Bubba Watson had a very Bubba Watson-like week that ended with this third win in five tries at the Genesis Open on Sunday. Watson finished at 12 under after a 2-under 69 in the final round and beat contenders Tony Finau and Kevin Na each by two strokes.

Before the tournament started, Watson noted (or maybe joked?) that he was prepared to withdraw if weather or his tee time interrupted his plans to play in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on Friday evening. It was smooth sailing into Friday evening, even if it wasn’t so smooth at the actual game.

And hey, maybe Watson should schedule a pick-up game every Friday night. He shot a 6-under 65 on Saturday to assume control of the tournament before that 69 on Sunday. It helped him become the third golfer ever to win three times at Riviera.

Watching Watson at this event is always a thrill. His drives can take your breath away on any course, but when framed by Riviera’s famous eucalypti, they are truly stunning. 

However, it was his approach shots and not necessarily his driver that won him the tournament. He hit big hooks into Riviera’s hard greens all week and gave himself a plethora of chances to go deep into the birdie bag (which he did 20 times along with an eagle). What turned out to be the closer was this bunker hole-out on the 14th on Sunday. It put Watson up two on a group of four golfers and gave him a clear path to the end, which he completed.

The win is Watson’s first since he took this tournament two years ago. It reversed a trend that saw the bottom fall out for the left-hander, as he recently fell out of the top 100 in the Official World Golf Rankings. 

“My goal has always been to get to 10 wins,” Watson told Peter Kostis of CBS Sports. “There’s so many emotions going through my head right now. You never know if you’re going to play good again. You never know if you’re going to be able to lift a trophy again.”

The better news for Watson might be that this tournament has often been a harbinger of future Masters success. Watson himself pulled off the double back in 2014, and in just under two months, he’ll look for a third green jacket to add to his third Genesis Open trophy. Grade: A+

Here are the rest of our grades for the Genesis Open.

Rory McIlroy (T20): McIlroy finished strong in what was an otherwise unfulfilling week. He played the par-5 1st hole in 6-under over four rounds. He played the other 68 holes in 3 over. The problem this week wasn’t necessarily the putter, either (although it didn’t do him any favors). McIlroy finished in the top 45 in the field in strokes gained putting despite missing multiple four-footers in the same round on Friday.

He wasn’t as sharp with his approach shots as he normally is, though, and those two things combined to take him out of true contention on the weekend. One thing that stood out to me on the week is how absurdly well McIlroy hit his driving irons off the tee. That could come in handy at a variety of events (including The Open) later this season. Grade: B-

Jordan Spieth (T9): I mentioned this on Saturday, but Spieth found his putter. That’s not good for the rest of the PGA Tour! Here are Spieth’s strokes gained with the putter over his four-day stretch at Riviera.

  • Round 1: -0.8
  • Round 2: 2.0
  • Round 3: 2.8
  • Round 4: -0.4
  • Total: 3.6

That might not look great, but it’s (by far) Spieth’s best total of the season in the five tournaments he’s been played. For the sake of context, Spieth only has one other event (last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am) in which he’s even had a positive strokes gained putting number. With the way he’s hitting it this season, if his putter continues on this trajectory, he’s going to win some golf tournaments. Grade: B+

Tiger Woods (MC): Woods obviously still needs to find the planet with his driver, but the good news is that we’re talking about what he needs to do to get into contention instead of what he needs to do to get out of the operating room. Woods made 13 bogeys or worse on the week. That’s the bad news. 

The good news is that he made eight birdies. The primary reason he missed the cut is because he hit just 16-of-36 greens in regulation. The primary reason he hit just 16-of-36 greens in regulation is because he was out of position off the tee. It was really bad on Thursday and only sort of bad on Friday. But he’s also not locked in with his longer irons, either. It’s a bad potion.

“One of my hallmarks of my whole career is I’ve always hit the ball pin high with my iron shots, and I have not done that,” Woods said about his first two outings. “My wedge game is fine, but my normal iron shots that I’ve always had dialed in for much of my entire career, it’s just not there.”

Thankfully, it seems like he’s trying to temper expectations.

“I haven’t played golf in years, I’m starting to come back and it’s going to take a little time,” Woods said. “I am progressing, I’m starting to get a feel for tournament golf again. I just need to clean up my rounds.”

Finally, I thought this from Will Gray on Tiger was a smart way to sum it all up. Grade: C-

Phil Mickelson (T6): What do you know, another week, another top 10 for Lefty. He struggled a bit early in the event before really cranking it up on the weekend. He probably wishes Augusta National was being played next week after his stretch of golf at the Phoenix Open, Pebble Beach Pro-Am and this tournament. Grade: A

Dustin Johnson (T16): D.J. made me believe with a 64 on Saturday, but ultimately the hole he dug himself on Thursday with a 3-over 74 was too much to overcome. He had two doubles and a triple on the week, and he’s still only been defeated by 17 golfers over the last three events. Strangely, this is just his second finish at this event in which he didn’t either miss the cut or finish in the top 10. Grade: B

Justin Thomas (T9): His on-course play was terrific, but this was not a great look from J.T. Scared of birdies! Grade: C+ (but A on the course)


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