The drought is over for Bubba Watson, who won for the first time since his 2012 Masters victory at the Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club.
It only took four days, but the cream finally rose to the top in sunny Southern California, where Watson edged out the surging Dustin Johnson and Charl Schwartzel for the title Sunday.
For most of the tournament, “Hogan’s Alley” was brought to its knees by some of the least known golfers on the PGA Tour, including William McGirt, who was looking for his first win in 96 tries on the tour. Riviera got that moniker in the 1940s, when Ben Hogan won there three times.
Unknown pros McGirt, Jason Allred, Brian Harman and Cameron Tringale usurped big names such as Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk and Justin Rose. Yet, their combined resumes wouldn’t beat one month of competition from Freddie Couples, who played in his 32nd tournament here.
When push came to shove, it was the big-hitting Watson who reigned supreme. With the Masters in the near distance, watch out for Bubba.
Here is a list of the winners and losers at the Northern Trust Open.
Sorry, everyone else east of Fresno, but the weather was simply fantastic this weekend at the Northern Trust Open.
Both the fans and the players benefited from ridiculously mild mid-winter weather that included days of over 85 degrees. While the rest of the country was battered by freezing temperatures and dangerous amounts of snow, Los Angeles must have seemed like a paradise.
With its narrow fairways and deep-knit rough, Riviera is tough enough without lousy weather. For this weekend, at least, it was a relative walk in the park for the pros.
By shooting 74-75, the very steady Kuchar missed his first cut in 30 straight tournaments, which was the longest active record on the current tour.
The 35-year-old will be looking to start a new run as he goes in search of first major win this year.
Allred shot a 66 on Monday to qualify for the event, then went 12 under for the tournament, tying for third place. The Pepperdine grad was obviously comfortable in the Southern California setting and should be one to watch this year.
Harman was in the hunt the entire tournament, as he shot a marvelous four rounds under par, ending in a tie with Allred. The sweet-swinging lefty came into the event ranked 188th in the world, but that will surely change.
Message to William McGirt: PGA Tour events last four days.
Poor McGirt, who was looking for his first win in 96 tries on the tour, began Sunday as the 54-hole leader only to see his big moment fly away. He had gone under par three straight days but couldn’t muster much of a challenge on the fourth, when he went two over and finished in a tie for sixth.
Every once in a while, a relatively new guy plays stellar and stealthy golf, creeps up the leaderboard and ends up with a hefty payday. That’s what happened to Matt Every, who blistered the difficult Riviera course as if he owned it. His 10-under performance included four days under par and a tie for sixth place.
Take note of Every, as this is his third top-10 finish this season.
It is kind of hard to call Jimmy Walker a loser, but when you win three of your first nine events, anything but a win is, well, a loss. OK, he did shoot six under for the tournament, and at one point, it looked like he would make a run for the top.
We know it took him 188 tries to win on the tour, and now he is ranked first in the FedEx Cup standings, but a tie for 20th is not a win.
Next to Walker, Johnson may be the hottest golfer on the tour. He tied for second last week at Pebble Beach and then went out and shot a closing 66 at Riviera to take sole possession of second behind Watson.
Johnson continues to pummel the ball down the fairway and is looking really good with the flat stick. This just could be his year to win that much-desired major.
The 2013 U.S Open winner is looking to get untracked after his phenomenal season in which he was ranked fifth in the world rankings.
Rose’s play at Riviera was decidedly mediocre, as he finished one under in a tie for 45th place—not what we expect from the rangy Brit, and it will be interesting to see if he raises the bar in his next appearance.
It’s not where you hit it at Riviera, but where you don’t that counts. Plant your drive in the rough, and you add a stroke or two. Knock your ball on the green, next to the pin, and it will easily roll off the super-slick surface and probably into a deviously placed bunker.
Not all that long but extremely narrow, the course is carved out of the canyon just one mile from the ocean, and if the breezes are up, you are looking at one more impediment to a good score. While this week’s pros played the course well under par, they were fortunate to have good weather.
Couples was not a loser in the traditional sense. The Hall of Famer is usually a winner no matter where he places, but he was brought down by a small cut on the tip of his left thumb that left him powerless. Couples, who has spent his entire career playing without a glove, ended up missing the cut by shooting 72-72.
It was really our loss.
Schwartzel rode a ridiculously consistent four rounds, including three scores of 68, up the leaderboard, and at times, it looked like he would surge past Watson.
The toothy South African continues to be a threat any time he tees it up, and based on his steady play at Riviera, he will be battling for another major very soon.