DORAL, Fla. — After Rory McIlroy’s ascent to the No. 1 ranking in the world a week ago, Tiger Woods making big noise again and Phil Mickelson playing for the first time since his back-to-back win at Pebble Beach and runner-up at Riviera, the week began with high anticipation of star power dominating Doral.
But by the time the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral’s Blue Monster ended yesterday, Woods was already on his way home, having withdrawn on the 12th hole with an Achilles injury, and Mickelson was halfway across the country on his private jet, having never been in contention all week.
McIlroy made a spirited Sunday run up the leaderboard, doing his best to validate his No. 1 ranking, but he came up short.
The last man standing was Justin Rose, a polite, quiet and proper Englishman, who shot a final-round 70 to finish at 16-under par, one shot ahead of third-round leader Bubba Watson.
Aside from the drama of Woods’ stunning exit, most of the attention all day was on Watson, who had been the face of the tournament all week with his long-bombing driver and unorthodox style. He took a three-shot lead into yesterday’s final round and stumbled his way around to a disappointing 75.
To his credit, Watson, who shot 39 on the front and was zig-zagging his way around the course, hitting no fairways, rallied late and had a chance to send the tournament to a playoff.
Needing a birdie to tie on the 18th hole, where there only three players had birdied all day, Watson drilled a 4-iron approach shot to 10 feet but slid the birdie putt tantalizing by the left side of the cup to clinch victory for Rose, who had finished moments before.
For Rose, it was his fourth career PGA Tour win and he became the first European player to win this event.
“This moment is incredibly sweet,’’ Rose said. “These moments are few and far between as a golfer. My little boy said to me, ‘Daddy, can you win the trophy this week?’ Ninety nine percent of the time you’re not bringing home the trophy and you have to tell him, ‘No.’ So this is sweet.”
He hit his tee shot into the water on the 438-yard hole, with a pond down the entire right side. He dropped into the rough, and tried three times to clear the water, failing with each shot. Garcia finally went over the green with his ninth shot, chipped onto the green to 35 feet and two-putted for a 12.
Rose had played with the explosive Watson for the first three rounds of the tournament, so he knew what he was capable of on the 18th hole.
“The two good shots he hit into 18 had me sweating there,’’ Rose said.
“I hit a great shot in there and that would have been huge for me to have a chance to be able to win,’’ Watson said. “Over the putt, all I thought about was my line and I hit my line and we just didn’t read it right.’’
Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, DORAL, Fla., Sergio Garcia