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MacGregor: Bubba bounces back to take Masters

Big deal.

At least that's the way it seemed to the toddler in the green-striped shirt with his hands casually stuffed in his pockets as he waddled up to the 18th green of Augusta National.

But one day it will.

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Caleb Watson's father, Gerry Lester Watson, Jr. – now known in golf courses around the world as "Bubba" – had just claimed the Masters' green jacket for the second time in three years.

Sure there were tears – Bubba Watson, you sometimes feel, can cry at the drop of a stroke – and the well had broken even before the father bent over to pick up his two-year-old boy. They poured even harder as wife Angie – once Angie Ball, a Canadian basketball star at University of Georgia, where they met – raced over to join in the family hug.

But as far as dramatics went, 2014 just didn't compare to 2012.

This time there was no impossible wedge shot required to win a playoff over South African Louis Oosthuizen and no lung-catching sobs on the final green as the reality of a first major win sunk in.

Instead, Bubba Watson played a business-like three-under-par final round to finish at 280 and claim a three-shot victory over two players who had never played a Masters before: 20-year-old Texan Jordan Spieth and a 29-year-old Swede, Jonas Blixt.

It was a Masters more intriguing in its possibilities – could a first-time player win? could Spieth become the youngest player ever? could any of three different over-50 golfers become the oldest winner ever? – than it was in its dramatics.

In the end, it was not a Masters that needed to be remembered for Trivial Pursuit, but a masterful execution of a tournament by a most unusual 35-year-old man who drives scud missiles off the tees and has a surgeon's hands around the green.

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In the era of special coaches for every facet of a golfer's life, Bubba Watson has none of it. He has never taken a lesson.

"I never got this far in my dreams," he said two years ago.

That was when he was asked if winning the Masters was a dream come true for the tall, wide-shouldered kid from Bagdad, Fla., who tears up talking about his mother holding down two jobs just so he could chase the small dream of making a living out of golf.

This year the dream was almost a sleepwalk over the final several holes. Walking up the 18th, with the chants of "Bubba!" and the cheers in the air, he told his caddy he couldn't even remember the last few holes – "I was just hanging on."

It was actually more complicated than that. Watson seemed to have the tournament under control only two days in when he was seven-under par. He then briefly took it to eight-under early Saturday, only to fritter away precious strokes and end the day tied at five-under-par with the 20-year-old from Texas.

"He doesn't play like a 20 year old," Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy said after playing a round with Spieth. "He plays like a seasoned veteran."

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For a while on Sunday, it seemed like Spieth would indeed become the youngest golfer to win the Masters since Tiger Woods won his first at only 21.

By the seventh hole, Spieth – cool, calm, collected, unemotional – had a two-stroke lead.

By the ninth, he was down by two strokes to a resurgent Watson.

It was the tournament's one remarkable turn of events. A birdie for Watson on the eighth hole and a bogey by the youngster left them tied at seven-under teeing off on the ninth. Both hit spectacular drives, on the 460-yard par-four, Watson, a left-hander, drawing his drive down the right, Spieth, a right-hander, fading his ball down the right. They were both in ideal position to come in to the sloping green.

Spieth hit first, his high iron shot heading straight for the pin and landing just on the upslope. A couple of bounces and he would be in birdie range. Only it did not bounce.

Instead, the ball rolled, and rolled, and rolled back off the green and considerably down the fairway until finally it came to a rest.

Watson, having watched, hit his iron higher and longer, landing on the plateau above the slope and holding. Watson made his birdie from there; Spieth chipped up, missed his par and settled for bogey.

Another two-shot swing.

"Eight and nine were really the turning point where momentum really went my way," Watson said.

And then came "Amen Corner," the last of No. 11, all of 12 and the first two shots at the long 13th. Spieth found the creek on 12 and ended with a bogey, Watson birdied the long 13th to go to eight-under-par – and it was over.

Blixt finished with a 71 to tie Spieth for second place – impressive for two first-timers – while 50-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez, known to golfers as "The Most Interesting Man in the World," was alone at fourth.

When Jimenez shot a sparkling 66 on Saturday, it raised the possibility that the 2014 winner might be the oldest ever. Former champions Fred Couples, 54, and Bernard Langer, 56, both put up brief charges, Langer finishing at even-par and a tie for eighth, Couples tying for 21st at 290.

Watson denied this second green jacket placed him among the elite of the game, and given that Tiger Woods missed the event following back surgery, that Phil Mickelson missed the weekend cut and players such as McIlroy never challenged, a third jacket down the road might change that perception, but one thing it will not change is Bubba Watson's predictable reaction.

"I'm going to cry," he said, "because 'Why me? Why Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Fla.

"I'm just a small-town guy named Bubba who now has two green jackets."

Follow me on Twitter: @RoyMacG

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