LOS ANGELES – Bubba Watson couldn’t help himself in the end.
After seizing the Northern Trust Open by the throat in a spectacular display of weekend shot-making, Watson was closing out his first victory since winning the Masters two years ago in very un-Bubba-like fashion.
The guy who gets himself around with a hot pink driver, the General Lee car from Dukes of Hazzard fame and sometimes a Hovercraft golf cart was driving the speed limit coming home Sunday at historic Riviera.
The guy who won that Masters in spectacular fashion with a giant, hooking escape shot out of the trees in a playoff seemed determined to close out his fifth PGA Tour title with the kind of buttoned-up golf that would make a corporate banker proud.
He was closing out with an impressive run of pars at the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th holes.
In the end, though, Watson couldn’t help putting his signature flair on this win, too.
He did it without even trying.
With Dustin Johnson waiting to see if a playoff might be in the making, Watson stuffed a wedge to 14 feet at the 18th hole. And then Watson buried the birdie putt, securing a two-shot win that ignited a roar through the gallery gathered under the picturesque Riviera clubhouse.
“I wasn’t even trying to make the putt, to be honest,” Watson said. “I was just trying to lag it in there so I could tap it in. Somehow, it fell in.”
Of course it did.
Watson was spectacular all weekend, shooting a pair of 64s without making a single bogey. Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller and Lanny Wadkins have all won at Riviera, but none of them closed out with a better weekend.
Watson’s birdie at the last was a fitting exclamation point.
“I love this place, this course,” Watson said. “The history behind this tournament, the people who’ve played in this tournament. It’s incredible. For me to be a part of this now is amazing.”
Who could have seen this coming?
Watson, 35, may love Riviera, but his record here wasn’t very good coming into this week. He didn’t make the cut three of the last four times he teed it up here.
This week didn’t start very well, either. Watson made double bogey at his first hole (No. 10) on Thursday and then double bogeyed his third hole in the first round, too. He made another double bogey in the second round.
Somehow, some way, Watson put it all together on the weekend. His 64 was the best closing round by a winner at Riviera since Doug Tewell closed with a 63 in 1986. There is no record of a better weekend finish than Watson’s pair of 64s.
“He played awesome,” said Brian Harman, who tied for third playing alongside Watson. “He hits it far, and that’s a big advantage around this place. The greens were firm, and he hits his irons farther and higher and that’s a huge advantage.”
Watson wasn’t just Bubba long. He was long and straight.
Watson led the field in driving distance (318.5 yards per drive), but, more remarkably, he was eighth in driving accuracy. He was third in greens in regulation and seventh in total putting.
All of that helped Watson break through to win for the first time since the Masters almost two years ago. He said that drought wasn’t really on his mind.
“I never felt down that I hadn’t won yet, but just kept plugging along,” Watson said. “Somehow it fell in my lap.”
Watson said he might have pouted a little bit after failing to close out the Waste Management Phoenix Open in his last start two weeks ago, but he was over that, too. He wasn’t dwelling on losing a two-shot lead there in the final round with a bogey at the last.
“Me and my caddie are calling this a year about rejoicing, thinking back on how blessed we are to play the PGA Tour, how blessed we are to have a chance to win trophies, win big checks,” Watson said.
Watson was counting those blessings with his wife, Angie, and his young son, Caleb, at his side in the end. It’s the first time his son has been at a tournament Watson won.
“What an honor, what a privilege, what a blessing,” Watson said.
What a spectacular weekend Watson delivered.