x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Bubba Watson clinches an emotional victory at Torrey Pines

He holds off late charges by Phil Mickelson and Jhonattan Vegas to clinch his second PGA Tour title with a one-shot victory at the Farmers Insurance Open.

SAN DIEGO // Bubba Watson held off late charges by fellow American Phil Mickelson and Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas to clinch his second PGA Tour title with a one-shot victory at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Watson, a left-hander, coolly birdied the par five last to keep his challengers at bay as he closed with a sparkling five-under 67 on the tricky South Course at Torrey Pines.

The long-hitting 32-year-old, a stroke off the pace going into the final round, got up and down from a greenside bunker at the 18th, sinking a curling 12-foot putt before pumping his right fist in celebration.

"It means a lot," a tearful Watson, whose father Gerry died late last year after a lengthy battle with lung cancer, said greenside. "My dad is not here. Mom, I love you."

Asked if his breakthrough win at last year's Travelers Championship had helped him at Torrey Pines, Watson replied: "No. It's hard every time you look at it.

"You've got Phil, you've got the guy who won last week, Vegas. All I thought about today was keeping my head down. And I did that."

Mickelson, a three-times champion here, closed with a 69 to secure second place while PGA Tour rookie Vegas, winner of last week's Bob Hope Classic, bogeyed the last for a 68 and a tie for third at 13 under with American Dustin Johnson (66).

Six-times winner Tiger Woods, playing his first event of the year, ended a frustrating week with an erratic three-over 75 to share 44th place, a distant 15 strokes off the pace.

Local favourite Mickelson attracted a huge gallery when he teed off with co-leader Bill Haas in cool, mainly overcast conditions and he moved one stroke clear after Haas bogeyed the opening hole.

Watson drew level by knocking in a three-footer to birdie the par-three third before Mickelson dropped back with a bogey at the same hole, after finding a greenside bunker off the tee.

Mickelson and fellow left-hander Watson duelled for supremacy for the rest of the front nine before Watson birdied the par five ninth to reach the turn one stroke clear at 13-under overall.

Vegas, who had drained a 27-footer to birdie the ninth, sank a seven-footer at the 10th to briefly catch Watson at the top.

However Vegas bogeyed the par-three 11th after three-putting and Watson made it a two-shot swing on that hole when he calmly rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt to get to 14-under.

Vegas, with birdies at 12 and 13, and Mickelson, who horseshoed out with a 21-foot eagle putt on the 13th green, piled on the pressure but Watson kept them at bay.

He got to 15 under with a two-putt birdie at the 13th before squandering chances of closing the door on the field with missed birdie putts from eight and seven feet at the 14th and 15th, respectively.

Vegas, making only his sixth appearance on the PGA Tour, came agonisingly close to sinking a monster 48-footer at the par-three 16th before tapping in for par to stay alone in second at 14-under.

Mickelson, who had slipped back with a bogey at the 14th after dumping his approach into a bunker, recovered with a birdie at the 17th where he struck a wedge to three feet.

The bold bid by Vegas to win consecutive titles on the US circuit effectively ended at the last when he hit his second shot into the pond guarding the front of the green.

With Watson having posted a 16-under total, Mickelson had to hole his wedge approach from 72 yards at the 18th to force a play-off.

After getting his caddie to walk up to the green, Mickelson struck a superb shot which spun back to within four feet of the cup. From there, he sank the birdie putt to finish second.