By Jay Betsill
Bubba Watson ended his nearly two-year drought with a two-stoke win over Dustin Johnson at the Northern Trust Open at famed Riviera Country Club. Watson, winning his first tournament since his triumph at the 2012 Masters, played the final 39 holes without a bogey en route to a 64-64 weekend at the classic course in Pacific Palisades, CA, just outside of Los Angeles.
“When I won the Masters, it was just me,” Watson said. “Family members were there, but not my wife and not my son, who was just adopted at that point, and now is two weeks away from being 2 years old. What a thrill.”
It was the second straight week that Johnson closed with a 66 only to finish in second place following his runner-up finish to Jimmy Walker at Pebble Beach. He has now finished among the top six in all four tournaments this season, including a win at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Other notables in the field included Charl Schwartzel (5, -11), Jordan Spieth (T12, -8), Phoenix Open winner Kevin Stadler (T23, -5), Jim Furyk (T23, -5) and Ernie Els (T35, -3). Fred Couples and Rickie Fowler were among the big names that missed the cut.
The next stop on the PGA TOUR is the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz., just north of Tucson. With Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott skipping the event this year, the top seeds in the 64-player bracket are Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Zach Johnson. Matt Kuchar is the defending champion.
— Augusta National Golf Club removed the Eisenhower Tree (named in honor of President Dwight Eisenhower) due to severe damage suffered in a recent ice storm. The tree was estimated to be over 100 years old.
“The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept,” club chairman Billy Payne said in a statement. “We obtained opinions from the best arborists available and, unfortunately, were advised that no recovery was possible. We have begun deliberations of the best way to address the future of the 17th hole and pay tribute to this iconic symbol of our history — rest assured, we will do both appropriately.”
— 1983 PGA Championship winner Hal Sutton, currently playing on the Champions Tour, suffered a mild heart attack after withdrawing during the first round of the ACE Group Classic.
“I had blockage in my heart, so yeah it was a heart attack,” Sutton told the Naples Daily News. “They put a stent in and I’m fine now.”
— Thomas Aiken won the African Open in a playoff over Oliver Fisher. Aiken then won his third European Tour title by sinking a 30-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole.
— Karrie Webb won the Women’s Australian Open for the fifth time and for her 40th LPGA title. Webb’s 4-under 68 in the final round to bested Chella Choi by one shot.
“I got off to a great start and I just did a great job mentally today,” Webb said. “I can’t think of another time when I held myself together as well as that.”