MIAMI: Rickie Fowler, buoyed by a brace of long-range birdie putts, won the US PGA Tour Honda Classic on Sunday (Monday in Manila) with a one-over par 71 in the final round at PGA National.
Key birdie putts of 40 feet and 25 feet helped Fowler overcome two tee shots into the water.
He started the day with a four-shot lead and with five birdies, four bogeys and a double-bogey finished with a 12-under total of 268 — four strokes ahead of Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland.
“My putter saved me,” said Fowler, who was in the water off the tee en route to a double bogey at the sixth, and shockingly in the water again off the tee at 17, where he salvaged a bogey.
He dropped another shot at the par-five 18th, where his third shot found a greenside bunker.
Despite the ugly ending, the round saw Fowler win for the first time when holding the 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour, after four prior misses.
His lead had dwindled before he rolled in a 40-footer at the 12th and a 25-footer at the next, and his advantage was up to five strokes when he birdied 16.
“It’s nice to have a cushion when you are playing the last two holes,” Fowler said, adding that the round in breezy conditions wasn’t easy.
“To go from yesterday, where it was pretty chill out here, not a whole lot of breeze, and good conditions to just go hit golf shots and pick this golf course apart, today was completely different, a lot of crosswinds,” he said.
“This was a tough wind to play this golf course in. And I felt like I hit some good shots that got just on the wrong side of the wind and didn’t come back like I was.”
Woodland had applied some early pressure, but he finished with back-to-back bogeys to settle for a 69 and a share of second on 272 alongside Hoffmann, who carded a 68.
“I gave myself a lot of chances. Just didn’t get the putts to come in down the stretch,” Woodland said. “But obviously Rickie is playing some great golf. So happy with the way I’m playing and looking forward to next week.”
England’s Tyrrell Hatton, who started the day in second place, carded a two-over 72 to finish in a large group sharing fourth on 273.
The group also included Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas, whose 64 was the best round of the day and included a hole in one at the par-three 15th.