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Monday, April 14, 2014


Bubba Watson, 35, won his second Masters tournament in three years. The American golfer has always been among the better known participants on the PGA Tour. Sports enthusiasts who watch the occasional major or flip the tube on when Tiger Woods is in the running have heard his name and probably know that he is pretty good. Sunday catapulted Watson into golf’s unquestionably elite.

As usual, Rickie Fowler (above) injected some style into the Masters. He finished 5th. 4

When Watson won the 2012 Masters, the common media narrative treated Waston as a bit of a late-blooming underdog. Watson has talent. Watson can compete.

But Bubba is not Tiger; just wait until Tiger gets back on his horse (Tiger Woods finished 4th in the 2011 Masters). Bubba is not Phil Mickelson, an established repeat champion. Bubba is not Rory McIlroy; he’s on the wrong side of age 30. Watson’s 2012 Master’s win was a great golf feel good story, but don’t expect to see Watson’s name dominating the gold headlines in the coming years.

Yesterday eliminated any remnant of the “aw shucks”, quirky, good but not great image of Bubba Watson, currently ranked #2 in the world. From his left handed swing to hitting balls through trees and onto the green like a nine cushion billiards shot to his humble emotions exhibited after a win, Watson is a brand. He is known. He is a the top of the PGA Tour’s marquee.

Not an expression often used with golf, but Watson's trick shot on the 15th hole was "gangsta"! 3

Throughout the 2000s, the phrases “golf” and “Tiger Woods” have been almost synonymous among even the most casual of sports observers. While Woods is no longer the seemingly invincible force he was in his 20s and early 30s, he is still, indisputably, the premiere name (and premiere draw) in professional golf.

However, Tiger’s coattails have benefits. Phil Mickelson’s brand has benefited from sparring with Tiger on the Tour over the years. Young Rory McIlroy is positioning himself to be the next young, dominant golf prodigy in the coming years. With yesterday’s win, I think it would be difficult to argue that Watson is not among golf’s “Big Four”.

On the rise are stand outs like the (literally) colorful Rickie Fowler, age 25 (who finished 5th yesterday), and 20 year old Jordan Spieth, finishing 2nd. Spieth mounted a challenge in the fourth round to possibly become the youngest, ever Masters winner.

Runner up Jordan Spieth (left), 20, and 2014 Masters champion Watson (right), 35. 2

Every year, the Masters seems to give us a good story. Good golf stories are great for the game of golf. With the possibility that Tiger Woods may not compete on the Tour this year, rehabbing from back surgery, the rise of stars like Watson, McIlroy and others could not come at a better time for the PGA.

Assuming Woods’ health allows him to be competitive upon his return and assuming the profiles of players like Spieth and Fowler continue to rise, golf can expect to transform from the (seemingly) one man show it was in the 2000s to a series of rivalries in the 2010s. In major competition, Bubba Watson has drawn first blood.

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