Up-and-down on final hole clinches victory for Watson at Torrey Pines

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Bubba Watson rallied from behind Sunday, then sealed his victory with two clutch putts.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

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Bubba Watson tempered his celebration when he rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday at Torrey Pines, knowing Phil Mickelson could still make eagle on the par-5 closing hole to catch him.

It played out just as Watson imagined, right down to Mickelson's caddie tending the pin on the eagle attempt.

There was just one twist -- Mickelson wasn't anywhere near the green.

In a surprising decision that gave way to brief drama, Mickelson laid up on the 18th hole and had to settle for a birdie when his lob wedge from 72 yards away stopped 4 feet short of the hole.

The winner of the Farmers Insurance Open turned out to be Watson, who made clutch putts on the final two holes for a 5-under 67 and was sitting in the scoring trailer at the end, oblivious to how the final hole played out.

"I don't know how close he hit it. I don't know what he made on the hole," Watson said. "I just know that I won, because that's all I was worried about. If he makes it, I'm getting ready for a playoff. So I'm trying not to get too emotional. I realize it's Phil Mickelson. He can make any shot he wants to."

Just not this one.

So ended a bizarre week along the Pacific bluffs. A lefty won at Torrey Pines, just not the one Mickelson's hometown gallery wanted to see. Mickelson, the ultimate risk-taker of his era, opened himself up to criticism on the final hole because -- get this -- he played it safe.

As for Tiger Woods?

His five-tournament winning streak at Torrey Pines ended without hardly anyone noticing. Woods was done some two hours before the finish, and his 75 put him in a tie for 44th. He had never finished outside the top 10 at Torrey Pines, and it was his worst start to his golf season since he turned pro.

Mickelson offered no apologies for his decision to lay up.

His lie in the left rough looked to be OK, although the grain of the grass was into his ball and he had 228 yards to the flag. A hybrid would have come out heavy and gone into the water. He said his 3-wood would have come out hot and gone well over the green, leaving a difficult chip. Mickelson figured his best chance at eagle was a 64-degree wedge from the fairway, using the bank behind the hole to help feed the ball to the cup.

As for his caddie, Jim Mackay, tending the pin on such a long shot?

"Obviously, you need to hit a great shot and you need to get some luck to hole one from the fairway," Mickelson said. "I'm not naive on that. I get it. But I also didn't want to have something in the way. It's not like I do it every week. But the last hole of the tournament, I've got to make it."

He didn't, although it was pure entertainment.

Mickelson tapped in for birdie and a 69, a score he thought would be enough to win at Torrey Pines for the first time in 10 years. Instead, he found himself chasing Watson and Jhonattan Vegas, the Venezuela rookie who won the Bob Hope Classic last week and had another chance to win until his 5-iron on the final hole found the water.

"Bubba played some terrific golf," Mickelson said. "I did what I thought would be enough, and it just wasn't. Bubba played too good. He made great shot after great shot, and made putt after putt. It was a wonderful round for him."

Watson hit such a monstrous drive on the par-5 13th that he had wedge left to the green on the 525-yard hole. But he won the tournament with his putter, especially on the last two holes.

With a one-shot lead over Vegas, and Mickelson lurking, Watson hit out of a fairway bunker and over the green on the 17th, and his chip raced 10 feet past the hole. After badly missing two birdies putts inside 10 feet, this one was pure.

Then came the 18th, where Watson blasted another tee shot and had a 7-iron into the green. He pushed that long and left, into a bunker and leaving himself another downhill shot. This came out ideally, leaving himself a 12-foot birdie putt that was true.

Then it was Mickelson's turn -- except that he already had taken it.

"I thought he was going for it," Watson said. "When I looked back down the fairway and I made the putt, I didn't want to get too excited because I thought it was him going for it. I didn't know he had already laid up."

It was a tough loss for Mickelson, especially with his wife, Amy, in the gallery for all four rounds for the first time since she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2009. Her prospects are looking up, and so are Mickelson's -- with his arthritis issues, and his game.

"I'm disappointed," Mickelson said. "I wanted to start the year off with a win. On the other hand, I played really good golf."

His runner-up finish will be enough to move to No. 4 in the world.

Watson finished at 16-under 272 for his second victory, although this one came against a much stronger field than his playoff win at the Travelers Championship last summer.

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

Vegas made bogey for a 68 and tied for third with Dustin Johnson, who shot 66. Bill Haas, who shared the lead with Mickelson going into the final round, bogeyed the first hole and never caught up. He birdied the last hole for a 75 and tied for ninth.

Woods began the weekend only five shots out of the lead and never got closer. His final round began with him missing two birdie putts inside 10 feet, and it only got worse from there. He had never finished more than four shots out of the lead, and wound up 15 behind.

"I have some work to do," Woods said. "There's no doubt about that."