Watson's wait ends with third Riviera triumph

Rebecca BRYAN
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A spectacular hole-out for birdie from a greenside bunker at the 14th gave Bubba Watson sole possession of the lead for good and an emotional third Genesis Open title

Bubba Watson fired a two-under-par 69 on Sunday to win an emotional third Genesis Open title, ending a drought that stretched back to his 2016 triumph here at Riviera Country Club.

One-over for the day after three bogeys and two birdies on the front nine, Watson produced three birdies without a bogey coming home for a 12-under-par total of 272.

A spectacular hole-out for birdie from a greenside bunker at the 14th gave him sole possession of the lead for good.

"I can't believe it," said Watson, who had slipped to 117th in the world rankings after a forgettable 2016-17 season that included "medical issues" that he prefers not to elaborate on.

"There are so many emotions going through my head right now," Watson said as he teared up on the 18th green. "You never know if you're going to play good again, never know if you're going to lift a trophy again."

He admitted that his physical struggles, including significant weight loss, sapped his confidence and even had him considering retirement.

"I was close," Watson said. "My wife was not close. My wife basically told me to quit whining and play golf."

Watson finished two strokes in front of Kevin Na and Tony Finau, who both carded 69s for 10-under 274.

Watson's 10th PGA Tour victory capped a halcyon week in Hollywood for the two-time Masters champion, who recorded a show with US comedy icon Jay Leno, dropped in on comedian and chat show host Ellen DeGeneres, took in a taping of TV sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" and played in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on Friday night.

"It loosened me up," Watson said of the extra-curricular activities. "I was so focused on other things I didn't have time to focus on where I stood going into this week."

He shot to the top of the leaderboard on Saturday with a third-round 65.

A birdie at the par-five first on Sunday looked promising, but three bogeys on the front nine left him trailing at the turn.

Na's back-to-back birdies at 10 and 11 saw him move to 11-under, but his bid stalled with a brace of bogeys at 12 and 13.

- 'Nervous as can be' -

Patrick Cantlay, who trailed Watson by one stroke going into the round, also reached 11-under before bogeys at 12 and 13.

Cantlay, who was seeking a second title of the season, closed with a 71 to share fourth place with Scott Stallings, who carded a 68 for 275.

Watson said making two testing seven-footers for par at the 12th and 13th after his birdie at 11 were crucial to his round -- more so than the impressive hole-out at 14.

"I knew there was a shot," he said. "It doesn't mean I'm going to win, but it means I'm still in the ballgame, putt on 11, putt on 12, putt on 13."

Even after taking a two-shot lead at 14, Watson said, ""I was still nervous as can be on every shot".

Five-time major-winner Phil Mickelson, chasing a first title since his 2013 British Open triumph, briefly pulled within one shot of the lead before settling for a 68 that saw him head a group on 276 that also included Australian Cameron Smith (71) and Canadian Adam Hadwin (66).

On a day when Riviera yielded few low scores, world number one and defending champion Dustin Johnson was unable to mount a charge and finished tied for 16th, eight shots off the lead.