Bubba Watson Looks Forward To Masters After Riviera Victory
Post by Sports Writer, Derek Clements
IT WAS more like a heavyweight title fight than a golf tournament, with Jason Kokrak, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott slugging it out and smashing one 300-yard drive after another in the final round of the Northern Trust Open until eventually there was only one man left standing.
That man was Watson. The turning point seemed to have come at the 14th, when 30-year-old Kokrak produced a stunning approach shot to set up a birdie three. Standing on the tee, he had been tied for the lead with Watson on 14 under par, but the left-hander dropped a shot at the same hole and suddenly the 6ft 4in Kokrak was two in front as he tried to clinch his maiden victory at the magnificent Riviera Country Club, one of the best courses on the PGA Tour.
One of the characteristics of Riviera is that if you don't hit the right part of the green the slopes will throw the ball miles from the hole. That's what happened to Kokrak at the 15th, and it cost him three putts. At 14 under, he was one in front of Watson and KJ Choi, of Korea.
There was more drama at the par-three 16th. With the hole located just behind a bunker, Watson took dead aim and finished five feet from the hole. Kokrak finished in the sand and came out further from the hole than where Watson's tee shot finished. He couldn't afford to miss the putt, and he didn't. Watson followed him in and they were tied again, with the par-five 17th to come.
For much of the day it looked like it was Scott's tournament to win or lose. The Australian began the day holing one huge putt after another to take himself into the lead. Then came a three putt at the eighth and another at the 14th, followed by a drive that crashed into a tree and then three more putts at the 15th. He then birdied the 17th and holed from off the green at the 18th for another birdie to join Watson and Kokrak at 14 under.
Kokrak missed the fairway at the 17th and had to settle for a par, while Watson birdied the hole to go 15 under and lead by one. Both men hit the final green in two, with Kokrak 15 feet away and Watson no more than 12 feet from the hole. Kokrak's putt slid by the hole, meaning Watson had two putts for the title, and he took them.
Marc Leishman, the Australian who came so close to winning The Open last year, had his chances but mistakes late on cost him dear. It was the same story for Choi, who continued his superb early-year form but was unable to quite finish things off. Johnson finished fourth on 13 under.
This was a day that had everything, even a hole in one from Ryan Moore at the 16th, that took him from nine under to 11 under par.
It was also a day that saw Rory McIlroy move into the joint lead at 12 under after an eagle at the first, only to tumble down the leaderboard as his driver let him down once again and the magical putting touch that had been such a feature of his play in the third round suddenly deserted him. For McIlroy there can be no excuses - these greens are among the best these guys play all year round. The Northern Irishman will want to forget this round and this day in a hurry and move on to the Honda Classic, a tournament he has won in the past.
MARCUS FRASER ended a five-year wait for victory with a 68 to win the inaugural Maybank Championship Malaysia at Royal Selangor Golf Club - and then said he planned to play less golf and spend more time at home with his children.
The Australian's short game was sensational as he took the title in a dramatic finish in temperatures that touched 38C. He started the day trailing Soomin Lee and was still two adrift on the 16th tee. However, Lee took a double-bogey on the hole, while Fraser very nearly holed his chip on the same hole.
Suddenly the two men at opposite ends of their careers - Fraser is 37, Lee was looking for his first victory at the age of 22 - were tied for the lead at 15 under par.
A clutch ten-foot putt on the 17th hole kept Fraser, seeking his third European Tour title, in the hunt. Lee, scenting his maiden win, fell apart on the final hole and took another double-bogey, leaving Fraser to hole an 18-foot par putt for victory.
It proved to be a costly blunder for Lee, who fell into a share of second place alongside Miguel Tabuena on 13 under par, a shot clear of Spaniard Jorge Campillo and Frenchman Julien Quesne.
Fraser had a seven-year gap between his first win at the 2003 BMW Russian Open and his second at the Ballantine’s Championship, and returns to the winners’ enclosure five years and 302 days after that victory in South Korea.
A delighted Fraser said: “It feels unbelievable. I’ve had some serious injuries and I’ve had my fair share of chances to win and completely stuffed them up. That’s always at the back of your mind when you come out and playing such a big tournament like the Maybank Championship. It’s in the back of your mind and I went out there and I had nothing to lose. Luckily enough it fell my way.
“On the last, I don’t know how I got that one to go in. That’s a pretty special feeling, that’s for sure. Six years ago it happened. It’s nice. Words just can’t describe the way I feel.
“For me with two young kids at home, my intentions this year was to play in a lot less tournaments and play more in Europe at the end of the season but I have to reassess that and talk to my wife. My priority at the moment is my two young kids. They have a normal life where they have to go to school. For me to be there to walk them to school is the most important part. Tournament wise, I will still play in a lot less but I’ll have job security in the next couple of years which is always good.”
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