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Haas sinks monster putt to win play-off
(Reuters) / 20 February 2012
Bill Haas clinched his fourth PGA Tour title by beating fellow Americans Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in a gripping sudden-death playoff at the Northern Trust Open on Sunday.
The 29-year-old Haas sank a curling 43-foot birdie putt at the second extra hole, the driveable par-four 10th, to seal victory in breezy afternoon sunshine at Riviera Country Club.
“I never expected to make a 40-footer, and especially in that situation,” a beaming Haas told reporters after clinching the winner’s cheque for nearly $1.2 million.
“That was a little bit of luck involved, but I felt like I put a good roll on it. It was meant to be, I guess.”
Mickelson, seeking a second consecutive PGA Tour win, missed his birdie chance from the back right bunker while Bradley’s attempt, a 15-foot putt from the fringe, slipped past the right edge of the cup.
Bradley, winner of last year’s PGA Championship, had set up his birdie opportunity by splashing out of the front right greenside bunker, a shot he described as his best all week.
“I couldn’t have hit a better shot,” said Bradley. “I had about a 15 percent chance of keeping that on grass where I could putt it. It was one of the best shots I’ve ever hit.
“But Bill Haas, you’ve got to give him a lot of credit. It’s good to see a fellow belly putter make a putt like that. I’m happy for him.”
The trio had finished the 72 regulation holes on seven-under-par 277, Haas closing with a two-under 69 while Mickelson and Bradley each birdied the par-four last for matching 71s, Mickelson holing a 26-footer and Bradley following suit with a 13-footer.
Spaniard Sergio Garcia fired a best-of-the-week 64 that included two eagles to share fourth place at five-under with Americans Dustin Johnson (71) and Jimmy Walker (69), and Australian Jarrod Lyle (70).
Joint pacesetter overnight with Bradley, Mickelson began the final round by matching his playing partner with a one-putt birdie at the par-five first to remain in a two-way tie at the top.
However, Bradley bogeyed the second and fourth to slide backwards before Mickelson sank a four-footer to birdie the fifth and move two strokes clear of the pack at nine-under.
On a difficult day for scoring with Riviera’s notorious greens running firm, Mickelson then stumbled with bogeys at the eighth, where he missed the green to the left with his approach, and the ninth, where he found a bunker off the tee.
That put him a shot behind Haas, who had birdied the 10th to lead by one.
Haas, last year’s FedExCup champion, dropped back with consecutive bogeys from the 12th before Mickelson and Bradley regained a two-way share of the lead at eight-under when they birdied the par-five 11th.
Though Bradley faltered with a bogey at the 13th where he missed the green to the left with his approach, Mickelson joined him at seven-under after a three-putt bogey at the 14th.
Haas responded with a two-putt birdie at the par-five 17th and moments later found himself with the outright lead after Bradley and Mickelson each bogeyed the difficult par-four 15th.
However, Bradley and Mickelson, playing together in the final grouping, then sank their birdie putts on the 18th green amid thunderous cheers from the crowd to take the tournament into a playoff.
“I expected them to make it,” said Haas, who was hitting balls on the range while Mickelson and Bradley played the final hole in regulation. “I just said, ‘Gear up for a playoff here.’
“I just kind of grinded it out, was going to be happy with a four (on the second extra hole) and make them beat me. And it just so happens where it (the birdie putt) went in.”
British world number one Luke Donald, making his first appearance on the 2012 PGA Tour, closed with an eight-bogey 78 to share 56th place at seven over.
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