Bubba Watson wins Match Play title in blowout

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Bubba Watson wins Match Play title in blowout
Bubba Watson waves to the gallery on the sixth hole during the final round at the Dell Technologies Match Play golf tournament, Sunday, March 25, 2018, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Bubba Watson made the final of the Dell Technologies Match Play look as though he were on vacation all along.

Watson won his second World Golf Championships title Sunday with the biggest blowout since the championship matched switched to 18 holes in 2011, a 7-and-6 victory over Kevin Kisner.

Watson wasn’t as sharp as he was in the semifinals against Justin Thomas, whom he beat in 16 holes to deny Thomas going to No. 1 in the world ranking. He didn’t have to be in the final. If not for missing a 4-foot birdie putt on the par-5 sixth, Watson would have won the first seven holes.

Kisner had a lot to do with that. After escaping in 19 holes against Alex Noren in his semifinal match, Kisner didn’t put up much of a fight. He made four straight bogeys and only twice on the front nine was putting for birdie.

Watson had scheduled a family vacation out of the country on Sunday, which he had to postpone. Watson figured he hardly ever makes it this far in golf’s most fickle format, so it was a good problem to have.

Watson never trailed in the 28 holes he played Sunday, and he was never seriously threatened.

The tougher match was against Thomas, the PGA champion who needed only to reach the championship match to replace Dustin Johnson at No. 1 in the world. Watson went out to a 3-up lead on the front nine, and when Thomas closed to 1 down at the turn with his first birdie putt, Watson won two of the next three holes to regain control. Thomas didn’t make another birdie until the par-5 16th, and by then it was too late. Watson made his birdie from 3 feet for a 3-and-2 victory.

Noren beat Thomas in the consolation match, 5 and 3.

One year after Watson disappeared from among the elite in golf, he has won his last two starts. He was No. 117 in the world when he arrived at Riviera, where he won for the third time in his career. With his 11th victory on the PGA Tour, he now is back up to No. 21. And the two-time Masters champion added his name to the growing list of contenders at Augusta National.

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PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Steve Stricker pulled away on the back nine at Fallen Oak to win the Rapiscan Systems Classic for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory.

The 51-year-old Stricker closed with a 4-under 68, birdieing all four par-5 holes on the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big and fast greens. He finished at 11-under 205 for a three-stroke victory over Billy Andrade.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship, opposite the senior event in California that Vijay Singh won for his first senior title.

Stricker played the front nine in 1 under, with birdies on the par-5 first and sixth and a bogey on the par-4 fourth. He birdied the par-4 10th, bogeyed the par-4 11th, and put away the tournament with consecutive birdies on the par-4 12th, par-5 13th and par-4 15th.

The Wisconsin player has seven top-three finishes in nine career senior starts. In addition to the two victories, he tied for second last month in his first Champions start of the year. Stricker has 12 PGA Tour victories and captained the winning U.S. Presidents Cup team last year.

Andrade closed with a 69.

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PGA TOUR

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic (AP) — Brice Garnett completed a wire-to-wire victory in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship for his first PGA Tour title.

Two strokes ahead after three late wind-blown bogeys Saturday, Garnett closed with a 2-under 70 in windy and rainy conditions for a four-stroke victory over Keith Mitchell.

The 34-year-old Garnett, a two-time winner last year on the Web.com Tour, finished at 18-under 270. He opened with a 63 and added rounds of 69 and 70.

Mitchell followed a third-round 75 with a 67.

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dropped out Friday, finishing last in the 132-man field in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 77-82 playing as an amateur on a sponsor exemption.

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OTHER TOURS

Lorenzo Gagli earned his first European Challenge Tour victory by closing with a 3-under 68 and beating Jens Fahrbring on the third hole of a sudden-death playoff in the Barclays Kenya Open. … Yi Cao of China closed with a 9-under 63 and then beating William Harrold of England with a birdie on the first sudden-death playoff hole to win the Chongqing Championship on the PGA Tour Series-China. … Phoebe Yao of Taiwan closed with a 6-under 66 and defeated Mamiko Higa in a playoff to win the AXA Ladies Golf Tournament on the Japan LPGA Tour.