Fowler seals Honda Classic victory by four strokes
27 Feb 2017 - 22:41
New YorkL American Rickie Fowler breathed a sigh of relief after clinching a four-stroke victory at the $6.4m Honda Classic in Florida on Sunday.
Fowler, previously 0-for-4 after starting the final round leading on the PGA Tour, frittered away almost all of his four-stroke advantage on a breezy day at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens.
But he steadied a leaky ship by sinking consecutive long birdie putts, a 40-footer at the 12th hole followed by a 25-footer at the next, and extended his lead to five strokes with two holes left.
"My putter saved me," Fowler, 28, said in a greenside interview after carding 71 to finish at 12-under-par 268 for his fourth PGA Tour victory. He also has won three times internationally.
"I made some good putts. The two birdies I made on 12 and 13, if I don’t make those putts I’ve got a pretty tight race." Fowler gave his adoring gallery a moment of panic when he leaked his seven-iron tee shot into a water hazard at the par-three 17th.
But after taking a penalty stroke, he calmly negotiated the water with his third shot and sank a six-foot putt to salvage a bogey, before taking a victory stroll down the last, where another bogey proved almost meaningless. "The wind was tough today," said Fowler.
"I fought as hard as I could. I hit a lot of shots I thought were going to turn out good (but did not). It was blowing pretty good, so kept us on our toes."
Fellow Americans Gary Woodland and Morgan Hoffmann tied for second on eight-under, but the day belonged to one man, who will head to the Masters in April with a new spring in his step.
"There’s less pressure, less stress," said Fowler, who will jump from 14th in the world rankings to inside the top 10.
"I think this is something we needed going into Augusta and I like the spot were we’re at right now."
Meanwhile, Darren Fichardt birdied the final hole to secure a one-shot victory at the Joburg Open on Sunday and a first European Tour title in four years.
The 41-year-old South African held his nerve at the last to finish 15-under-par at the rain-affected tournament at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Club, edging Stuart Manley of Wales and Englishman Paul Waring.
Fichardt and Waring had been level going into the last round after the tournament was cut to 54-holes because of persistent thunderstorms through the week that left the course waterlogged.
There was another two-hour delay on Sunday before Fichardt set the early pace, along with compatriot Jacques Kruyswijk, whose hopes ended with a double bogey six on the 14th.
Fichardt was two shots ahead going into the last three holes but Waring birdied the 16th and Fichardt carded his only bogey of the round on the 17th.
A birdie from close range on the 18th, however, secured his fifth Tour victory and first since the Africa Open in 2013.
Manley had finished early to take the clubhouse lead with a third successive 67.
Waring, looking for a first win in his nine years on the Tour, shot 69 to share second.