American Bubba Watson played flawless golf on Sunday firing a final round, seven-under-par 64 to post 15-under 269 to win the Northern Trust Open (NTO) at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.,. Countryman Dustin Johnson took second for the second week in a row two shots back and Americans Jason Allred and Brian Harman shared third, three behind Watson.
Bubba Watson destroyed Riviera this week. He played the weekend 64-64, 14-under, with ZERO bogeys. According to CBS, this is the ONLY time, dating back to records kept since 1983, a player has played the weekend without a bogey. Wow. His 64 on each day was the co-low round of the tournament. On Sunday, the question for Watson backers was going to be if his putter could keep the heat that began on Saturday. He began the day four shots back of William McGirt and with help from that putter, he finished the day two shots ahead of everyone.
Watson’s week started out bumpy with three double bogeys in his first two rounds. He made the cut (70-71; 1-under) by two shots but it was on the weekend where he took it to the next level. Watson, as usual, was T3 in GIR but it was his T7 in putts per GIR that separated him from the field. His 22 birdies were T1 for the week. So were his three doubles! And his three bogeys! The formula with Watson is simple: If he makes putts, he can win anytime he tees it up. Entering this week at Riviera, Watson had posted six rounds of 19 in the 60s. His best finish was T13 in 2012 and he had three MCs in six events.
Gamers asked last fall for players that need to be included on salary games for the 2013-14 season and Watson was one of the first names to be thrown against the wall. After making only $1.7 and change last year without winning, Watson HAD to be one of the best values on the salary market and he’s already paying off. He opened 2014 with T23 at Torrey Pines and was T2, after holding the 54-hole lead, in Phoenix his last time out. What a difference a tournament makes as Watson, with the lead in Phoenix, hit the ball all over the desert. This week, he was flawless and rewarded the gamers that stuck with him after not closing it out last time. He’s now over $2 million on the season and has finally backed up his Masters win with another victory. Watson makes tons of cuts and has plenty of game so it wouldn’t surprise me if he keeps this momentum heading in the right direction. If he has found a putter that makes him comfortable on the greens, look out. Riviera is NOT an easy place to putt the golf ball but gamers would not have known that watching Watson this weekend!
With this victory, Watson collects $1,206,000, 500 FedExCup points and takes another step to position himself for another shot at the Ryder Cup
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first 13 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed, Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler and Bubba Watson have collected the hardware this year.
Jimmy Walker and Kevin Stadler are the only first-time winners this season. There were 12 in 40 events last year.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. William McGirt had a two-shot lead entering Sunday so now seven of 13 54-hole leaders have converted. This was McGirt’s first-ever 54-hole lead so that’s not entirely surprising.
McGirt was trying to join John Merrick as first-time winners at Riviera in back-to-back seasons. Didn’t happen.
Rookies don’t win or play well on this course. Experience is a key factor. Jordan Spieth (T12) and Hideki Matsuyama (T23) continue to show gamers just how special they are. Only two rookies, Chesson Hadley and Hudson Swafford, entered this week. They both MC.
John Merrick, the 2013 champ, MC. Defending here is left to the major champions as Corey Pavin, Mike Weir and Phil Mickelson are the last do accomplish this feat.
This was the lowest winning score since 268 by Steve Stricker in 2010.
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and was joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia and Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua now Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and now, Watson 35, keeps the Prime Time guys rolling. Walker has now added TWO more victories to the guys currently in their prime! Scott Stallings, 28, Patrick Reed (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29) and Harris English, (24) are the twenty-somethings on the board. The Prime Time guys now have seven wins to the Young Guns’ six. The Old Guys are playing like old guys as they have zero wins this season. K.J. Choi’s T12 was their best result. #consistentKJin2014