Bubba Watson will head to Augusta National as a strong contender for a third Masters title after thrashing Kevin Kisner 7&6 to win the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
After preventing Justin Thomas becoming world number one with a 3&2 victory over the US PGA champion in the semi-finals, Watson took ruthless advantage of a poor performance from Kisner to cruise to a second World Golf Championships title.
Kisner looked to be feeling the effects of needing 19 holes to beat Alex Noren in the other semi-final and bogeyed four holes in succession at Austin Country Club after Watson won the first with a birdie.
It took Watson missing from four feet for birdie on the sixth to stop the rot and until the 11th for Kisner to win a hole with a long-range birdie, but Watson’s birdie on the par-five 12th secured a comprehensive success.
Watson, who won the Masters in 2010 and 2012, told the Golf Channel: “It was one of those things. I got off to a hot start and just focused on golf.
“There were about four or five shots for the week where I wasn’t committed and kind of blanked out so that’s pretty good over 100 and something holes.”
Thomas admitted the chance to become world number one had played heavily on his mind during his semi-final defeat to Watson.
With defending champion Dustin Johnson crashing out in the group stages, Thomas needed to reach the final to end Johnson’s 58-week reign and become the 21st number one since rankings began in 1986.
However, Watson fired two birdies and an eagle in the first six holes and although Thomas battled back to one down at the turn, Watson birdied the 10th and was gifted the 12th when Thomas found water with his approach.
“I haven’t had such a hard time not thinking about something so much,” Thomas said in quotes reported by the Golf Channel. “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.”
In the other semi-final, Noren bogeyed the first after a poor drive and although he birdied five holes in succession from the third, that was only good enough to get back on level terms in a high-quality contest.
A par on the eighth took Noren in front for the first time, but Kisner holed from 50 feet for an eagle to win the 12th and the players could not be separated in regulation play.
The pair returned to the par-five 12th for sudden-death and when Noren three-putted from the front edge of the green, Kisner was left to hole from five feet for a decisive birdie.
“It’s terrible,” Noren told the European Tour. “I had so many chances, especially from nine forward. But it’s tricky with the putting here, it slopes a lot. That’s it.
“I felt pretty good but it was tough to read the lines right and you start to doubt the lines. I had a good opportunity on the last but it slipped away. That’s how it goes sometimes.”
Noren at least had the consolation of winning the play-off for third place, beating Thomas 5&3.