Honda Clas­sic has aw­in­ner

Rickie Fowler claims four-shot vic­tory.

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By SteveWaters Staff writer swa­ters@ sun­sen­tinel.com

PALM BEACH GAR­DENS — Just when it looked like Rickie Fowler might let an­other 54-hole lead slip away, he set­tled down time and time again and­won theHonda Clas­sic.

Fowler, who started the fi­nal round with a four-shot lead, saw that dwin­dle to two shots af­ter his dou­ble­bo­gey at the sixth hole. But he grad­u­ally built his ad­van­tage to six shots, which was more than enough to with­stand bo­geys on the fi­nal two holes on a windy af­ter­noon at the Cham­pion course at PGA Na­tional Re­sort& Spa.

“I would’ve liked to have had a cleaner card,” said Fowler, who had five birdies, four bo­geys and the dou­ble.

“To be in the po­si­tion I was af­ter 54 holes and giv­ing my­self that cush­ion al­lowed for a tough day to­day.”

Fowler’s rounds of 66-66-65-71 gave him a 12-un­der-par 268 to­tal and a four-shot vic­tory overMor­gan Hoff­mann and Gary Wood­land. Six play­ers tied for fourth at 7-un­der 273.

For Fowler, 28, who is in his eighth sea­son, it was his first PGA Tour vic­tory since the Deutsche Bank Cham­pi­onship in Septem­ber of 2015 and the fourth of his ca­reer. His last win was the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Cham­pi­onship in Jan­uary of 2016.

The Honda ti­tle was worth $1.152 mil­lion from the $6.4 mil­lion purse. It also helped ease the mem­ory of last year when Fowler led af­ter 36 holes and ended up tied for sixth.

“I started with a four­shot lead and I still won by four,” Fowler said. “I didn’t play great. It­wasn’t a pretty round. But we got the job done. A win’s a win.”

Wood­land, of Topeka, Kan., whowas six be­hind at the start, got within two shots af­ter two early birdies, but bo­geys at the 17th and 18th gave him a 69 for the day to go with rounds of 71-66-66. Hoff­mann, of Jupiter, started the day seven shots be­hind Fowler on rounds of 68-67-69 and closed with a 68.

Jhonat­tan Ve­gas, who teed off four hours be­fore Fowler at 9:45 a.m, had the day’s best round, a 64 that was high­lighted by a holeinat the par-3 15th. He was among those tied for fourth.

Fowler started the day at 13 un­der to lead play­ing part­ner Tyrrell Hat­ton by four shots.

Hat­ton, who opened with rounds of 68-67-66, bo­geyed the first hole and had two more bo­geys on the front nine and was never a threat to Fowler. The 25-year-old English­man shot a 72 to fin­ish tied for fourth.

Fowler birdied the par-5 third hole af­ter hit­ting a wedge from 84 yards to 12 feet. But he had an odd bo­gey on the 394-yard par-4 fourth.

His ap­proach ran off the back of the green and down into the fringe. His cad­die, Joe Skovron, said they de­cided to putt the ball up onto the green and to the right of a sprin­kler head, but the ball hopped to the left and set­tled in the de­pres­sion where the sprin­kler head was lo­cated. Fowler then had to take a drop and he two-putted fromthere.

“That was a bad break,” Skovron said.

Fowler hit his drive on the par-4 sixth hole in the wa­ter. Af­ter his drop, he layed up, hit his fourth shot 23 feet from the hole and two-putted for a dou­ble bo­gey.

Although it might have looked like the pres­sure­was get­ting to the crowd fa­vorite, Fowler said some his shots were off just a lit­tle but were af­fected by the winds of 15-20 mph.

“Some of the bad shots or bad swings are just so ex­ag­ger­ated by the wind, they may look a lot worse than what it was,” Fowler said. “This golf course without wind only gives you a lit­tle bit of wig­gle room. Once there is wind and it starts to play a lot tougher, if you miss your win­dow just by a de­gree, it seems like ‘good luck.’

“So you’ve got to be pretty on point. And luck­ily, I was enough but there were def­i­nitely some ar­eas thatwere a lit­tle off. It could have been a lit­tle more of a sim­pler round, but we de­cided to throw­some bo­geys and a dou­ble in there.”

Two over for his front nine, Fowler made birdie putts of 38 feet on 12 and 23 feet on 13. An­other birdie at 16 af­ter hit­ting his ap­proach to three feet got him to 14 un­der.

“The put­ter saved me at times and gave me that cush­ion I needed on 12 and 13. And I made a great swing on16,” Fowler said.

MIKE EHRMANN/GETTY IM­AGES

Rickie Fowler says he would have liked a cleaner card on Sun­day. He had five birdies, four bo­geys and a dou­ble bo­gey and still won by four shots.

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