Honda Classic has awinner
Rickie Fowler claims four-shot victory.
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.
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.