Sports

RELIEF AT RIVIERA

Bubba Watson surged to his first victory since the 2012 US Masters yesterday morning (Singapore time), capping a flawless seven-under 64 with a birdie for a two-shot triumph at the Northern Trust Open.

After sweating out six straight pars to preserve his one-shot lead, Watson was surprised to see a 14-footer fall for a finishing flourish at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California.

His 15-under total of 269 gave him a two-stroke victory over eight-time US PGA Tour winner Dustin Johnson.

"It doesn't feel like two years," Watson said of his long wait to claim another title after making his Major breakthrough at Augusta. "It's crazy that it's coming up on two years."

He was pleased to win on the classic Riviera course, where he had leapt into contention last Saturday with what proved to be just his first bogey-free seven-under 64 of the weekend.

Johnson also played without a bogey yesterday morning, but his 66 was only good enough for second on 271.

"When you shoot 14 under on the weekend, it's tough to beat that," Johnson said of Watson.

Qualifier Jason Allred had three birdies in his 68 for a share of third place on 272 alongside Brian Harman, who also closed with a 68.

Another former Masters champion, South African Charl Schwartzel, was alone in fifth after a 68 for 273.

Schwartzel was one of the four players who shared the lead early in the round, before Watson got his nose in front in his race for a fifth PGA Tour title.

Watson birdied five of his first eight holes. That included holing out from a greenside bunker at the par-three sixth.

Watson admitted that owed something to luck, but still added to his momentum.

"Basically when I was going in there I was thinking, 'At worst, let's make a four and get out of here (or) give ourselves a chance for a 10-footer for par'," Watson said. "Then when it goes in... I knew that pushed me close to the lead."

He rolled in a 16-foot birdie putt to take a one-shot lead at the eighth, and stretched his lead to two strokes with a birdie at the par-five 11th.

Watson had shown signs this season that he could soon be headed back to the winner's circle.

He took a two-stroke lead into the final round of the Phoenix Open a fortnight ago, settling for a share of second behind Kevin Stadler after missing a five-footer to save par at the 72nd hole and force a play-off.

Even as his winless run stretched on, Watson said he never felt discouraged.

"I never looked down, I never felt down that I haven't won yet, but just kept plugging away and somehow it fell in my lap today," he said. - AFP.

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