The finishing hole at Riviera Country Club provided an electrifying finish for the Northern Trust Open. Then the playoff began. After battling through the first 17 holes at 1-over-par for the day, Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley both birdied the par-4 18th hole to force a three-way playoff with Bill Haas. It was an incredible finish and it made for riveting television. Mickelson had not made a putt of any length during the final round and then found a way to make a long putt from the fringe to join the playoff. After watching Phil tie Haas at 7-under-par, Bradley made a very nice birdie putt of his own to join Haas and Mickelson.
On the first playoff hole all three players found the fairway. Only Mickelson found the green, but all left the green with their pars. Then the threesome headed to the 10th hole. All three competitors went for it at the drivable par 4, but each found varying degrees of trouble. Haas actually played his second shot to the middle of the green rather than attempt to go at the pin from the rough behind the green. Mickelson played one of his patented flop shots, the kind that only he seemingly can pull off, but he didn't have much green to work with and the ball trickled into the bunker. Bradley chipped to the back fringe. Everyone is still even, right? That might have been the case until Haas bombed in a long putt for birdie. His playing competitors took their final shots, but Haas was the champion. It really was thrilling stuff.
Haas was not perceived to be much of a factor even after the start of the final round. Then, after Mickelson bogeyed back to back holes to close his front nine, Haas found himself in the lead. The battle was joined on the back nine by Bradley and Dustin Johnson among others. There were several players that each had a legitimate shot at winning the Northern Trust Open. I feel badly for Dustin Johnson. The guy drove the ball in a way that we recreational players can only dream about. However, his short game repeatedly let him down. Of course, Dustin is not the only player with that lament on this day or any other day. I have to think there are several players replaying some shots in their minds that could have created a different outcome. In the meantime, Bill Haas is the champion and a well deserving one at that.
Dwight is an avid golfer. While still relatively new to the game, he plays as often as the weather and his schedule will allow.
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- Bill Haas