American Bubba Watson played flawless golf on Sunday firing a final round, seven-under-par 64 to post 15-under 269 to win the Northern Trust Open (NTO) at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.,. Countryman Dustin Johnson took second for the second week in a row two shots back and Americans Jason Allred and Brian Harman shared third, three behind Watson.
Bubba Watson destroyed Riviera this week. He played the weekend 64-64, 14-under, with ZERO bogeys. According to CBS, this is the ONLY time, dating back to records kept since 1983, a player has played the weekend without a bogey. Wow. His 64 on each day was the co-low round of the tournament. On Sunday, the question for Watson backers was going to be if his putter could keep the heat that began on Saturday. He began the day four shots back of William McGirt and with help from that putter, he finished the day two shots ahead of everyone.
Watson’s week started out bumpy with three double bogeys in his first two rounds. He made the cut (70-71; 1-under) by two shots but it was on the weekend where he took it to the next level. Watson, as usual, was T3 in GIR but it was his T7 in putts per GIR that separated him from the field. His 22 birdies were T1 for the week. So were his three doubles! And his three bogeys! The formula with Watson is simple: If he makes putts, he can win anytime he tees it up. Entering this week at Riviera, Watson had posted six rounds of 19 in the 60s. His best finish was T13 in 2012 and he had three MCs in six events.
Gamers asked last fall for players that need to be included on salary games for the 2013-14 season and Watson was one of the first names to be thrown against the wall. After making only $1.7 and change last year without winning, Watson HAD to be one of the best values on the salary market and he’s already paying off. He opened 2014 with T23 at Torrey Pines and was T2, after holding the 54-hole lead, in Phoenix his last time out. What a difference a tournament makes as Watson, with the lead in Phoenix, hit the ball all over the desert. This week, he was flawless and rewarded the gamers that stuck with him after not closing it out last time. He’s now over $2 million on the season and has finally backed up his Masters win with another victory. Watson makes tons of cuts and has plenty of game so it wouldn’t surprise me if he keeps this momentum heading in the right direction. If he has found a putter that makes him comfortable on the greens, look out. Riviera is NOT an easy place to putt the golf ball but gamers would not have known that watching Watson this weekend!
With this victory, Watson collects $1,206,000, 500 FedExCup points and takes another step to position himself for another shot at the Ryder Cup
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first 13 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed, Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler and Bubba Watson have collected the hardware this year.
Jimmy Walker and Kevin Stadler are the only first-time winners this season. There were 12 in 40 events last year.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. William McGirt had a two-shot lead entering Sunday so now seven of 13 54-hole leaders have converted. This was McGirt’s first-ever 54-hole lead so that’s not entirely surprising.
McGirt was trying to join John Merrick as first-time winners at Riviera in back-to-back seasons. Didn’t happen.
Rookies don’t win or play well on this course. Experience is a key factor. Jordan Spieth (T12) and Hideki Matsuyama (T23) continue to show gamers just how special they are. Only two rookies, Chesson Hadley and Hudson Swafford, entered this week. They both MC.
John Merrick, the 2013 champ, MC. Defending here is left to the major champions as Corey Pavin, Mike Weir and Phil Mickelson are the last do accomplish this feat.
This was the lowest winning score since 268 by Steve Stricker in 2010.
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and was joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia and Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua now Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and now, Watson 35, keeps the Prime Time guys rolling. Walker has now added TWO more victories to the guys currently in their prime! Scott Stallings, 28, Patrick Reed (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29) and Harris English, (24) are the twenty-somethings on the board. The Prime Time guys now have seven wins to the Young Guns’ six. The Old Guys are playing like old guys as they have zero wins this season. K.J. Choi’s T12 was their best result. #consistentKJin2014
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Dustin Johnson: For the second Sunday in a row, Johnson came charging from off the pace to put pressure on the eventual winner. Last week he fell one shot short of Jimmy Walker and this week he was just one behind Watson before his birdie to close things out. For the second week in a row Johnson shot a Sunday, bogey-free 66. For the second week in a row Johnson was second or T2. He only made six bogeys on the week against his 19 birdies. He led the field in GIR. He’s now hit the top 10 four times in seven starts at Riviera. He loves the California coast so he’s in your lineup, no questions asked, at Riviera and Pebble. Oh, and the whole Gretzky, engagement, whatever that is holding you up from taking Johnson is absolute nonsense. Hope you were on board for T2 and second the last two weeks!
Brian Harman: The former Georgia Bulldog was looking to join alumnae Chris Kirk and Harris English with victories in the 2013-14 season but he’ll happily take his T3 from this week and build on it. After MC in his last two events, it’s not shocking that gamers might have overlooked him this week. He’s now posted three top 10s in nine starts this season and he hasn’t been under $900k in his previous two years on TOUR. The lefty also fired in 22 birdies, T1 with Watson, for the week, and let the field in putts per GIR. He was also second in strokes gained-putting. Gamers, adding Harman to your roster for the rest of the year isn’t a bad idea. He’s averaged 29.5 events in his only two seasons on TOUR. He also gained a very valuable experience this week as he watched Watson close the deal. He mentioned in his post-round interview that he enjoys playing hard courses. #noted
Jason Allred: It took him 58 starts on TOUR but the Monday Qualifier finally posted a top 10 as he finished T3 this week. The Pepperdine grad was playing on TOUR for the first time since the 2010 U.S. Open. He was the medalist of the California college players this week and will be in the field in two weeks at the Honda. It’s a great story for golf and his family but this doesn’t move the meter in fantasy golf. If you don’t believe me, ask all the gamers who took Jim Renner this week after his T2 at Pebble Beach.
Charl Schwartzel: In his only two trips to Riviera, this year and last, he’s posted finishes of T3 and fifth. His solo fifth was thanks to his putter as he finished third in putts per GIR and 15th in strokes gained-putting. His iron play was dodgy as he was T55 GIR so when he had to make them, he did. He racked up 19 birdies and two eagles on the weeks on quite a difficult track so that’s encouraging heading into next week at Dove Mountain. For the second consecutive year he has opened his season at Riviera on TOUR and has finished in the top five. #horseforcourse
Bryce Molder: He’s now seen the weekend in 11 straight tournaments and while his stats don’t jump off the page he seems to find a way to grind out results. His T6 backs up his T10 last week and these are his first top 10s since the Deutsche Bank in 2012. After not posting a top 10 last season, Molder has consecutive weeks inside this column! This was his best finish on TOUR since he won the Frys.com in 2011. He’s found his feet at Riviera as he adds this T6 to his T21 last year and T17 in 2012. He’s another Pebble-Riviera player to mark down for next year.
Matt Every: Just when gamers started to froth at the mouth after his T8-T13 start to 2014, Every began to Every. He followed those starts up with T37 in Phoenix and MC at Pebble Beach. This is more proof that gamers should just stick Every on their season long salary cap leagues and enjoy when he plays well. He’s seven from eight this season and has three top 10s plus another top 25. He only had four top 10s last seson the upside is high. I’ve never been able to figure out his pattern and with only one start, last year, at Riviera, he wasn’t on my radar this week. His T6 this year pairs with his T68 from last year in two starts.
William McGirt: Entering his fourth full season on TOUR, gamers know one thing about William McGirt: He loves playing in Canada as he’s finished second the last two years at the RBC Canadian Open. Playing in his third tournament at the NTO, McGirt hadn’t broken par in four rounds so it’s a bit surprising that he was the 54-hole leader and found his way to T6 at the end of the day on Sunday. He entered this week with one top 25 (T19) in eight events this season and that included three MCs. His putter is what he leans on so keep that in mind moving forward. For more information on Dr. Dirt McGirt, contact our cohort Ryan O’Sullivan as he’s an expert on this subject. Seriously.
George McNeill: Entering Sunday just two shots back of McGirt, McNeill was looking for career win No. 3. With bogeys in three of his first 10 holes, McNeill could have rolled over but he rallied to finish his final eight holes in three-under to post T6. Gamers, proceed cautiously here as this was his first top 10 since his win in Puerto Rico in 2012. That was his only top 10 finish of that season. He had four top 25s that season; he had two last year in 21 events. That being said, he now has two top 10s in seven events this season so he might be an inexpensive add-on as the season progresses. He was T7 at Frys.com to open the new year.
Harris English: Another week, another top 10. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. He’s now played all nine weekends and has five top 10s and his worst finish is T40. You might run out of starts on him by July in the Yahoo! game.
Brendan Steele: California kid only made two bogeys on the weekend as he saw his trend continue in the right direction at the NTO. He MC in 2011, T69 in 2012 and was T46 last season before his top 10 (T10) this week. Steele has now posted top 10s in two of his last three starts (T6, WMPO). He had two top 10s in 26 events last season. I’ll continue to monitor his progress.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Hunter Mahan: He had a great week striking the ball but his putter was a bit cool. He made two doubles on the week and, unlike the winner Watson, he could not overcome them. He didn’t take advantage of hitting the number on the cut but he’ll be focused on WGC-Match Play next week where he’s won and came in second the last two years. T52
Dustin Johnson: He was my OAD this week and did just about everything I could have asked. Nobody was beating Watson this weekend. Solo second, see above.
Graham DeLaet: Too much hockey for the Canadian this week obviously distracted him as his slap shot from the tee was off and his putter was ice cold. He finished 76th in strokes gained-putting and was 73rd in putts per GIR. #chilly. T70. Having Mahan and GDL in Yahoo! group B did not help things this week. Dustin Johnson, however, did.
Jordan Spieth: I have to keep reminding myself that he’s only 20. He was 11-under on the back nine on Sunday before four bogeys in six holes on the back sunk his chances. He finished T12. He’s been close at Torrey (36-hole leader), Pebble (78 on Saturday; 67 on Sunday) and now Riviera. He’s 20. He’s the absolute real deal. #SpiethBoner
Charl Schwartzel: Fifth, see above.
Webb Simpson: His T70 finish saw him only card one round under par. He couldn’t back up his T13 here last year because he only 49% GIR. His 16 bogeys were almost a field high as well. This was his first finish outside of the top 25 in six starts this season. No big deal in my eyes.
Bill Haas: Got back into contention with 67-67 on Friday and Saturday but never fired on Sunday to haunt gamers with his T23 finish. His bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 on Sunday knocked a few bucks off the total. He’s still horse-for-course here in my eyes.
Jimmy Walker: All good things come to a SLOW DOWN but T20 is hardly a disappointment to gamers this week. Walker’s reservation was mixed up at his mobile home park so his family had to “rough it” this week. The one cause for concern entering the week was his propensity to spray it off the tee. He did. He was second-to-last in driving accuracy yet still made 19 birdies, tied for fourth-best on the week. That’s seven top 25s in nine starts.
Keegan Bradley: He blasted the front on Sunday for 30 but came home in 38 to also finish T20. He only made six bogeys on the week but had a dreaded triple as well. He’s rounding into shape nicely but gamers always expect bigger and better from a player of his magnitude.
Harris English: See above, T10.
Hideki Matsuyama: His T23 just keeps reinforcing how good he really is. He turns 22 next month. He played all four rounds at par or better. Did I mention he turns 22 next week? In six events this year (one WD) his worst finish is T25.
Pat Perez: A great start turned into a crash-and-burn that included 78 on Sunday that included TWO triples and a double. He also had two doubles on Saturday. As the TOUR moves to the Florida swing, I’ll leave the west coaster on the sidelines.
Justin Rose: The good news was that he led the field in pars. The bad news was he was second-last in birdies. He looked rusty, as suspected, but I don’t see any issues with him or his shoulder moving forward.
Ryan Moore: His streak of 14 straight weekends on TOUR and six straight at Riviera both came to an end this week as a second round 76 saw him MC. That was the shock of the weekend to me.
Coming Wednesday TUESDAY!!!!
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat TUESDAY at NOON ET. Please note the special day for THIS WEEK ONLY! We will be breaking down the field at the WGC-Match Play and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (https://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (https://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.