Two late birdies allowed Rickie Fowler to hang on for a two-shot victory over Branden Grace at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Fowler started the day with a four-shot advantage over Matt Kuchar. His worst single-round score coming into Sunday was a 65. With such a comfortable margin of error, the California native had a lot of room to work with.
Instead, Fowler gave two shots back with a double bogey on No. 5. He appeared to settle in with four straight pars and a birdie before things fell apart on No. 11. His triple bogey gave Grace an opening to briefly take the lead before settling for second place.
Here's what the final leaderboard from TPC Scottsdale looked like, via PGATour.com:
1. Rickie Fowler (-17)
2. Branden Grace (-15)
3. Justin Thomas (-14)
T4. Matt Kuchar (-12)
T4. Chez Reavie (-12)
T4. Bubba Watson (-12)
T7. Sungjae Im (-11)
T7. Gary Woodland (-11)
T7. Chris Stroud (-11)
Here's what each of those nine players will make for their weekend of work, via Golf.com:
1. Rickie Fowler $1.278 million
2. Branden Grace $766,800
3. Justin Thomas $482,800
T4. Matt Kuchar $293,466
T4. Chez Reavie $293,466
T4. Bubba Watson $293,466
T7. Sungjae Im $221,283
T7. Gary Woodland $221,283
T7. Chris Stroud $221,283
The weather at TPC Scottsdale led to a lot of bad scores on Sunday. There was light rain throughout the day, and temperatures were in the mid-50s.
Fowler's 74 was the worst final-round score by a winner on the PGA Tour in five years, per ESPN Stats & Info:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
It didn't come easy today, but Rickie Fowler wins the Waste Management Phoenix Open for his 5th career PGA TOUR win. He's the 1st player to shoot 74 or worse in final round of a PGA TOUR victory since Steven Bowditch at the 2014 Valero Texas Open (shot 76). https://t.co/UPpZS1jbka
Looking at the top of the leaderboard, Grace and Chez Reavie were the only players in the top four to finish Round 4 under par.
Grace began the final round in fourth place at 13-under par, seven shots behind Fowler. His best stretch of the day included back-to-back birdies on No. 12 and 13 that gave him a one-shot lead.
The tense back-and-forth battle for the top spot took a turn when Grace was on No. 17 and Fowler was on No. 15. It started with Fowler hitting his second birdie of the day to even things up. Grace responded by hitting his tee shot into the water:
Grace took a bogey on the hole, dropping him one shot off the pace. He nearly put his tee shot on No. 18 into the bunker before settling for a par putt.
Another birdie by Fowler on No. 17 gave him more than enough cushion on the final hole to earn his first win since the 2017 Honda Classic.
There was some controversy on the 11th hole regarding Fowler's triple bogey. After he took a drop and went to examine the green, his ball rolled down the bank and back into the water, resulting in a one-stroke penalty:
After being made aware he was being penalized, Fowler was clearly unhappy with the ruling:
Fowler's late surge wound up making that moment seem insignificant, but for a time it looked like that was going to cost him a chance to win.
Reavie was the biggest mover among players who finished in the top seven. His final-round score of 68 was tied for the second-lowest of the day. It elevated him eight spots into a tie for fourth place, his second top-five finish in five events this season.
The victory is a huge step in the right direction for Fowler after having just six top-10 finishes in 20 tournaments last season. His final score on Sunday can be chalked up to the weather and a fluky incident on the 11th hole.
As long as Fowler is able to consistently repeat what he did in the first three rounds, this may be the year he finally earns that elusive first victory in a major tournament.