Bubba Watson wins Northern Trust with two late birdies

By Art Spander, The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 22, 2016 at 12:52 AM
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PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- For Bubba Watson, it was two weeks filled with trouble, with joy and finally with yet another victory in the Northern Trust Open, his second in the Los Angeles-area event in three years.

With birdies Sunday on the 16th and 17th holes at Riviera Country Club, Watson overcame a one-shot deficit to win by one stroke.

The victory came two weeks after he was criticized for taking a few verbal shots at the TPC Scottsdale, site of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. And, oh yes, in between there was an appearance in Hollywood on a children's TV program.

A stretch that started with Watson saying about the Phoenix event, "I don't like it at all," and angering many in the Valley of the Sun, came to a more upbeat ending, Watson shooting final-round, 3-under-par 68 at Riviera to close at 15-under 269.

Jason Kokrak, who shot 68 on Sunday, Australia's Adam Scott, who finished with a 67, tied for second at 270. Dustin Johnson came in fourth at 271 after a 69.

Rory McIlroy began with an eagle, closed with a birdie, and in between made seven bogeys to shoot a 75. He wound up at 278, tied for 20th.

Watson again apologized for his remarks at Phoenix after his victory Sunday.

"I don't do too well with words," he said.

He does very well with golf shots, however, winning on a course that because of kikuyu grass imported from South Africa, tough greens and fairways that sweep through barrancas plays more difficult than the 7,349-yard card might indicate.

Riviera has been known as "Hogan's Alley" because Ben Hogan won here four times. After Watson's second win, maybe they will call it "Bubba's Bistro."

"I love it," he said.

"Phoenix," he said, "was a bad headline that said I didn't like the community, didn't like the golf tournament, which was a lie. I'm man enough to take the bad press now. ... The emotional ride I had in Phoenix. Pebble was bad putting (last week in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am). The mental stress, I just had to bite my tongue sometimes when things are said.

"And so that emotional ride, playing three tournaments in a row. I passed a kidney stone Monday. A lot of things I've been doing ... but I held it together today. I made a 10- to 12-footer on No. 10 (the 305-yard par 4 that troubles so many) for a par to put me in position. That got me going; I looked at the leaderboard and saw nobody was running away with it."

So, in effect, he walked away with it, making a 5-footer for a 2 on the 166-yard 16th and getting down in two for another birdie on par-5 17th.

"But to make that putt on 10," Watson said, "that hole is very difficult. That's the greatest and nicest way to say it."

The win was the ninth of Watson's career, including two at Riviera and two in the Masters.

McIlroy came to Riviera for the first time to start his drive toward Augusta. He was in great shape after making 3 on the par-5 first hole Sunday, but then his game fell apart.

"Tee to green, it felt pretty good," McIlroy said. "One of those days I couldn't really get it going. I was (a cumulative) 12 under after the first hole today, played a solid round of golf after that and let a few shots slip away. A three-putt on 4, in the bunker on 6, a three-putt on 7, mistakes you shouldn't make."

Scott, who won the Masters in 2013 and captured the Riviera tournament in 2005 when it was shortened by rain to 36 holes, was in only his second tournament of the year. Just like McIlroy, he eagled the first hole. Then he was in first place. However, a double bogey at No. 8 took its toll.

"Everything went to plan," Scott said. "Unfortunately I just didn't hit the best tee shot on 8 and made an error in judgment with my second shot and killed my momentum."

Watson never lost his momentum or his enthusiasm, even with the medical problem and the knocks about his Arizona comments. He arrived talking about the virtues of Riviera and left doing the same.

"I don't like change," Watson said of course revisions in Phoenix and other alternations in his life.

There isn't any change at Riviera. Or the way Bubba Watson plays it.

NOTES: It was a great week for Bubba Watson, 36. His son Caleb learned how to play the drums from Justin Bieber after a concert rehearsal. Then Bubba taped a cameo for the television show "Boy Meets World." On Saturday night, Watson went to the Los Angeles Clippers-Golden State Warriors NBA game at Staples Center as a guest of billionaire Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. ... South Korea's K.J. Choi (final-round 69) and Australia's Marc Leishman (69) tied for fifth at 272. ... Chez Reavie came in seventh at 273 following a 71.

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