WGC Match Play 2018 scores: Bubba Watson crushes Kevin Kisner for second win of 2018
Watson also kept Justin Thomas from becoming the No. 1 player in the world
Bubba Waston won the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play 7 and 6 over Kevin Kisner for the second WGC title of his career and his second win on the PGA Tour this season. After beating up on Justin Thomas in the semifinal match and keeping him from the No. 1 ranking in the world, Watson annihilated Kisner in the afternoon for the 11th win of his career.
Kisner did him all the favors, too. After making birdie at the first to go 1 up, Watson also took five of the next six holes, all on Kisner bogeys. Watson was 6 up after 7 and victory was not a matter of "if" but "when." That moment eventually came on the 12th hole after Watson birdied the par 5 for just his third birdie of the afternoon. It was plenty to end the match well early and for Watson to become just the fifth player with multiple majors and WGC titles (Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are the others).
"I just got off to a hot start," an emotional Watson told Steve Sands of NBC. "I was so focused on golf, so focused on committing to the shots."
The semifinal showing from Watson might have been even more impressive than the final. Watson made four birdies and an eagle in 16 holes to keep Thomas from becoming the No. 1 player in the world with a victory. Thomas only needed to defeat Watson to become the 21st player to ever reach No. 1 in the world.
"I didn't play well today," Thomas said. "I had a really hard time getting focused and being worried about my match as opposed to things that can happen and thinking about potentially this afternoon. But I just didn't play well and Bubba played really well.
"I haven't had such a hard time not thinking about something so much," Thomas said regarding potentially getting to No. 1. "And that really sucked. I couldn't stop thinking about it, to be perfectly honest. And I think you're constantly getting questions about it with the media. But I need to be mentally stronger than that, and understand that it's just a match."
Watson,, instead took home one of the 10 biggest events of the PGA Tour season and has solidified himself as one of the handful of Masters favorites. Where exactly you slot him depends on how you feel about his streakiness, but it's tough to deny what he's done so far this season. Watson has three top 10s in his last four tournaments, including wins at the Genesis Open and here at the Match Play.
His Masters odds -- currently 16-1 in some places -- might be a steal given how he's shaping the ball right now and the two green jackets he already has hanging in the closet. The flip side of that is that Watson only has four top 10s ever at major championships. So the question is whether he'll contend. But as we've seen this week, if he does, he's likely to capitalize.
Here are the rest of our grades for the WGC-Match Play.
Rory McIlroy (Pool play loss): Following his thrilling victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, McIlroy ran out of steam in his Friday match against Brian Harman (which McIlroy needed to win to advance). Still, he finished first in strokes gained off the tee and second in strokes gained tee to green. His Masters prep (which is all really that matters right now) is fully complete.
"It was tiring," McIlroy said of the turnaround. "And obviously going from winning on Sunday to traveling on Monday, and getting an early practice on Tuesday to play on Wednesday, didn't have a lot of time to sort of recharge the batteries. I feel like my game is in good shape." Grade: B
Dustin Johnson (Pool play loss): Johnson got pummeled in all three matches he played -- 4 and 3, 4 and 3 and 3 and 1 -- and to exacerbate concerns, he finished last (last!) in the field in strokes gained from tee to green over the three days he played in Austin. Dustin Johnson! Even crazier is that he finished 63rd (of 64) in strokes gained off the tee. And that was with this 489-yard drive on Friday. I'm not hitting the panic button by any means, but this was definitely an eyebrow-raiser. Grade: C-
Justin Thomas (loss in semis): Thomas failed in his bid for No. 1, but there will be other opportunities (like, say, the Masters in two weeks). After coming in on Monday not sure he was going to compete at all because of a wisdom teeth surgery and strep throat issue, Thomas was lights out over the first four days. He faltered against Watson and Alex Noren on Sunday, but like McIlroy, I've seen everything I need from him to be confident about his Masters chances. Grade: A
Jordan Spieth (Pool play loss): Spieth was all right over the first two days, but he sort of sneaked by Haotong Li and Charl Schwartzel without his best stuff. Then he ran into his Ryder Cup playing partner Patrick Reed on the third day and lost. The big concern for Spieth is that he's seemingly still lost with the putter. Maybe he figures that out next week in Houston, but it's a concern when you're No. 62 in a field of 64 in putting, and that has been your primary issue throughout the season so far. What might be an even bigger concern? He wasn't much better from tee to green as he finished 41st in that category. There is much work to do for Spieth before Augusta National. Grade: B-
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