Watson denies Thomas, then storms to Match Play title

Rory McIlroy

Watson caught him on a day when Thomas couldn't buy a putt, and Watson made his share of them in a 3-and-2 victory that sent him into a championship match that wasn't much of a contest.

Since his last Masters victory in 2014, Watson has largely been a nonfactor on the final day.

He wasn't ideal at Austin Country Club, admitting that throughout the course of the week he only lost focus about four or five times, most notably on the par-4 13 hole in his semifinal match against Thomas.

And now Thomas is one match away from reaching No. 1 in the world and having a shot at his first World Golf Championships title.

World number 39 Watson defeated Kevin Kisner 7&6 in the final.

Watson's dominant win against Kevin Kisner set him up as one of the favorites at Augusta next week, something the lanky left-hander could barely dream about growing up in Bagdad, Florida.

"I think my mentality fits the format well but I hadn't been playing well coming into it, so I did a lot of prep this week and starting to see some results out here". "I also have confidence because I can hit all the shots I want to".

Noren beat Thomas 5&3 in the match for third place. "It's one of those things, I got off to a hot start and I'm just focused on golf", he said.

Watson, despite his victory at the Los Angeles tour stop at Riviera in February, remained out of the limelight over the ensuing month as the focus turned to the comeback of Tiger Woods, and victories by Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy. 'We'd booked to fly on Sunday because it was cheaper, ' said the man who's made just short of $40 million on the PGA Tour, probably at least that amount in endorsements, and added another $1.8 million.

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Watson made all the key putts in a battle of Georgia southpaws when he beat Brian Harman in the morning, and then he turned a tight match into a runaway against Kiradech Aphibarnrat by winning five of six holes on the back nine for a 5-and-3 victory. But she wasn't going to let me sit around looking for pity. It is debatable, however, whether Kisner at his best would have been able to live with this inspired Watson performance.

Thomas, who won his first major at last year's PGA Championship, was chasing his fifth title in eight months and would have overtaken American Dustin Johnson atop Monday's world rankings had he reached the final.

Watson played 109 holes over seven matches, going to the 18th hole just once when he halved his match with Julian Suri on Friday.

The 34-year-old Garnett, a two-time victor last year on the Web.com Tour, finished at 18-under 270.

This win, surprisingly, was the first for Bubba at the Match Play.

"I didn't mess up and I threw a few birdies in there and that's how it got that way", he said. Ji hit all 18 greens in regulation and all but one fairway - the drivable par-4 16th.

"It's insane to think about it, " Watson said. "Or I could be struggling to make cuts on the PGA Tour".

Through it all, he said he wasn't committed to only four or five shots.

Naturally, the emotional Watson started blubbering at the end as he hugged his mother, Molly.

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