Bubba Watson wins 78th Masters at Augusta
Bubba Watson won his second Green Jacket in three years by deflecting the onslaughts of Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt to win the 78th Masters at Augusta.
The American southpaw, 35, shot a final round 69 to win by three after overhauling a two-shot deficit on his joint-overnight leader Spieth on a warm day on the Augusta greens.
Spieth made his first bow at the Masters and was bidding to beat Tiger Woods as the youngest winner ever, duelling with Watson for large portions of the day, but eventually carding a 72 after finding water on Amen Corner to finish five under.
Sweden’s Blixt edged Spieth with a 71, with Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez fourth on four under after a 71.
Americans Rickie Fowler (73) and Matt Kuchar (74) finished two under, with England's Lee Westwood (73) one under in seventh place, his 17th top-10 finish in majors.
Rory McIlroy recorded his best finish at the Masters with a three-under 69 to level par, ending the day tied for eighth.
Bubba Watson, playing with PING Golf clubs, became the 17th player to win two Masters titles – eight of whom have gone on to win three more Green Jackets down the line.
"Walking up 18 was a little bit easier this time," Watson told BBC Sport.
"This one is a lot different. The first one I kind of lucked into it, but this is a lot of hard work. After giving it back I wanted to get it back again."
Watson started the day tied with Spieth at five under, but the 2012 champion quickly fell two behind after three holes. The American was temporarily three back when Spieth holed his bunker shot on the short fourth – but Watson rolled in his own birdie to putt and remain two back at six under.
By the eighth they were level on seven under, but the tide turned in Watson's favour when he enjoyed a two-shot swing on the ninth with a birdie to Spieth's bogey to lead by two going into the infamous back nine. Watson then dropped a shot at the 10th after hitting a poor chip across the green, but the tournament suddenly swung his way when Spieth's tee shot to the short 12th rolled down the bank into Rae's Creek, the graveyard of so many Masters contenders and perhaps also his.
That gave Watson some added impetus and he edged into a three-shot lead with a birdie on the par-five 13th before parring his way home for victory.
It was tough on Spieth, last year’s rookie of the year, who was playing in only his third major since turning pro. Blixt, 29, was in a similar boat as he too was contesting only his third major since finishing fourth in the US PGA last summer.
"It's definitely mixed emotions," explained Spieth. "It was very close on the back nine. I hit a lot of putts where I wanted to but they didn't go in. To play this course all week without worse than a bogey is something I'm proud of."
McIlroy had been installed as favourite in the absence of world number one Tiger Woods, but the 24-year-old's bid for a third major and first Masters was effectively scuppered with a 77 on day two. He said of his missed opportunity: "It's been a frustrating week, because I felt like from tee to green I played as good as the leaders.
"I just need to take some more chances that I've given myself on the greens."
Also level par were 56-year-old two-time former champion Bernhard Langer, Americans Jimmy Walker and Kevin Stadler, Australian John Senden and Dane Thomas Bjorn.
Defending champion Adam Scott (72) and England’s US Open champion Justin Rose (74) finished one over respectively.
Elsewhere, US veteran Fred Couples, 54, began the final day four off the lead as he too battled to beat the 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus as the oldest ever Masters winner. However, despite two opening birdies, the 1992 champion faltered over the second nine and made a double bogey via the water at the 11th and another at the long 15th for a 75 and two over.
England's Ian Poulter (74) also ended two over alongside Australian Jason Day (72).
What’s in Masters 2014 Champion Bubba Watson’s Bag?
The 2014 Masters: Final Leaderboard
-8: Watson -5: Blixt, Spieth -4: Jimenez -2: Fowler, Kuchar -1: Westwood. Selected others: R McIlroy; +1 Rose, Donaldson, Scott; +2 Poulter; +6 Gallacher; +9 Clarke, Lyle.