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Bubba Watson wins Farmers Insurance Open by one shot

Phil Mickelson is second after his eagle try on No. 18 stops short, and Tiger Woods finishes 15 shots behind at Torrey Pines.

January 30, 2011|By Diane Pucin
  • Bubba Watson tees off on the par-three third hole during the fiinal round of the Farmers Insurance Open on Sunday at Torrey Pines South Course.
Bubba Watson tees off on the par-three third hole during the fiinal round… (Gregory Bull / Associated…)

Reporting from La Jolla — It was a rainy, wacky, untidy emotional mess of a finish at the Farmers Insurance Open, and other than Tiger Woods being nowhere near the top, the PGA Tour could not have hoped for more for its sport Sunday afternoon.

Phil Mickelson left an eagle try from 72 yards on the 18th fairway four feet short, and so teary-eyed Bubba Watson won his second PGA Tour title.

Watson's final-round score of five-under-par 67 gave him a four-day total of 16-under 272 and a winner's check of $1,044,000.

A shot behind was hometown favorite Mickelson, who had stood in the fairway on 18 knowing he needed to sink a miracle chip and confident enough to have his caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay, stand with his hand on the pin, ready to pluck it out of the cup if Mickelson's wedge shot had seemed destined to make contact.

And the shot almost went in as the crowd collectively cheered and gasped. Mickelson accepted a birdie instead and a final round of 69.

Tied for third, three shots behind Watson, were Venezuelan sensation Jhonattan Vegas (68), who won in his fifth PGA Tour start last week at the Bob Hope Classic, and Dustin Johnson (66).

Vegas stayed within a stroke or two of the lead all day and gathered a growing gallery that groaned when he went into the water on 18.

Long gone by then was Tiger Woods.

Woods, in his first tournament of 2011, had a final-round 75 and finished 15 strokes behind Watson, tied for 44th.

"I hit a lot of good shots early in the week," Woods said, "and then it got progressively worse. I have some things to work on."

The final battle belonged, instead, to a pair of left-handers, Watson and Mickelson.

On the 17th hole Watson was clinging to a one-shot lead when he seemed to lose his nerve a bit, driving into a fairway bunker, flying over the green on his second shot and chipping downhill to 10 feet beyond the hole. Making that par putt, Watson said, was his most important of the day.

But on the par-five 18th he made another sturdy putt, of 12 feet for birdie, and when it went in Watson gave a fist pump. Tears followed soon. Watson's father, Gerry, died of cancer in October.

"I thought about him after I made the putt on 18," Watson said. "I looked up to the sky. But at the same time I knew Phil Mickelson's a great wedge player so I couldn't get too emotional yet."

Mickelson, playing in the final group, put pressure on with a birdie on the 17th hole after a sweet display of shot-making, hitting a wedge that swooped and spun and landed three feet from the hole.

But with a partisan crowd cheering wildly, Mickelson's final tee shot skied into the left rough. Even as he heard the response to Watson's birdie and knowing that he needed an eagle to force a playoff, Mickelson laid up with a wedge.

"I didn't really have a shot to the green," Mickelson said. "I felt like I had a better chance to make a three from the fairway."

When Watson, 32, won a PGA Tour event last summer for the first time, he had cried because his father was sick. He didn't mind crying again Sunday, and he was able to also make jokes.

This second victory, Watson said, "showed I can do it. I've done it twice now. I'm only 50 behind Phil and about 80 behind Tiger. So they better watch out."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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