The 2014 Masters Tournament is in the record books and it is one which will be remembered not only for who won, but also for who was not there. It will be remembered for the absence of any real suspense over the final nine holes, for the biggest name who did not play, and the notable players who never made it to the final 36.
There is no doubt that the 2014 Masters Tournament will be remembered for second-time winner Bubba Watson. He took control and wrapped up the competition before the final nine holes at Augusta National with a pair of birdies just as his dominance was being threatened by a tenacious 20-year old from Dallas, TX. More than Watson’s golf, Bubba will be remembered for his outpouring of tears after sinking his final putt at 18. Who could blame him? Watson went four long days keeping his emotions in check, even remarking after his second round that he purposely walks with his head down during his round so as not to absorb the excitement of the gallery and keep himself focused on the next shot. The sound that was more felt than heard was a sigh of relief as he walked away from the handshakes and hugs and beheld his son hurrying across the back fringe of the green to greet him. The memories of Bubba carrying his child in his arms, high-fiving the gallery at the final green, will be forever etched in the minds of all who witnessed it.
The 2014 Masters Tournament will also be remembered for the players who challenged but did not quite get there. Jordan Spieth, the 20-year old with only a year on the PGA Tour under his belt, whom they said was too young and too inexperienced to win such a prestigious event, almost proved them wrong. The young Texan with the old spirit realized a dream in his first Masters by earning a spot in the final pairing on Sunday with Watson, and even held a two-stroke lead after six holes. A snapshot at Augusta National should also be reserved for Jonas Blixt. Pretty much ignored for four days the 29-year old Swede, also playing in his first Masters Tournament, played four sub-par rounds and finished in a tie for the runner-up position with Spieth.
Some assaults were made by some older guys too. Miguel Angel Jimenez, the 50-year old Spaniard who the players call “The Mechanic” wrenched his way into the spotlight on the third day shooting the low round of the Masters Tournament with a six under par 66 on Saturday. It was 10 strokes better than his 76 on Friday. Many may not have noticed, but 56-year old former champion Bernhard Langer fired 69 on the final day to finish in a tie for eighth place. Then there was Fred Couples, who always seems to give the Augusta crowd something to cheer about. Freddie was in it until the back nine on Sunday, making birdies on the first two holes and slugging it out with the leaders until a bogey and double bogey on 10 and 11.
The 2014 Masters Tournament will be remembered as the first one Tiger Woods has missed. It will include the headline of Phil Mickelson missing the cut at Augusta for the first time in 17 years. Also missing from the final two rounds were names like Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner. The biggest absence for which the 2014 Masters Tournament will be remembered is not of any person, but of a tree. The Eisenhower Tree, a 65-foot loblolly pine that stood guard over the left side of 17 fairway at Augusta National, was removed last winter after suffering irreparable damage during the ice storms in Georgia. It was named after President Eisenhower who, in 1956, lobbied the board of governors at Augusta to have the tree removed because it kept getting in the way of his golf ball. The president’s request was denied. 58 years later, it seems Ike took his case to a higher court.
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Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky