PGA Tour: Watson clinches third title after sizzling final round

2011-05-03 00:00

NEW ORLEANS — Long-hitting Bubba Watson maintained ice-cool composure to clinch his third PGA Tour title in a gripping play-off with fellow American Webb Simpson for the New Orleans Classic on Sunday.

Both players birdied the first extra hole, the par-five 18th, and Watson sealed victory there with a four-foot birdie putt the second time around after Simpson had missed his own attempt from 12 feet.

Left-hander Watson pumped his left fist in celebration after his winning putt dropped into the cup. Then he shook hands with Simpson and was embraced by his wife Angie.

“Somehow now I’ve got three,” a jubilant Watson told reporters after ending a breezy afternoon at the TPC Louisiana with his third PGA Tour title in 11 months.

“A year ago I was a good player who [had] never won, and now I’ve got three under my belt, so it’s crazy. It’s something that I could never dream of.

“For me to get one was unbelievable. My career was complete. I’ve done it. Then for me to get another one just adds to my career. It’s something I’ve dreamed about doing.”

The pair had finished the 72 regulation holes on 15-under-par 273 after closing with matching three-under 69s, Watson having narrowly missed a birdie putt from nine feet at the par-five 18th.

He then sank a 12-foot birdie putt at the first extra hole to keep the play-off alive. Simpson recorded a two-putt birdie there, his second putt from just three feet.

Jason Dufner birdied the last for a best-of-the-day 66 to tie for third at 13-under, level with fellow American Tommy Gainey (69) and South Korea’s K.J. Choi (69).

British world number three Luke Donald birdied four of the last six holes for a 69 to finish in a five-way tie for eighth, five strokes off the pace.

The final round was a two-horse race, though, between overnight leaders Simpson and Watson who duelled for supremacy with a sizzling display of shot-making in the first eight holes.

They each eagled the par-five second and were four-under for the day after just five holes.

The tournament appeared to turn decisively at the par-three ninth where Watson found water with a wedge off the tee and double-bogeyed the hole to slip two strokes behind.

Simpson, who reached the turn in four-under 32, then forged three ahead with another birdie at the par-four 10th after an exquisite approach ended up within three feet of the pin.

However, Simpson stumbled with a bogey at the 12th and his lead was cut to one when world number 16 Watson knocked in a four-footer to birdie the 13th.

Simpson suffered a harsh blow at the par-four 15th where he was docked a one-stroke penalty when his ball fractionally moved in the wind after he had grounded his putter.

Facing a tap-in par putt from one foot, Simpson placed his putter roughly five inches behind the ball without taking a stance and immediately backed away as his ball oscillated.

After summoning PGA Tour rules official Gary Young to review the incident, he was penalised and ended up with a bogey five to drop back into a tie for the lead at 15-under.

“A little unfortunate what happened on 15,” said Simpson, who was bidding for his first PGA Tour victory. “I better limit my comments on that rule, because I think it’s such a bad rule.”

The next two holes were parred before Watson squandered an opportunity to seal victory in regulation with a birdie on 18.

“I hit some good shots coming in and gave myself a chance,” said Simpson (25), ranked 98th in the world. “Unfortunately, I just came up a little bit short.

“It was fun being out there with Bubba. He’s a great friend and a great champion. I’m happy for him. He hit some great shots and great putts coming in.”

 

FINAL LEADERBOARD

*Bubba Watson wins playoff at second extra hole.

273 Bubba Watson (U.S.) 66 68 70 69

273 Webb Simpson (U.S.) 68 69 67 69

275 Jason Dufner (U.S.) 68 69 72 66

Tommy Gainey (U.S.) 67 71 68 69

K.J. Choi (South Korea) 68 71 67 69

276 Matt Jones (Australia) 66 71 69 70

George McNeill (U.S.) 71 70 65 70

278 Billy Mayfair (U.S.) 69 70 72 67

 

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