SOUTH Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and American Bubba Watson were involved in a sudden-death play-off to decide the fate of the Masters after tieing on 10 under par in a thrilling final round
Oosthuizen had produced the most electrifying start imaginable to his finale at Augusta – holing his approach to the 575-yard second for the first albatross two there in Masters history.
South Africa’s 2010 Open champion hit an iron from 260 yards that landed in the middle of the green and – accompanied by an almighty roar that got louder and louder – rolled to the hole and dropped in.
With that one shot Oosthuizen leapt from seven under par to 10 under and into a lead.
And he held a one-shot lead with six to play as he negotiated Amen Corner.
Sweden’s Peter Hanson was one behind on seven under alongside Bubba Watson, who was quietly going about his business.
Lee Westwood started badly but with two to play had forced his way back into contention after birdies at 13, 14 and 15 had pulled him back to seven under par, one off the lead.
Phil Mickelson was on six under thanks to a birdie at eight and a par at 11 after he had flirted with the water with his second shot.
Although Oosthuizen had entered the record books it brought back memories of last year when compatriot Charl Schwartzel chipped in at the first and pitched in for eagle on the third to start his charge to the title.
The last player to make an albatross and win the tournament was Gene Sarazen in 1935. His two on the 15th in the second Masters was called “the shot heard round the world” and the only other albatrosses were by Bruce Devlin on the eighth in 1967 and Jeff Maggert on the 13th in 1994.
Oosthuizen did really well to scramble a par on the third after driving right and then sending his approach over the back.
It was a real bonus for him that the margin of his lead remained when Mickelson and Hanson both failed to birdie the second.
Mickelson ran up a six – his second triple bogey of the week – on the fourth. His tee shot hit the grandstand on the left and headed into the undergrowth.
Going back to the tee was an option, but he tried to hack it right-handed, hardly moved it and then had to do it again.
There was still a bunker between him and the flag and into the sand he went before getting up and down to at least limit the damage.
In one hole he had gone from one behind to four back and from second to joint sixth but was back to a share of second by the time he two-putted for birdie on 13.
Swede Hanson displayed the nerves of finding himself in contention for a major for the first time by bogeying the first and third but a birdie at the last for a 73 ultimately earned him a share of third at eight under.
Padraig Harrington was the European who made the best start. He birdied the second – it seemed pedestrian by comparison – and was in the hunt at six under after 15 holes but doubled bogeyed the last.
Worksop’s Westwood, four under overnight, also birdied the second, but it was sandwiched between two bogeys and he only got back into the equation after Amen Corner. He birdied the last for a 68 and an eight-under aggregate but will have been ruing all his missed opportunities, especially after Oosthuizen had a two-putt birdie at 13 to go nine under.
The South African got up and down for par at 14 but playing partner Watson halved his lead to one with a birdie.
Matt Kuchar then grasped a share of it with an eagle at 15 but Oosthuizen, in the following group, birdied it to stand alone at 10 under and Watson’s birdie there had him at nine under. A two at the par-3 16th for a fourth birdie in a row drew him alongside the South African. Both then had battling fours at 17.
Mickelson secured a two-putt birdie at the 15th and finished two adrift after pars at 16, 17 and 18.
With mutual pars at the last Watson (68) and Oosthuizen (69) finished on 10-under 278.
Kuchar had carded a 69 to be alongside Westwood in the clubhouse on eight under.
Ian Poulter roared to the turn in 33 blows and shot a 69 for a five-under aggregate.
Justin Rose, who dropped four shots coming home on Saturday to fall back to level par, gained a modicum of revenge when he posted an eagle and two birdies in the closing six holes to post a four-under par total of 284 with a 68.
That earned him a top-10 finish alongside Adam Scott, who shot a 66 to climb the leaderboard.
It was final-day drama that did not include world No 1 Luke Donald or pre-tournament favourites, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.
Donald posted a 68 for three over. McIlroy, whose third-round 77 was only three shots better than his nightmare final round last April, turned in 38, was six over for the day through 14 and seven over for the tournament but rescued a little pride with two birdies coming in. Woods resumed three over and carded a closing 74.