DORAL, Fla. — Nick Watney wound up in another duel at Doral, this one with a much sweeter ending.
Watney, who graduated from Davis High in 1999, poured in two key putts for par along the back nine of the Blue Monster on Sunday, then hit two fearless shots on the 18th and finished with a birdie for and a 5-under 67 to win the Cadillac Championship by two shots over Dustin Johnson.
It was the third victory of the former Blue Devil’s career, and by far the biggest. Watney also won the 2009 Buick Invitational and the 2007 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
On Sunday, the 29-year-old captured a World Golf Championship, and earned a measure of redemption on the Blue Monster. It was two years ago when Watney battled Phil Mickelson shot-for-shot on the weekend, only for his 30-foot birdie putt on the last hole to stop one turn short of a chance at a playoff.
This time, Watney left nothing to chance.
With a one-shot lead playing the 18th — where he had put his tee shot into the water on Saturday for a double bogey — Watney drilled his drive over 300 yards down the middle of the fairway, and hit his approach to 12 feet above the hole. He pumped his fist when it fell for birdie, knowing that Johnson would have to hole out from the fairway to tie him.
Johnson had to settle for a shot into 8 feet, and typical of his final round, he missed the putt for a 71.
“I’m not sure (the course) owed me one,” Watney said at the trophy presentation. “I think I settled the score. If you keep working hard, you get back in that situation. And luckily (Sunday), I was able to do a little better.”
Francesco Molinari, who won the last World Golf Championship in stroke play last November in Shanghai, closed with a 69 and tied for third with Anders Hansen (67), who will move into the top 50 and now has to stay there the next two weeks to get into the Masters.
Tiger Woods matched his best score of the year with a 6-under 66, and when Rory McIlroy dunked his tee shot into the water on the 18th hole and made bogey, that enabled Woods to tie for 10th.
It was his first top 10 in an official PGA Tour event in nine months, dating to the U.S. Open.
“I want to win golf tournaments … and I didn’t do that this week,” Woods said. “But I showed positive signs for the next time I play, which is a good thing.”
Watney finished at 16-under 272 and earned $1.4 million, moving him closer to cracking the top 10 in the world ranking.
Johnson opened with a birdie and went 12 straight pars before his next one, a fairway bunker shot that hit the flag and settled 2 feet away on the 14th. But he came undone on the 16th, going bunker-to-bunker for a bogey at the worst time.
“Nothing went in the hole all day,” he said. “The 18th hole kind of sums it up.”
That wasn’t the case for Watney.
He opened with back-to-back birdies and took the outright lead with a birdie on the par-5 10th. But he won this tournament with pars.
On the tough par-3 13th, Watney went well right into a bunker and blasted out weakly to 18 feet. Right when it looked as though he would drop a shot, he holed the par putt to keep his one-shot lead. On the next par-3, Watney went long into a bunker and faced a downhill shot. He was so careful that it barely crawled onto the fringe. He drained that one from 25 feet for par to stay tied.
Johnson missed an 18-foot birdie putt on the 17th that would have tied Watney, and he figured his last chance was a birdie on the 18th, the toughest at Doral where only two players had made birdie in the final round.
Johnson was in the fairway after a 326-yard tee shot when he watched Watney make the putt.
“I kind of wanted to make him hole in order to tie,” Watney said. “It worked out great. After yesterday, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending.”
Notes: Watney had now won over $12 million dollars in less than five full years on tour. … In his senior year at DHS, Watney led the Blue Devils to a Sac-Joaquin Section Championship. … He played college golf for his uncle — coach Mike Watney — at Fresno State. … Watney grew up in Dixon.