Bubba Watson beat Phil Mickelson by one shot at the Farmers Insurance Open to secure his second win on golf’s U.S. PGA Tour. Tiger Woods finished his first tournament of the year in 44th place.
Watson made a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole at Torrey Pines golf course outside San Diego, California, where Woods had won on his previous five visits. Watson receives $1.04 million for the victory, which comes seven months after his breakthrough win at the Travelers Championship.
“I’ve got (another) win now, so I feel like I’m stepping up,” Watson, 32, said in a news conference. “Hopefully I never step backwards. But it’s always a learning process. You never perfect it.”
Woods shot a final-round 75 at Torrey Pines’ South Course, where he claimed the last of his 14 major titles in a playoff against Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open. Woods finished at 1-under par for the tournament -- 15 shots behind Watson --after playing the last two rounds in 7-over par.
“I started out hitting it pretty good out here this week,” Woods said. “It progressively got worse. We have some things that we need to work on.”
Woods, 35, has dropped to No. 3 in the world rankings following a five-month absence from tour play last year and a winless 2010 season. Woods’s on-course slump followed an admission of marital infidelity that led to his divorce and the loss of sponsors.
Mickelson, who has won his opening tournament of the year five times, moved a shot behind Watson at 14-under par with a birdie at the 17th hole.
Watson, who leads the PGA Tour in driving distance this year with an average 314.8 yards, hit into a greenside bunker at the par-5 18th hole with his second shot, a 7-iron from 186 yards (170 meters). After splashing his next shot out of the sand, he trickled in his closing birdie putt.
Mickelson hit his second shot on the 18th hole before Watson, who was in the group ahead, made birdie. The world No. 6 didn’t go for the green and then needed to hole his third shot from 72 yards to force a playoff. With his caddie tending the flag, Mickelson’s ball stopped about three feet from the cup.
“I didn’t really have a shot to get it on the green,” Mickelson said. “I felt like I had a better chance to make a three from the fairway trying to use that bank and bringing the ball back or flying it in.”
Watson shot a 5-under-par 67 in the final round for a four-round total of 272, while Mickelson, who began the day tied with Bill Haas for the lead at 12-under par, was 3-under.
Rookie Jhonattan Vegas had a 4-under-par 66 to finish in a tie for third place with Dustin Johnson at 13-under.
Vegas won the Bob Hope Classic in a playoff last week for his breakthrough win on the world’s richest golf circuit. The Farmers Insurance Open was his fifth event since turning professional and third on the PGA Tour. Had he won yesterday, Vegas would have been the first player since David Duval in 1997 to claim his first two wins on tour in consecutive starts.