LOS ANGELES (AP) – This had all the trappings of “Bubba” golf.
Bubba Watson began the final round of the Northern Trust Open four shots out of the lead, and he promptly hit his tee shot on the easy par-5 opening hole at Riviera into the trees well right of the fairway. With just enough of a gap in the trees, he hooked a 7-iron through the limbs and onto the green for a birdie.
It was vaguely reminiscent of his last win nearly two years ago at the Masters, when he hooked a wedge out of the trees in a playoff and onto the 10th green to claim the green jacket and introduce the world to what he called “Bubba” golf.
What he needed Sunday at Riviera was great golf, and that’s what he delivered.
Watson made the cut on Friday with one shot to spare, and then was practically flawless. He played the entire weekend _ and the last 39 holes of the tournament _ without a bogey. He shot a 64 on Saturday to give himself hope, and then closed with a 64 on Sunday for a two-shot victory over Dustin Johnson.
It was the lowest closing round at this tournament in 28 years. And it gave Watson a victory just two weeks after he let one get away in the Phoenix Open.
“My first win since the Masters,” Watson said. “You never know when your last win is going to be. My last win could have been the Masters, which would have been a great way to go out. But winning here at Northern Trust is nice. I never felt down that I haven’t won yet, but just kept plugging along. And somehow, it fell in my lap today.”
Johnson closed with a 66 for the second straight tournament and got the same result.
His 66 last week at Pebble Beach left him one shot behind Jimmy Walker. His 66 on Sunday made him a runner-up again.
“When you shoot 14 under on the weekend, it’s tough to beat that,” Johnson said.
Watson, who finished at 15-under 269, had lost track of time. He didn’t realize it had been nearly two years and 41 tournaments since his last victory. A reminder came Sunday afternoon, after he birdied the 18th hole, and then walked up the steps to the clubhouse and saw his son, Caleb.
He was adopted shortly before Watson won the 2012 Masters. He was alone in his green jacket that day. This time, wife and son were at Riviera to watch a masterpiece.
“When I won the Masters, it was just me,” Watson said. “Family members were there, but not my wife and not my son, who was just adopted at that point, and now is two weeks away from being 2 years old. What a thrill. We’ll have some pictures with him and my wife and the trophy, so it’s nice.”
Watson wasn’t the only big winner.
Jason Allred, who went to college up the coast at Pepperdine, played bogey-free for a 68 and tied for third with Brian Harman, who also had a 68. Allred was a Monday qualifier, and this was his first regular PGA Tour event since he last had his card in 2008.
The tie for third was a career-best for the 33-year-old Allred. He earned $388,600, which is more than he had made in his entire career, which included two full seasons on the PGA Tour. He now is exempt into the Honda Classic, which starts in two weeks _ about the time his wife is due with their third child.
“We’ll have fun figuring out what that looks like,” Allred said.
Watson won for the fifth time in his career, and he had to earn it.
He ran off five birdies in eight holes, including a bunker shot he holed on the par-3 sixth from left of the green. He made up the four-shot deficit with that birdie, and then a 15-footer for birdie on the eighth allowed him to break out of a four-way tie for the lead.
No one caught him the rest of the way. With no margin for error over the closing holes, he managed to get out of a deep fairway bunker on the 15th hole to the front edge of the green. He smartly played to the middle of the green on the par-3 16th hole for a par. Facing the uphill tee shot on the 18th, he blasted his drive down the middle of the fairway and hit wedge into 15 feet to the right of the pin for one last birdie.
Johnson had only three putts at birdie over the last seven holes. He made the 4-footer at No. 15 to get within one. His tee shot on the 16th got hung up in the rough, and he had long birdie putts _ 45 feet and 35 feet _ on the last two holes that didn’t really come close.
“I had a chance there on the back nine, I just didn’t have good looks on 16, 17 and 18 to give myself a chance,” he said. “I was still right there. That’s all you can ask for.”
Johnson now has finished among the top six in all four tournaments this season _ including a win in Shanghai and consecutive runner-up finishes. His other start was at Kapalua, where he tied for sixth.
William McGirt, who had a two-shot lead to start the final round as he tried to win for the first time, opened with a birdie and stalled after that. And on yet another gorgeous day at Riviera, this was not a day to stall. McGirt closed with a 73 and tied for sixth.
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