Bubba Watson battles to two-shot victory at Genesis Open
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 19/02/18 10:16am
Bubba Watson survived a huge test of attrition on the final day at Riviera to end his two-year wait for his 10th PGA Tour title with a two-shot win at the Genesis Open.
Watson responded to an erratic front nine with a flawless performance over the final nine holes, making three priceless birdies to card a 69 which earned him his third victory in the event, and his first since lifting the title in 2016.
The left-hander was the last man standing on a day in which the lead changed hands several times, particularly over the outward half as the likes of Patrick Cantlay, Ryan Moore, Kevin Na and Tony Finau jostled for top spot.
Fan favourite Phil Mickelson got to within one of the lead before fading down the stretch, but Graeme McDowell endured a torrid 18 holes as he stumbled to a disappointing 77 after starting the day just two shots off the pace.
Watson came within inches of pitching in for eagle at the first, but he then three-putted from over 70 feet to give the shot back at the third and he also bogeyed the sixth after finding the bunker in the middle of the green.
He rolled in a nice 12-foot putt for birdie at eight only to find trouble off the tee at the next and blot his card for the third time of the day, but Watson got back on track at the long 11th with a superb up-and-down from sand.
There was a significant turning point at the short 14th when Watson pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker, but his aggressive splash-out rattled the pin and dropped for a crucial two which put him back in control at the top of the leaderboard.
Watson followed two solid pars with a composed two-putt birdie from over 60 feet at the 17th to give himself a two-shot cushion coming down the last and, despite leaving his third shot eight feet short from the fringe, he rolled in the putt to seal a hard-fought victory.
The 39-year-old finished two clear of Na and Finau, with Na being left to rue back-to-back birdies at 12 and 13 having previously reeled off three consecutive birdies around the turn.
Na did birdie the 17th as he posted a 69 to earn a share of second with Finau, who dropped only one shot on the final day but could only muster three birdies in a solid two-under card.
Cantlay was top of the leaderboard after he made his third birdie of the round at the 11th, but his challenge faltered with bogeys at each of the next two holes and five closing pars added up to a frustrating 71.
The 25-year-old shared fourth with Scott Stallings, who fired an impressive 68 to briefly claim the clubhouse lead on nine under, while Mickelson had to be content with a fifth consecutive top-six finish after earlier delighting the fans with a charge up the leaderboard.
The veteran left-hander, twice a winner at Riviera, was just one off the lead after chipping in for his fifth birdie at the 12th, but late bogeys at 15 and 16 took him out of the running as he closed on eight under, one ahead of Jordan Spieth after the Open champion carded a five-birdie 67.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson was just three off the lead after 54 holes following a superb 64 on Saturday, but the world No 1 was in ragged form 24 hours later as he produced a mixed-bag of a 73 which featured five birdies, three bogeys and two expensive double-bogeys.
Rory McIlroy enjoyed his best round of the week as he eagled the first - his 10th, and birdied his final two holes to return a 68 which lifted him into the top 20 on three under par.
But his compatriot McDowell was unable to build on a birdie at the first and plummeted down the leaderboard with a run of six bogeys in seven holes from the ninth.
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