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Northern Trust Open: Haas finishes the script

Golfer caps thrilling tournament with clutch putt to defeat bigger names

Posted: February 20, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 20, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Bill Haas pumps his fist after sinking a putt to win the Northern Trust Open on the second playoff hole at Riviera Country Club on Sunday in Pacific Palisades. Bill Haas pumps his fist after sinking a putt to win the Northern Trust Open on the second playoff hole at Riviera Country Club on Sunday in Pacific Palisades.
Bill Haas pumps his fist after sinking a putt to win the Northern Trust Open on the second playoff hole at Riviera Country Club on Sunday in Pacific Palisades.

PACIFIC PALISADES — In the Los Angeles area’s premier annual golf tournament, not even Hollywood could have scripted as much drama and as many plot twists as Sunday’s final round of the Northern Trust Open.

With Bill Haas already in the clubhouse at 7-under, Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley — the co-leaders coming into the day — both had to make long, pressure-packed birdie putts on the 72nd hole of the tournament to force a three-man playoff.

But on the second sudden-death playoff hole, it was Bill Haas that made the biggest putt, a 43-footer for a birdie on the 10th hole of Riviera Country Club to earn his fourth career PGA win.

“I never expected to make a 40-footer, and especially in that situation,” said Haas, who had never finished in the top 10 of a Northern Trust Open in six previous starts. “That was a little bit of luck involved, but I felt like I put a good roll on it, and it was meant to be, I guess.”

Haas came into the final round tied for sixth at 5-under and two strokes off the lead.

He shot a 2-under 69 on Sunday while playing two groups in front of Mickelson and Bradley.

The lead changed hands multiple times throughout the day, as all three players experienced tough stretches and bright spots at different points during a day with difficult conditions.

“It was very defensive because the greens were so firm, the pins were tough, and although there was no rough, it had kind of a U.S. Open feel,” Mickelson said.

Players struggled to hold the greens on approach shots and, as a result, three-putt bogeys were plentiful.

Mickelson and Bradley both shot an even-par 71s, and both arrived at the scores with up-and-down days.

Mickelson had four bogeys and four birdies, while Bradley finished with five of each.

Haas played a steadier round, finishing with a bogey-less front nine of 3-under and collecting four total birdies on the day.
His only rough patch was back-to-back bogeys on 12 and 13.

“I guess when I made those two bogeys, I told myself, ‘You’re still only two back,” Haas said. “There’s a lot that can happen these last few holes and just told myself par is a good score.”

A lot did happen on the last few holes, specifically on the difficult 18th hole, a 475-yard par-4, where Mickelson and Bradley knew they had to birdie to force a playoff.

Aggressive approach shots left Mickelson with a 27-footer and Bradley with 13 feet left to tie.

First, Mickelson drained his, sending the crowd into frenzy.

Not to be outdone, Bradley followed suit and knocked in his putt right after Mickelson.

“After Phil made that putt, I gave him a fist pump, and he looked at me and said, ‘Join me,’” Bradley said. “He really meant it.”

Both players returned to the 18th tee shortly after for the first playoff hole, where they were joined by Haas.

Bradley had the best shot for a birdie, but just missed from 17 feet. All three players parred and the group moved on to the par-4 10th.

At 315 yards, it’s the shortest par-4 on the course and the green is reachable off the tee.

Haas’ shot ended up in the rough left of the green and above the hole.

He had to play it safe and chip over a bunker and well below the hole, setting up his lengthy tournament-winner as the sun was going down.

Mickelson started the hole off in the best position, just short and right of the green in the rough, but his chip trickled off the green and into a bunker.

Bradley once again came within inches of draining his birdie putt, which was 14 feet away from the fringe.

“I just was somewhat under the radar, I guess,” Haas said. “I wasn’t in the final group with (Mickelson and Bradley). They both birdie 18, they certainly had the fans on their side, which if that’s the way it is, that’s fine. It was unexpected for me and for the fans.”

Haas was one of five players who shot in the 60s on Sunday and one of just 16 to shoot under par – the fewest of any other round on the week.

Sergio Garcia turned in Sunday’s best round of 64 much earlier in the day. That moved him into a tie for fourth place at 5-under overall.

Joining Garcia at 5-under were Jimmy Walker, Jarrod Lyle and Dustin Johnson, who played with Haas and briefly led the field late in his final round.

Mickelson, who led after each of the first three rounds this week, was denied his 41st career PGA Tour victory and his second in as many weeks after he won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am a week ago.

NOTES: Hart High graduate Jason Gore competed in the Northern Trust Open after receiving a sponsor’s exemption. He finished 8-over after two rounds played on Thursday and Friday. He missed the cut by five strokes. It was the first PGA start of the season for the longtime professional.


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