Match recaps: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Day 5
Watson defeats Kisner for 11th career PGA TOUR win
March 25, 2018
By Ben Everill and Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Quick start for Bubba in title match
AUSTIN, Texas -- An championship showdown between Georgia Bulldogs alums turned into a rout, as Bubba Watson won his second World Golf Championships title by defeating Kevin Kisner, 7 and 6, in the finals of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play on Sunday afternoon at Austin Country Club.
It's the largest margin of victory in the championship final since 2008, when Tiger Woods beat Stewart Cink, 8 and 7, in the then-36 hole final.
Watson becomes just the fifth player to win multiple WGCs and multiple majors. He won the WGC-HSBC Champions in the 2014-15 season.
"It's crazy to think about it," Watson said. "I've got two World Golf Championships, counting this one, and two majors. I'm done, you know?
"It's unbelievable to think about that, giving my mom a hug, six years old, having one golf club for a year, no lessons. I mean I can sit here and make up stories all day, but it's absolutely remarkable that I'm able to lift a trophy like this."
Watson won the first five holes with one birdie, three pars and a conceded hole, as Kisner was unable to duplicate the form that had taken him to the championship match. Kisner suffered three early bogeys and lost the seventh hole with another bogey after an errant tee shot, as every mistake was magnified against the steady Watson.
"That grueling match that he had this morning, extra holes, you could just tell, the energy wasn't there," Watson said. "The drive and the competition was there, but he was just exhausted. And obviously for me it works out great for me, but for him, he had a great week, but obviously buried the first hole. I buried that hole a couple of times this week. Getting off to a quick start like that just puts pressure on anybody."
Even when Kisner showed some life -- such as draining a 20-foot par putt on the 10th hole -- Watson had an answer, as he birdied the 10th from 11 feet to go 7-up.
I don't know what was going on," Kisner said. "It was just pitiful. I couldn't hit anywhere close to where I was trying. Long week. A little tired, probably. Lose some legs, and just didn't have it. And finally made a few good swings coming in, but those were too little, too late."
Watson now has 11 PGA TOUR victories, including two in his last four starts, as he won the Genesis Open in mid-February. His next start will be the Masters, which he has won twice.
Watson, who earlier in the day beat Justin Thomas 3 and 2 to deny the current FedExCup leader a chance to move to world No. 1, opened the match by winning the first hole with a 12-foot putt, and then Kisner began to self-destruct. He missed a 9-foot par putt at the second, then found trouble again off the tee at the par-4 third, setting up another bogey. His tee shot at the par-3 fourth landed in the greenside bunker, and he failed to get up-and down. Another greenside bunker at the fifth resulted in a conceded hole after Watson's approach finished inside 7 feet.
Kisner, who beat the red-hot Alex Noren in 19 holes in the semifinals, didn't win his first hole until the par-3 11th when he rolled in a putt from 34-1/2 feet.
But the match ended on the 12th when Watson rolled in his winning putt from 7 feet. Earlier in the day, Kisner had won the 12th hole with an eagle putt and again in sudden-death with a birdie putt in his semifinal win over Alex Noren.
CONSOLATION FINAL: Alex Noren def. Justin Thomas, 5 and 3
Fueled by three birdies in his first seven holes, Noren pulled away to beat the FedExCup leader and take third place.
The Swede now has a runner-up finish and two thirds in his last seven starts on the PGA TOUR. He was 2-up through seven holes, and then watched Thomas face on the back nine with two bogeys before conceding the 15th hole to end the match.
"I'm very pleased with the way I played. It's been a long week. There's a lot of pressure. I feel the pressure. So I'm happy. I was very, very sad after this morning's loss. I thought I had it. But that's the way it goes sometimes. ...
"I was devastated after that loss. It was one of the hardest losses probably ever for me. And then coming out this afternoon, it feels just kind of weird that there's a lot to play for and I'm happy with the way I played."
That ended a tough day for Thomas, who trailed his entire semifinal match against Bubba Watson. "I definitely wasn't very hard to beat this afternoon," he said.
BUBBA WATSON, U.S. (35) def. JUSTIN THOMAS, U.S. (2) 3 and 2
Bubba Watson moved a step closer to a second World Golf Championships title and a second win this PGA TOUR season with a grinding win over the second seeded Justin Thomas.
Thomas had a tough day out on the greens, unable to convert multiple chances by the smallest of margins.
But Watson certainly earned the win with a hot start setting up a lead he would never relinquish.
Birdies on the opening and fifth holes gave Watson an early 2-up lead and then a sublime approach from near trees on the par-5 6th set up an eagle to go 3-up.
Thomas clawed back to be down just one hole at the turn but missed a 12-foot putt on the 10th and then put a ball in the water on the 12th to fall three back.
Chances on the 13th and 14th holes would not drop and Watson cruised home.
“I didn't really make any mistakes… and then I made some putts early. And when you make putts early, you have a chance to get the lead. I just played solid and he didn't make any putts,” Watson said.
The loss was especially hard to swallow for Thomas, who would have moved to world No.1 had he prevailed.
“I haven't had such a hard time not thinking about something so much. And that really sucked. I couldn't stop thinking about it, to be perfectly honest,” Thomas said.
“You're constantly getting questions about it with the media but I need to be mentally stronger than that, and understand that it's just a match.
“At the end of the day, obviously I didn't play very well, but I definitely didn't give him the match. He made a lot of birdies out there and played well enough to be deserving to be in the final match.” - Recap by Ben Everill
Kisner rolls in 51-foot putt for eagle
KEVIN KISNER, U.S. (32) def. ALEX NOREN, Sweden (13), 19 holes
The 12th hole paid big dividends for Kevin Kisner. And the putter, so hot for Alex Noren all week, betrayed him when he needed it the most. As it result, it's Kisner moving on to the championship finals against fellow Georgia Bulldog Bubba Watson.
His 51-foot eagle putt at the par-5 12th was the big blow, as he won the hole to square the match. Then in the first hole of sudden death, Kisner won the hole again, this time with a 5-foot birdie putt after Noren had missed from 12 feet.
"12 has been good for me today," Kisner said. "Hopefully I can win it again this afternoon."
Had it not been for Noren's putter turning cold, Kisner might not have the opportunity to see the third PGA TOUR win of his career.
Kisner made four straight birdies between holes 3-6, but Noren matched him, and then added another birdie at the seventh. After a Kisner bogey on the eight put Noren 1-up, that's when the Swede's putter suddenly stopped working.
He missed a 6-1/2 foot birdie putt that would've won the ninth; a 9-1/2 footer than would've won the 10th; a 9-1/2 footer than would've won the 11th; a 10-footer than would've won the 17th; and a 7-footer than would've won the match in regulation at the 18th. That doesn't even include the 6-1/2 footer he missed on the opening hole that gave Kisner the early lead.
On Saturday, Noren had made all 27 of his putts inside 10 feet and had only missed three coming into Sunday's match.
"It's terrible," said Noren, who had been seeking his first TOUR win. "I had so many chances, especially from 9 forward. But it's tricky with the putting here, it slopes a lot. … I felt pretty good, but tough to read the lines right and you start to doubt the lines. I had a good opportunity on the last, 18, but it slipped away. That's how it goes sometimes."
Said Kisner: "It was a tough match. He kept hitting it in there close. And if he probably would've made any of those putts, it would've been tough to come back from.
"Hung in there and made putts when I needed to and was fortunate to get a win and go to the playoff." - Recap by Mike McAllister