Golf: Watson triumphs as McIlroy crumbles at Northern Trust Open

Bubba Watson poses with the trophy after putting in to win on the 18th hole during the final round of the Northern Trust Open.
Bubba Watson poses with the trophy after putting in to win on the 18th hole during the final round of the Northern Trust Open. PHOTO: AFP

PACIFIC PALISADES (United States) • Bubba Watson clinched the Northern Trust Open on Sunday for a second time in three years, sealing victory by one shot after a wildly fluctuating final round at sunny Riviera.

A stroke in front overnight, the 37-year-old American left-hander twice fell two off the pace as Adam Scott and then Jason Kokrak broke clear, but regained control of the golf tournament with two birdies in the last three holes.

Watson, who has always loved playing on the iconic Riviera Country Club lay-out, shot 68 on a breezy afternoon to land his ninth PGA Tour title with a 15-under total of 269.

"It means a lot," Watson, who won the 2014 Northern Trust Open two months before claiming his second Masters title, told CBS Sports in a greenside interview.

"You never know when your last (win) is going to be.

"So for me to come back and to win, and pull one out in a tough way, is special for me and my family.

"It's all about staying patient with (caddie) Teddy (Scott) in my ear. It's been a struggle over the last five years but it's going in the right direction."

The two-time Masters winner now heads to the first Major championship of the season at Augusta National in seven weeks looking for his third green jacket.

"What makes Augusta so special is that every year it's that Major tournament in the same spot so we can see past champion after past champion," he said.

Australian Scott, after an electrifying start that included an eagle and three birdies in his first six holes, carded a roller-coaster 67 to share second place with long-hitting American Kokrak (68).

"There wasn't a lot in it," said Scott, who ended his round with a birdie-birdie flourish, including a chip-in at the last.

"I played a good round of golf around a pretty demanding course again today."

World No. 3 Rory McIlroy squandered a fast start with an erratic putting display as the Northern Irishman shot a 75 to finish nine shots off the pace.

McIlroy, who was making his first start at Riviera, eagled the first hole but then played the holes from four through 13 in six over.

"One of those days, I couldn't really get anything going after the good start," said McIlroy, who finished tied for 20th.

He was hoping to sharpen his game by switching his traditional pre-Masters schedule, but, after three rounds in the 60s, he plans a return to Riviera.

"This is definitely going to be a regular for me on the schedule going forward," he said.

"Staying in Santa Monica and having the beach there."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2016, with the headline 'Watson triumphs as McIlroy crumbles'. Print Edition | Subscribe