SAN DIEGO — Bubba Watson tempered his celebration when he rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday at Torrey Pines, knowing Phil Mickelson could still make eagle on the par-5 closing hole to catch him.
It played out just as Watson imagined, right down to Mickelson’s caddie tending the pin on the eagle attempt.
There was just one twist — Mickelson wasn’t anywhere near the green.
In a surprising decision that gave way to brief drama, Mickelson laid up on the 18th hole and had to settle for a birdie when his lob wedge from 72 yards away stopped 4 feet short of the hole.
The winner of the Farmers Insurance Open turned out to be Watson, who made clutch putts on the final two holes for a 5-under 67 and was sitting in the scoring trailer at the end, oblivious to how the final hole played out.
“I don’t know how close he hit it. I don’t know what he made on the hole,” Watson said. “I just know that I won, because that’s all I was worried about. If he makes it, I’m getting ready for a playoff. So I’m trying not to get too emotional. I realize it’s Phil Mickelson. He can make any shot he wants to.”
Just not this one.
So ended a bizarre week along the Pacific bluffs. A lefty won at Torrey Pines, just not the one Mickelson’s hometown gallery wanted to see. Mickelson, the ultimate risk-taker of his era, opened himself up to criticism on the final hole because — get this — he played it safe.
As for Tiger Woods?
His five-tournament winning streak at Torrey Pines ended without hardly anyone noticing. Woods was done some two hours before the finish, and his 75 put him in a tie for 44th. He had never finished outside the top 10 at Torrey Pines, and it was his worst start to his golf season since he turned pro.
Mickelson offered no apologies for his decision to lay up.
His lie in the left rough looked to be OK, although the grain of the grass was into his ball and he had 228 yards to the flag. A hybrid would have come out heavy and gone into the water. He said his 3-wood would have come out hot and got well over the green, leaving a difficult chip. Mickelson figured his best chance at eagle was a 64-degree wedge from the fairway, using the bank behind the hole to help feed the ball to the cup.
As for his caddie, Jim Mackay, tending the pin on such a long shot?
“Obviously, you need to hit a great shot and you need to get some luck to hole one from the fairway,” Mickelson said. “I’m not naive on that. I get it. But I also didn’t want to have something in the way. It’s not like I do it every week. But the last hole of the tournament, I’ve got to make it.”
He didn’t, although it was pure entertainment.