Watson closed in style, rolling in a 14-footer for birdie on the final hole to get to 15-under and besting Dustin Johnson by two strokes. The 2012 Masters champ fired his second consecutive bogey-free, seven-under 64 for an impressive finish at a firm, fast and challenging Riviera CC. In other words, he played some really, incredibly good golf.
Watson didn’t get off to the best start. He double-bogeyed his first hole of the tournament, the par-4 10th. Then, he recovered with a birdie on no. 11, but made another double-bogey on no. 12. He still managed to salvage a one-under 70 in the first round.
However, he had another double in the second round before he caught fire over the weekend and scorched Riviera, rolling in must-make putts to keep his momentum going, especially on the back nine on Sunday.
Meanwhile, on the front nine, he nearly had a meltdown after missing a tee shot into the left bunker on the par-3 6th. Next thing you know, Watson holed out for birdie to overcome a four-shot deficit from the start of the day.
“I made the cut, I think at 1-under,” said Watson in his post-win presser. “So I went into the weekend just trying to just play solid golf, just build on it, build on the future. I went out and went bogeyfree, which every pro tries to do every day, but I went out bogeyfree and made seven birdies. And so I jumped up there, had a chance.
“I got hot early. Holed a bunker shot on 6 to really get it going and did the same thing, went bogey-free on the last hole, fell in to shoot another seven birdies to go bogey-free on the weekend, so it was nice.
“And around here, I mean, what an honor, what a privilege, what a blessing; the history behind this golf tournament, the history behind some of the great names as champions here. To be a part of that now, to see success here at this golf course, which they haven’t changed much over the years, which all of us golfers love. They don’t trick it up. They don’t have to add a bunch of length. It just is what it is, and it’s tough.”
To shoot 14-under over the weekend at Riviera is something else.
What’s more, unlike nearly two years ago at his last victory at Augusta National, Bubba had his family with him. His wife Angie and son Caleb were present to see him break his two-year winless drought.
“It’s very nice,” said Bubba, referring to having his family with him. “When I won the Masters, it was just me. Family members were there but not my wife and not my son who was just adopted at that point, now two weeks away from being two years old, what a thrill. We’ll have some pictures with him and my wife and with the trophy, so it’s nice.”
Bubba was kind enough to even answer a question before it was asked — what it was like to capture his first W since securing that Green Jacket?
“The reaction of, I know y’all are going to ask, my first win since the Masters, it’s just you never know when your last win is going to be,” he said. “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, any time you can get another win, it’s very nice and so you know, I never looked down, I never felt down that I haven’t won yet but just keep plugging along and somehow it fell in my lap today.”
Dustin Johnson added another runner-up finish to his resume after he shared the honor with Jim Renner last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Johnson, who shot a final-round 66, came up short and missed a few opportunities in the last few holes, but it may still not have been good enough to beat Watson.
“I’m playing good,” said Johnson. “Not playing great, but I’m playing good, solid, and you know today I played really solid, hit some poor shots but I was able to save pars on those. Just coming down the stretch, I thought I hit a lot better shot on 16 where it ended up, ended up just short in the rough and I had to make a pretty good upanddown just to save par.
“Then 17 and 18 — 18 I definitely thought I hit a better shot. 17 I just hit a poor one. So I didn’t really have good clans on 16, 17 and 18 to make a little bit better of a run, but you know, when you shoot 14-under on the weekend, it’s tough to beat that.”
The winner of the tournament wasn’t per se the best story of the week. Instead, that honor goes to Monday Qualifier Jason Allred, who shot a total of 12-under to finish tied for third. Allred, who was playing in his fourth Monday of 2014, almost didn’t make the trip to Los Angeles because his wife is expecting their third child in a few weeks.
“Yeah, isn’t that crazy to think I was at Industry Hills on Monday and I got to do this,” said Allred, who was all smiles. “What a joy. But you know, I was getting ready to leave on Saturday and my wife and I, knowing that our baby was due the end of this month, tried to plan my schedule the best we could.
“But when it came to that time to actually leave, that was a tough, tough thing. Gosh, I’m going to be by myself and the baby is probably not going to come but to be totally honest with you, I almost didn’t come. I love giving it a shot but at the same time I realized, it’s just another tournament. Thankfully my wife’s mom was able to fly down and help her out. My wife is so awesome and supportive, and you know, obviously I’m very thankful I came at this point.”
Allred, who looked like he was nearly tearing up afterward, couldn’t wipe the smile off his face — and that was also the case for most of the round. In fact, understandably, he had trouble articulating his emotions.
“I don’t think I’m a smart enough guy to put into words how much fun I had, but the chance to be here, this place, Riviera, is such an amazing, special place,” he said. “I praise God that for whatever reason, despite me, my tendency to try so hard to do so well, I was just able to really enjoy it and I felt peaceful and so thankful to have Keith Nolan, my buddy, and a great caddie on the bag, really helping me, just to soak it in.
“To be able to go through that situation and it’s still fresh, but that I really enjoyed it and had a lot of fun means a lot to me given my history of kind of getting in my own way with that. I just had a blast.”
Allred, who is probably the nicest and most gracious player I’ve ever come across, earned his first top 10 of his PGA Tour career, along with $388,600 for the biggest payday of his life. In fact, prior to this check, he’d earned a total $352,918 over his entire career, which included two full seasons on Tour.
“We can afford some diapers, thankfully,” quipped Allred.
By default of his top 10, Allred also earned an exemption into the Honda Classic the week after next, but it conflicts with his wife’s due date in about a week-and-a-half. He’s committed on paper to the event, which features the top eight player in the world rankings. Whether or not he’ll actually make the start is still up in the air.
“I’m far from perfect as a husband and dad, but I try to make my family my priority all the time,” said Allred, following his final-round three-under 68. “I can’t wait to talk to my wife and we’ll have fun figuring out what that looks like.
“I don’t think I’d miss my child being born for anything but you know, who knows, maybe we can do both, we’ll see.”
Allred only has conditional status on the Web.com Tour this year and says he won’t get into any events because his number in the pecking order is too far down the list.
(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)