The FedEx Cup Champ, Bill Haas, out dueled Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in a thrilling playoff finish to win the Northern Trust Open.
This final round was a reminiscent of the wild-west gunslingers duels. We had three of the best giving us a show for the title down the stretch, all going all-out for the win, and making key shot after key shot when they most needed it.
Mickelson and Bradley started the day tied for first place at seven-under(-par), while Haas started two shots behind them at five-under(-par.)
Mickelson had been on the lead for the opening three rounds, and was going for his second tournament in a row, after his remarkable win at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-AM last week.
Bradley and Mickelson birdied the opening hole and seemed at this point we were setting up for a two-man duel to the finish.
But Bradley fell-off the lead with three bogeys in the next four holes, dropping to five-under(-par) and apparently out of the battle for the win.
Johnathan Byrd was the first to challenge Mickelson to the lead as he moved to seven-under(-par) with two birdies in the first three-holes. But a double-bogey on the par-four fifth hole, got him off-track and out of the battle.
Mickelson had the lead clear lead going to the eight hole, but then came what he had not done all tournament long, two bogeys in-a-row. With that he was back at seven-under(-par) and tied for the moment with Haas.
Then came Haas to the par-four 10th hole. He reached the green in two shots, and made the eight foot birdie-putt to move into the outright lead.
Haas was up by one shot over Mickelson and Bradley, who has moved back to seven-under(-par) after birdies on the seventh and ninth holes.
Bradley and Mickelson would make birdie on the par-five 11th hole to tie Haas. But then Haas made back-to-back bogeys on the 12th and 13th holes, dropping two back from the lead.
Here you would expect Bradley and Mickelson to duke it out to the finish. Not so fast.
Bradley made bogeys on the 13th and 15th holes, and Mickelson back-to-back bogeys on the 14th and 15th to fall into a tie with Haas and had three holes to go.
The pressure was on then as Haas made birdie on the 17th hole for the outright lead, and eventually he went in the clubhouse as the leader. All he could do now was wait for Bradley and Mickelson to fail.
Mickelson had a shot to tie Haas on the par-five 17th hole. His putt was on-line, tracking and with good speed, but was just less than an inch from falling down.
Had to be heartbreaking for Mickelson, and relieving for the moment for Haas watching on the monitor.
On the 18th both Bradley and Mickelson had to make birdie to have a shot at the extending the round into a playoff finish. Both went driver and nailed their tee shots down the fairway.
The pursuers were on track, they had to go for the flag on their approach shots. Meanwhile Haas on the driving range practicing and waiting.
Mickelson’s approach shot from 170 yards was right of the green, just outside the fringe, nine yards from the hole. He had not made a putt like this all day, now was the time to make one.
Meanwhile Bradley’s second from 152 yards away was a beauty. He left it flag high, just 13 feet from the right of the cup. A very make-able birdie putt for him.
Mickelson’s try had to feature his magic, could he make it? From Mickelson you can expect anything, and his try went in, just when he most need it.
That is Phil Mickelson, you can never be surprised.
Mickelson was so pumped that he almost went over Bradley’s putt line while walking after the shot. We even saw a fist pump from Bones here.
We now officially had a playoff, and it was just a matter if it was a three-way or a duel, as it was Bradley’s turn to show magic.
And then, as if scripted, Bradley made his birdie try to join Haas and Mickelson. The adrenaline was high and in full flow; a fist pump from Bradley and the roar from the crowd.
We had a three-way playoff battle for the win.
When they drew the papers for the tee shot order on 18th, it was Mickelson, Bradley and Haas.
The 18th hole is a par-four, 475 yards hole, and the strategy would be to try to get at it on two.
Would any of the three make a mistake from the tee? No way, all three are seasoned players, and they all hammered their drives straight down the fairway, with Bradley being the farthest at 321 yards.
Mickelson’s second was a safe one to the right of the green, under the hole to within 36 feet.
Then came Haas with his second shot from 179 yards with a nine-iron. He came up short of the green
Then it was Bradley’s turn from 154 with a pitching-wedge, and incredibly went just over the hole, to the outside fringe just five yards away from the cup.
The third shot was going to be key for all three of them, and Bradley had the best shot to win it.
Haas went first with a chunk-and-run and sticked it to within four feet
Mickelson’s putt was straight uphill, and it lost speed as it was approaching the hole
Bradley showed us his famous eyeballing his shot. Would he make it? After his putt was on the way, Bradley tracked it, he was ready to leap in the air as it was in-line with the hole, but it went just to the right of it.
Oh just so close. All three made their par putts and extended the playoff to a second hole, which would be the very drivable par-four 10th hole.
And it was on this 10th hole, that things got very interesting off-the-tee.
Mickelson and Bradley went three-wood. Both drives went right short of the hole, with Mickelson into the rough and Bradley in the side bunker.
Meanwhile, Haas’s drive went wide right, over the trees and into the rough. He would have no shot other than laying-up.
Who could hit the green and get a shot to go and win it?
From the three second shots, Bradley’s shot was the one with the best lie, as he was just off the fringe. Mickelson’s went into the bunker on top.
Then it was time for magic again.
Haas went up first with his putt from 43 feet away and it went in. The FedEx Cup champ can now watch relax as he had just put the pressure on Mickelson and Bradley.
Then Mickelson’s shot from the bunker was hit way short. His magical run was over; it was one player down for Haas, one more to go in Bradley.
It was Bradley’s turn and he did not have a difficult putt to make. His putt try was again in-line with the hole, and once again it just brushed the side of the cup and Bradley was down on the green in disbelief.
Haas had just won the tournament in thrilling fashion. Just like when he won the FedEx Cup, he made the improbable shot to go out and win it.
Golf fans were treated with a thrill on the final round at the final round on the Northern Trust Open. We had an incredible finish, with three great players.
Mickelson and Bradley went for it when they had to make it. They showed their true heart of a champion.
And Haas went at it as well, even when he had fallen off the lead. Most could have folded and let the two in front battle it out.
But he didn’t, and he got the big reward, hoisting the winning trophy.
From the rest of the players, the best round of the day went to Sergio Garcia at seven-under(-par) 64, and finish with a total five-under(-par) for the tournament and in a tie for fourth place.
Now, off to the WGC Accenture Match Play next week, and we can't just wait for it.
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