DORAL (AP/CBSMiami) – Justin Rose closed with a 2-under 70 Sunday to win the Cadillac Championship at Doral, after a dramatic departure by Tiger Woods in the middle of the round due to a leg injury that could leave his appearance at The Masters questionable.
The biggest charge against Rose’s eventual victory came from Rory McIlroy, eight shots behind until he crept within one of the lead late in the round.
The early departure came from Tiger Woods, who muddied his Masters future by limping off the course after 11 holes with soreness in the left Achilles tendon, the one that caused him to miss two majors last year.
Bubba Watson went from a collapse on the front nine, when he lost his three-shot lead in four holes, to a clutch shot on the final hole when he hit a bullet of a 4-iron out of the palm trees to 9 feet from the cup that put one last scare into Rose.
All that drama, and Rose didn’t realize he had won until he was on the practice range and heard nothing.
Watson missed the birdie putt.
Rose closed with a 2-under 70, a score he didn’t think would be nearly good enough to win. Ultimately, all he knew about — or cared about — was winning the Cadillac Championship.
“I’ve been very focused on seeing this whole Florida Swing as like a body of work, and not really trying to put too much focus on any individual tournament,” he said. “I kind of knew I was playing well, and if I just kept out of my own way for the most part and kept thinking well and doing the right things, I had a feeling something good might happen.
“For this little beauty to show up on my mantle place so early in the season,” he said, pointed to the blue trophy beside him, “definitely a fantastic feeling. It sets up a very exciting year.”
It was a day of endless drama at Doral.
Sergio Garcia hit four balls into the water at the par-4 third hole and made a 12. Paul Casey made a hole-in-one on the 13th hole. Rose had to make up a three-shot deficit on Watson at the start of the round, and when he made the turn, he found himself two shots behind PGA champion Keegan Bradley, who then shot 41 on the back nine.
Through so much commotion, Rose never felt steadier.
He seized control with a 52-degree wedge that settled 5 feet away from the hole for a birdie on the 14th that gave him a two-shot lead. He closed with a bogey from the back bunker on the 18th, but not before watching his sand shot roll off the green and trickle toward the water, though never in serious danger of going in.
“It was all about controlling what I could control,” said Rose, who finished on 16-under 272 and earned $1.4 million. “I kind of knew I got into the lead — it’s hard to ignore it out there. And from there, I knew it was just a matter of closing it out.”
Watson didn’t hit a fairway on the front nine and did well to shoot 39. He bounced back with birdies, and gave himself an unlikely chance at a playoff with a remarkable shot, one of many he hit at Doral this week.
“That’s the kind of thing Bubba does,” Rose said. “He can look out of position on a hole and just hit sort of a miraculous shot.”
For Woods, his future is a mystery.
“I felt tightness in my left Achilles warming up this morning, and it continued to get progressively worse,” Woods said in a statement. “After hitting my tee shot at 12, I decided it was necessary to withdraw. In the past, I may have tried to continue to play, but this time, I decided to do what I thought was necessary.”
This is the same Achilles tendon he injured a year ago at the Masters while hitting a shot from under Eisenhower’s tree on the 17th hole of the third round. It wound up forcing Woods to miss three months and two majors.
This time, he was lifting his left leg and flexing his angle, even after changing his shoes at the turn. The limp became more pronounced until he blasted his tee shot on the 12th, shook hands with Webb Simpson and rode off in a cart.
Woods said he would have it evaluated to determine the scope of the injury.
NBC Sports showed images of Woods behind the wheel in a black sedan as he drove away from Doral. It returned to golf just as McIlroy holed a bunker shot for eagle on the 12th hole.
McIlroy pulled within one shot of the lead with a birdie on the 16th hole, but he closed with a bogey and a 67 to finish alone in third.
It was a day that left little doubt about McIlroy’s spot atop the world ranking. Just like Woods in previous years, McIlroy showed he could never be counted out with an array of splendid shots — most of them from precarious spots in the bunker — and threatened to win.
Rose was oblivious to all this.
He opened with two birdies through four holes, which was enough to catch Watson, who looked out of sorts all day.
Watson didn’t hit a fairway on the front nine, and only one tee shot managed to stay inside the bunkers that frame the fairways. He was in the water twice, once in a canal on the fifth hole that not many knew were there. He shot a 39 on the front nine, which included three putts outside 8 feet to limit the damage.
It was like watching NASCAR. Watson would have looked more comfortable in his General Lee stock car he recently bought.
What was he thinking?
“I’m thinking I’m not playing very good,” Watson said.
Still, he showed remarkable resiliency to give himself a chance at the end.
Watson wasn’t the only player who faltered. Bradley opened with an eagle, tied for the lead with a wedge into 3 feet for birdie on the fifth, then rolled in a 12-foot birdie at No. 7 that gave him a two-shot lead.
Bradley came undone with bogeys on the par 5s, even though he was around the green with his second shot on both of them. On No. 8, his ball buried so deep in the grass behind the green — he called for a ruling to see if it had plugged — that he purposely played 20 feet away from the flag, knowing it would roll off the green. He failed to get up-and-down.
Then, he three-putted from about 6 feet on the par-5 10th, turning a birdie chance into bogey.
“I didn’t play that bad,” Bradley said. “Just some really strange putts, and then I just kind of limped in.”