old son Caleb, whom they had just adopted. After hugging his wife, Watson took his son and held him in his left arm as he slapped the outstretched hands of patrons with his right.
In the morning, a few hours before he teed off, Watson held a Masters trivia contest for his 1 million-plus followers. By nightfall he had carved out another piece of history, winning a second green jacket in his sixth Masters to tie Jimmy Demaret and Arnold Palmer as the fastest to two Masters titles in the post-World War II era.
"A small-town guy named Bubba now has two green jackets," Watson said. "It's pretty cool."