Quite a week that Bubba Watson had last week. He passed a kidney stone on Monday (you don't know pain until you do that). Watson made an appearance on the TV show "Girl Meets World." Never heard of it, but cool. He also got to see his 3-year-old son play drums with Justin Bieber as well as take in an excellent Warriors-Clippers game in Los Angeles.
But the capper was on Sunday when Watson won the Northern Trust Open, the final tournament on the early-season West Coast Swing. Watson was down two shots with four holes to go Sunday but had two birdies over the final three holes to overtake Jason Kokrak and Adam Scott to win at Riviera for the second time in three years. Watson's 15-under 269 total matched his winning mark from 2014. It was Watson's ninth career win on Tour in his 237th career event and first of the season in his fifth start. It jumped Bubba from No. 6 to No. 4 in the world.
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Kokrak, trying for his first Tour win, had a two-shot lead going into 15, but bogeyed and then watched Watson pass him with two short birdie putts at 16 and 17. Scott birdied his final two holes to get into the clubhouse at 14 under and hope Watson tripped up on No. 18. But Watson's approach landed just 13 feet from the cup and he had an easy two-putt par.
I didn't back Watson on any props last week. My guy to win was Dustin Johnson at +1400. He finished four, two shots back. So I hit on him for a Top 10 at +135. I also had Rory McIlroy doing good things last week and he found himself in the lead after an eagle on his first hole Sunday. But the rest of the round was a disaster as he shot a 75. It was McIlroy's worst final round as a professional in a non-major. I also had Hideki Matsuyama for a Top 10 and he missed that by a shot after a final-round 72. I didn't see good things for Jordan Spieth and was right on that as he missed the cut thanks to an opening 79. It was Spieth's 13th missed cut as a pro.
So now the Florida Swing begins this week with the Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens. Tiger Woods lives not far from the course, but he remains out amid one report this week that his back problems are getting worse and not better. Tiger's agent completely disputed that. It still doesn't appear Woods is anywhere close to playing, however.
PGA National is a tough Jack Nicklaus-designed track. It was the toughest par 70 in a non-major last season, with the field averaging 71.832 strokes. The 7,140-yard Champion Course is best known for holes 15, 16 and 17, known as "The Bear Trap." It has been the fifth-toughest three-hole stretch on Tour since 2007.
The defending champion is Padraig Harrington. He beat Daniel Berger in a Monday playoff, with Paddy rallying from four shots down with nine to play in regulation. It was his first PGA Tour victory since he won the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills for back-to-back major titles. Harrington had fallen to No. 297 in the world and lost his Tour card; he played the Honda on a sponsor's exemption. The Irishman also won the Honda Classic in 2005. He is a +9000 long shot on Bovada to repeat. Only one man has: Nicklaus in 1977-78 at a different course.
It's a pretty strong field this week, but Watson and Spieth aren't playing. Anyone who hasn't yet qualified for next week's WGC-Cadillac Championship will get in if in the Top 50 of the rankings or Top 10 in the FedEx Cup points after this tournament.
Golf Odds: Honda Classic Favorites
McIlroy is the +550 Bovada favorite. He's very hit or miss here. McIlroy won in 2012, withdrew in 2013, lost in a playoff in 2014 and missed the cut last year. Last week's 20th was his worst worldwide finish in a while.
Rickie Fowler is +1200 . He hasn't played since blowing a near sure-win at the Waste Management Open on Super Bowl weekend and finishing second. He won his start before that in Abu Dhabi. Fowler has just one Top 10 here in the past four years, a seventh in 2012.
The favorites are rounded out by Scott, Matsuyama and Patrick Reed (all +1800). Scott seems to be breaking out of a bit of a slump with last week's strong result. He hasn't played here much, with a best of 12th two years ago. Matsuyama won in Phoenix on Super Bowl weekend. This is his debut here; he withdrew in 2014. Reed was seventh here last year and has progressively finished better at PGA National. He didn't play last week.
PGA Tour Picks: Honda Classic Expert Betting Predictions
For a Top 10, I like McIlroy (-165), Reed (+175), Branden Grace (+250) and Brooks Koepka (+275). Head-to-head, go McIlroy (-155) over Fowler (+120), Sergio Garcia (-115) over Paul Casey (-115), Koepka (-115) over Grace (-115), Russell Knox (-115) over Kevin Kisner, Reed (-115) over Phil Mickelson (-115), and Matsuyama (-115) over Scott (-115).
I'm probably going to put some longer-shot money down on Knox at +3300 to win. He was T3 here last year and lost in a playoff in 2014. But McIlroy seems to thrive at this course in even-numbered years, so he's my guy. He'll be plenty motivated off Sunday's disappointment.
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