Lasting images from the Masters

Bubba Watson hugging his mother is one of many enduring images from the 2012 Masters. Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- After shooting a second-round 75 on Friday, Tiger Woods hit balls into the night on the driving range at Augusta National. The four-time Masters champion was alone on that beautiful practice facility in the dark with his teacher, Sean Foley, and caddie, Joe LaCava.

The frustration that he had felt with his golf swing during his round had carried over to this solitary moment. There was such urgency to the mood that it seemed as if Tiger believed that each swing held some invaluable clue that would solve all of his problems.

His hurry to hit as many balls as possible before it got too dark to see was a reflection of his impatience with his game; his disappointment and disbelief at how his swing had seemingly unraveled less than two weeks after an impressive win at Bay Hill.

Disappointment. Disbelief. Belief. Joy.

These were very salient themes of this year's Masters: themes that grew out of an abundance of images and events that only a tournament as big as the Masters could contain. From Tiger to Rory McIlroy to Phil Mickelson to Sergio Garcia to Louis Oosthuizen to Bubba Watson there was a chain of emotions that carried the weight of the week.

When the tournament started Tiger and Rory seemed destined to meet in a showdown at Amen Corner on Sunday afternoon. But by the end of the third round neither player had a realistic chance of winning. While Tiger's realization of a disappointing Masters came on Friday night, McIlroy wouldn't have his until Saturday when he shot a 42 on the front nine after starting the day a shot back of the lead.

McIlroy and Garcia had played so poorly in the same pairing on Saturday that they hugged when they both made birdies at the par-3 12th.

Mickelson, another popular favorite, still had a chance on Sunday until a triple-bogey on the par-3 4th hole. He still might have gotten into the playoff with Oosthuizen and Watson with two more birdies on the back nine, but no one had ever won a Masters with a triple-bogey on their Sunday scorecard.

Self-belief wasn't a problem for Woods, McIlroy and Mickelson. Their disappointment was a palpable response to the confidence that they had brought into the tournament. Their high expectations of themselves made not winning all the more painful.


It's what helped Watson execute that big roping hook out of the woods on the 10th in the second playoff hole against Oosthuizen. He believes in what he's doing no matter how unconventional it might seem to the astute golf observer.

"I just play the game, the game that I love. And truthfully, it's like Seve [Ballesteros] played. He hit shots that were unbelievable," Bubba said Sunday night. "Phil Mickelson hits the shot, he goes for it.

"And that's why he wins so many times. That's why he's not afraid. So for me that's what I do. I just play golf. I attack. I always attack."

Belief and disbelief.

Belief explains why Bubba won on Sunday and disbelief explains why Garcia finished in a tie for 12th. After a 75 on Saturday, the 32-year-old Spaniard told the press that he wasn't good enough to win a major.

"I'm not good enough, and today I know it," he said. "I've been trying for 13 years, and I don't feel capable of winning. I don't know what happened to me. Maybe it's something psychological. … I'm not good enough for the majors."

It was such a baffling thing for a world-class player to say publically that on Sunday he was asked to elaborate on the subject. "Everything I say, I say it because I feel it. If I didn't mean it, I couldn't stand here and lie like a lot of the guys do. If I felt like I could win, I would do it," he said after a final-round 1-under 71.

Belief and disbelief.

One man is full of joy and hope, while another is full of resignation and self-pity. The Masters creates those kinds of juxtapositions.

This week the tournament reentered the cultural wars as speculation arose over the possibility of the all-male club accepting a female member. The alleged candidate is Virginia Rometty, the new CEO of IBM, a company with long ties to the Masters. Many people find it unbelievable that it's 2012 and there are still no women members at one of the most famous golf clubs in the world. A few generations ago it would have been inconceivable for there to have been women or African-Americans in the membership. This week I saw several black members walking the grounds in their green jackets.

Belief and disbelief.

On Sunday night, Bubba Watson flew home to the Orlando area to share his amazing win with his wife and new adopted baby, Caleb. The adoption process, which took four years, had been difficult for Bubba and his wife, Angie.

They had asked for prayers from their friends on tour through the process. They had been turned down by another adoption agency on the Monday of Bay Hill. But a few days later they accepted a baby boy through a California adoption agency called Chicks in Crisis.

"It's just we knew that we had to adopt back when we first started dating. The first date me and Angie ever had, she told me she was going to have to adopt, she couldn't have kids and I said, "That's fine.' I said, 'If God tells us he wants us to adopt, we'll adopt,'" Bubba said Sunday.

Disappointment. Disbelief. Belief. Joy.

Year after year the Masters nurtures all these conditions. Some lay dormant while others grow and blossom like a newborn baby. The arc isn't closed on the careers of Tiger, Rory, Phil or Sergio. They will have many more chances at green jackets. They will realize some of their dreams.

Perhaps the best line of the tournament came from Bubba shortly after his win. "I've never had a dream go this far," he said.

But he had faith that something great would happen for him. That's belief and joy.

Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at evans.espn@gmail.com.