Watson walks to his own beat – and wins
LOS ANGELES (AP) For someone who says he gets nervous around big crowds, Bubba Watson loves to be in big company.
He started the week by taking his 3-year-old son to see Justin Bieber, and it ended with Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry sending him a text just a few minutes before Watson teed off in the final round of the Northern Trust Open.
''He said, `Little man was getting lessons from Bieber, maybe I could show him how to shoot,''' Watson said. ''I saw the text about 15 minutes before my tee time. I didn't want to text him. Then he would say, `Quit texting me, you should have won.' But I ended up winning.''
That he did, for the second time in two years at Riviera, and in a manner that was anything but boring.
Two years ago, he closed with 64-64 without making a bogey. On Sunday, he went from a one-shot lead to three shots behind Adam Scott in seven holes. Once he caught back up, he fell two holes behind Jason Kokrak with four holes to play.
And then he closed with two birdies over the final three holes for a one-shot victory over both of them.
First, Watson hit a tight draw to a tough pin on the par-3 16th to 5 feet for birdie to tie for the lead. And on the 582-yard 17th hole, Watson had both feet off the ground when he obliterated a drive that went 334 yards and left him only a 2-iron into the green.
''I don't know if you know, but the carry of that (fairway) bunker is 321 yards, by the way, with the adjustment,'' Watson said, brimming with the smile of someone who cares not what anyone thinks because he has a trophy. ''So for me, I wanted to hit it as hard as I could. That was the key. And so it worked out. It went straight. Ping makes a good driver, the `G' driver. I don't know if you've seen it. It's pink.''
Still smiling, he showed his winning mood when he added, ''I love it when I win and can just make stuff up.''
It's not always happy times.
Just two weeks ago in Phoenix, Watson was quick to point out that he doesn't like the changes to the TPC Scottsdale course and was mainly playing because of sponsor ties to the community and because he lived for eight years in the area.
What he really didn't like were headlines he thought misconstrued his feelings, and the verbal abuse that was so severe that some players wondered why Watson would ever go back to the Phoenix Open.
''I'm not over it,'' he said. ''It's heartbreaking that a city or community or local press would put a headline to spur on a bad image. So it's hurtful.''
Apparently, it inflicted more pain than passing a kidney stone, and Watson knows all about that.
He said he passed one Monday when he arrived at Riviera, the second one in five years. And he said he kept it in a plastic bag this week.
''Five years ago, he (the doctor) said there was one more in my system, and obviously it was this week. My baby came out, I guess,'' he said. ''Again, no pain. And I'm already a head case, so … I thought I was dying without pain.''
It's a world like no other on the PGA Tour.
Watson hits the ball long, and while it might wind up in the fairway, it's rarely on a straight line.
''I really enjoy watching Bubba play and warm up on the range,'' Scott said. ''He really has his style of golf under control. I don't think you can teach it. He's just such a natural talent. Watching a guy hit 5-iron to four different greens on the range about 85 yards, 120, 170 and 240 is pretty fun to watch.''
Scott was 5 under through six holes on Sunday, lost the lead with a three-putt double bogey on No. 8, and then fell out of a tie for the lead on the back nine by missing a pair of 4-foot par putts on successive holes. He also made a 10-foot birdie putt that kept alive his chances, and then chipped in for birdie on the 18th for a 67.
That tied him for the lead long enough for Watson to make birdie on the 17th.
Kokrak closed with a 68 and made only one bogey – from the 15th fairway with a two-shot lead, which allowed Watson back in the game.
Watson, who finished at 15-under 269, won for the ninth time on the PGA Tour and kept waffling on his pledge. He once said – it's hard to tell when he's joking – that he would retire when he reached 10 victories. When he won in The Bahamas in December, he said he would walk away if he ever reached No. 1 in the world.
He's a long way from that. Watson moved to No. 4, but he is nowhere close to Jordan Spieth. Besides, he might just set another goal. Watson doesn't plan to play golf forever, except for his lifetime exemption to the Masters, but he's still having fun.
Especially when he wins.