5 Things: Rose has his eyes on a major win
While Tiger Woods was creating early headlines by withdrawing due to an Achilles injury, Rory McIlroy was creating buzz with a run at the leaders and Bubba Watson was creating a mess with sloppy play off the tee, it was Justin Rose who stayed steady enough to capture the WGC-Cadillac Championship title on Sunday at Doral.
Here are 5 Things to take away from this weekend in south Florida:
1. JUST IN TIME: Before Justin Rose wrapped up his fourth career PGA Tour victory, his heart was beating a bit faster than normal when he faced a chip over bunkers and down the slick green at No. 18. Oh yeah, and the water that loomed if he caught a bit too much of the ball.
And he gave it a whack. But the first cut of rough played nice with Rose's ball, giving him an easy up-and-down opportunity for bogey.
"I knew it wasn't going to go down into the water. There was just enough rough but I didn't want to have to chip the ball coming back," said Rose, who moves to No. 7 in the Official World Golf Ranking, the second-highest of his career (he has previously been No. 6). "I was trying to make 5 pretty much the whole day down the hole, but it's kind of funny, when you try to make 5 how difficult that seems sometimes. Six seems to come into play way too much."
Rose's eyes are now set on winning his first major title - with his first opportunity in three weeks at Augusta.
"If you look at the tournaments I've won, Jack's tournament, Tiger's tournament, a Playoff event over here and now a World Golf Championships, the progression is really, really nice. The only thing that really is the next level up is a major," said Rose, who has three top-15 finishes this season, including a T-5 at the Honda Classic last week. "But not to say that I'm at that stage in my career where I'm only focusing on the majors; I think there's a lot more for me to do in the game than to get to that point. But no doubt, I feel my game is getting ready for that."
What Rose did at Doral was limit mistakes, with only seven bogeys on the week and no doubles or worse. He also was T-18 in driving accuracy at 57.1 percent and T-6 in putts per round at 26.3.
2. NOT SO BUBBALICIOUS: Bubba Watson was all over the map on his front nine on Sunday, a nine holes that included four bogeys. The stats don't lie in situations like that, hitting only 29 percent of fairways on Sunday. He was T-68 for the week at 39.3 percent.
But he still had a chance after a beautiful second shot on No. 18, but it was his 26th putt of the day that cost him.
"I was thinking that it didn't matter ‑‑ it didn't matter what I did on the first few holes. This could overcome all that. Knowing that I was struggling, that's the worst I've hit the ball all year," said Watson. "But still had a chance in the end, so I was proud of myself for fighting, not giving up, keep grinding it out, and never got down today. Never got mad at myself. Just tried to figure it out. I'm trying to learn the game. In a bad situation like this, I'm trying to figure out, how to correct it."
It was still a standout week for Watson, who was T-1 with 23 birdies over the four days, first in driving distance at 318.4 yards and second in putts per green in regulation at 1.560.
3. THAT'S A TOUGH HOLE: Through 12 holes, Rory McIlroy was 6 under on his round and moved to 15 under, one shot off the lead.
And then McIlroy's biggest nemesis of the past three days bit him once more: the par-4 14th hole.
For the third-straight day, McIlroy picked up a bogey and his run at the leaders stalled. He would go on to birdie the par-4 16th, but bogeyed the par-4 18th to finish in solo third.
"There's no room for complacency out here at all. You know, I knew that every week's an opportunity to win, every week's an opportunity to play well, and even though I didn't play my best over the first couple of days, I fought back nicely at the weekend and posted a couple of good numbers," said McIlroy, who led the field in eagles with three this week, while hitting 66.7 percent of his greens in regulation.
Some good news for McIlroy? He is now atop the FedEx Cup standings.
4. LEARNING TO FINISH: On a day that saw Keegan Bradley start brilliantly (an eagle at the par-5 first hole) and at one point take the lead by himself, it is a day that Bradley will likely want to forget.
After making the turn at 2-under 34, Bradley picked up a bogey at the par-5 10th to fall out of the lead, and then bogeys at Nos. 15 and 17 and a double-bogey at No. 18 pushed him to T-8.
Outside of the more than $300,000 he lost with the drop down the leaderboard, he said he didn't fizzle because of the drama happening around him.
"Yeah, I didn't even know any of that was going on to be honest with you," said Bradley, who hasn't finished outside the top 25 in any tournament this season. "I did a good job of staying in the present there. Sometimes it's tough when you fall out of contention, when you've been kind of in it all day to finish off. I've got to learn how to do that a little better than I have these last couple weeks."
Bradley was sixth in driving distance for the week (302.3 yards) and was T-5 in driving accuracy.
5. SHORT SHOTS: Sergio Garcia made a 12 on the par-4 third hole in the final round. After hitting his tee shot in the water on the right, Garcia tried three times to clear the pond, failing with each shot. He finally went over the green with his ninth shot, chipped onto the green to 35 feet and two-putted for a 12. Garcia shot 76 in the final round. ... Tiger Woods has played 33 events since returning from his golf hiatus in 2010. He has two missed cuts, three WDs. ... Paul Casey, playing his first tournament since returning from injury, had an ace at the par-3 15th hole. His caddie, Craig Connelly, thought he had won a car with the ace, but it was actually the par-3 13th where the Cadillac was being given away for a hole-in-one.