Tiger Woods didn't play at the 2014 Masters. It showed. And everyone in golf is hoping it is not a sign of things to come. As great as the atmosphere is at the legendary major tournament, without Tiger there is something missing. No matter where he might be on the leaderboard, he brings a buzz that no other player can bring. He attracts the largest crowds and makes the most interesting storylines. This year, one would have been, "Could Tiger finally end his drought of not winning a major?"
According to SI.com, this Masters garnered the worst ratings since the 2004 Masters. CBS wasn't helped by the fact that tour favorite Phil Mickelson, paying the price for his embarrassing two triple bogeys, missed the cut.
That's not taking anything away from Bubba Watson's great performance. The lefty won the Masters for the second time in three years. Watson's unique style of golf has made him adept for Masters success, while it cost him at other courses. He hits his driver 370 yards; his greatest challenge can be maintaining accuracy. When Watson initiates his back swing, his left foot almost completely leaves the ground.
Defending Masters Champion Adam Scott summed up Watson perfectly to ESPN.com: "I've played golf with him probably 40, 50 times and every single day that I play golf with him or watch him play golf I just go, 'how do you do that?' And I asked him on 18, after he hit the tee shot, 'Are you from Mars or something? Because I don't believe you can hit these shots that you hit.'"
Watson won the tournament rather comfortably by three strokes. Tied for second were Jonas Blixt and Jordan Spieth. Blixt, the 29-year-old from Sweden, is a relative newcomer, only joining the PGA Tour in 2012. Spieth was the Cinderella story. At 20 years old, he was the sole leader on Sunday at the Masters while in the final pairing with Watson. If he had won, he would have become the youngest Masters winner in tournament history.
Naturally, given Tiger's absence, his stellar play drew comparisons to Tiger, who won the tournament when he was just 21 years old. That victory vaulted Tiger into the forefront of the golf world. Either way, Spieth is a player who will be around for quite some time.
Jordan Spieth came out of nowhere to the public. Rickie Fowler finally showed everyone what we had been hearing about since he showed up in 2010 and won the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award over Rory McIlroy. Fowler has been called that kid who wears the flashy colored Puma clothes and Bubba Watson's friend for his whole career. Now he has his first top-10 finish in a major.
With the absence of Tiger Woods this weekend and the poor play of Phil Mickelson, the argument can be made that with the outstanding play of these two kids, perhaps the Tiger and Phil era is of the past. The emergence of Rory McIlroy has added to that thought, as well as the fact that Woods has gone five years without a major.
"It's overwhelming," Watson casually told ESPN.com about his victory. "To win twice, to be with those great names. … A small-town guy named Bubba now has two green jackets. It's pretty wild."
It sums up Watson perfectly. He loves golf. As much as the sport missed Tiger this past weekend, they could not have asked for a more appropriate champion in his absence.