Bubba Watson tempered his celebration after he rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday at San Diego's Torrey Pines, knowing Phil Mickelson could 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 stopped 4 feet from 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-par 67 and then sat in the scoring trailer, 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.”
So ended a bizarre week along the Pacific bluffs. A left-hander 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 fanfare about two hours before the leaders finished. 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 deciding 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 might have come out heavy and gone into the water. His 3-wood might have come out hot and well over the green. Mickelson figured his best chance at eagle was a 64-degree wedge from the fairway.
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. His 15-under 273 total was a score he thought would be enough to win.
“Bubba played some terrific golf,” Mickelson said. “I did what I thought would be enough, and it just wasn’t.”
England’s Paul Casey sank a 5-foot par putt at the last hole to win the inaugural Volvo Golf Champions event in Riffa, Bahrain. The European PGA Tour victory was his first title in 20 months.
Casey needed the putt at No. 18 at the Royal Golf Club to secure the victory after playing partner and co-leader Peter Hanson of Sweden missed an up-and-down from the greenside bunker.
The Englishman closed with a 4-under 68 to finish at 20-under 268, while Hanson fell into a tie for second with Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez.