Golf | Watson claims 2nd Riviera title in 3 years

Pacific Palisades – Bubba Watson captured
the Northern Trust Open for the second time in three years on Sunday, emerging
from a crowded leader board to win by just one stroke.

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.

The 37-year-old American, who also won at
Pacific Palisades in 2014, birdied two of his final three holes en route to a
three-under 68 for a 15-under 269 total.

“What I was looking for today was to
make par and then throw in some lucky birdies,” said Watson, who now has
nine wins on the US PGA Tour.

“I want to get to 10 wins because that
is a big stepping stone in this day and age on the PGA Tour.”

Watson’s playing partner, Jason Kokrak,
fell just short in his quest for his first PGA title, closing with a 68 to
finish at 14 under and share second with Adam Scott.

Australia’s Scott birdied 17 and 18 en
route to a 67.

Scott chipped out from 25 feet on 18 for a
birdie and looked for a while like he could be headed to a playoff, but Watson
sealed the victory with a short two-foot putt on 18.

Rory McIlroy’s hopes of launching his
Masters preparations with a victory fell apart after the world No 3 from
Northern Ireland fired a final round 75.

Kokrak, Scott, Dustin Johnson, KJ Choi and
Marc Leishman all took runs at top spot on the leaderboard.

Watson moved into a tie for the lead at
14-under with a birdie on the par-three 16th, landing his tee shot just five
feet from the hole.

He had a 45-foot putt for eagle on the
par-five 17th that stopped three feet short, giving him another easy birdie.

Watson reached the green in two on 18 then
two putted for the victory.

“Starting the day, it was anybody’s
ballgame, so I just held it together,” Watson said.

“I looked at the leader board and I
saw nobody was running away with it. So I knew that I still had a shot if I
could make some good swings and some good putts down the stretch, and somehow
it worked out.”

Several golfers got off to hot starts
Sunday thanks in part to the par-five first being the easiest hole on the
course this week. McIlroy, Justin Rose and Scott all opened with eagles.

Scott had the best start of the day, going
eagle-par-birdie-birdie to take the lead at 14-under.

He cooled with a double bogey on the eighth
but picked it up again with a birdie at 11. The Aussie made back-to-back bogeys
on 14 and 15 which he got back with birdies on the final two holes.

“I got off to a great start,”
Scott said. “I was right in the tournament the whole day. I played a good
round of golf around a pretty demanding course today.”

Like Scott, McIlroy, who was making his
first start at Riviera, eagled the first 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, ninth strokes back of Watson.

McIlroy 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.”

Leading fourth-round scores here on Sunday from the US PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open (USA unless noted):

269 – Bubba Watson 66-68-67-68

270 – Jason Kokrak 68-64-70-68, Adam Scott (AUS) 68-68-67-67

271 – Dustin Johnson 68-66-68-69

272 – Marc Leishman (AUS) 68-67-68-69, K.J. Choi (KOR) 69-67-67-69

273 – Chez Reavie 66-67-69-71

274 – Matt Kuchar 69-69-69-67, Kang Sung (KOR) 70-69-66-69

275 – Ryan Moore 69-68-69-69

– Martin Laird (SCO) 68-70-69-69, J.B. Holmes 71-66-69-70, Steve
Stricker 71-68-67-70, Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 69-67-68-72, Troy Merritt

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