Riviera gets a deserving champion in Bubba Watson

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Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson celebrates after sinking a birdie putt on the 18th green to win the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades on Sunday. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / February 16, 2014)

That meant nice paychecks for all, but no trophy.

Another past Masters champion, Charl Schwartzel, made an early run with a 31 on the front nine, but faded to 37 on the back. Long-hitting Dustin Johnson finished two groups ahead of Watson and provided the target with his 66 and his total of 13-under.

So the buzz grew for the Bubba arrival on No. 18. He stood at 14 under par.

You can't see the tee from the 18th green amphitheater because it is behind a hill. But the greenside scoreboard gave fans a view, and when Watson cranked his drive and quickly picked up his tee — golf body-language for "he likes it" — the ending was inevitable. The boisterous fan reaction showed that they knew.

He had driven it 315 yards, in the middle of the fairway, on a par-four hole that played 479, uphill. That put a wedge in his hand — yes, a wedge from 164 — and with players of this caliber, needing merely to hit the green with a wedge and two putt, it was game over.

Watson, of course, added his usual pinch of spice. He sank the birdie putt from 13 feet 7 inches and the victory, worth $1.206 million to him, was the drama king's largest-ever margin of victory. Two shots.

All that was left was to say the right things, to recognize where you were and that you understood what you had done there. He did exactly that.

"What an honor, what a privilege, what a blessing," he said. "The history behind this tournament, the history behind some of the great names as champions here."

The verb in the sentence never came. It wasn't needed. We got it and so did Bubba Watson.

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