WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Neither Bubba Watson or Phil Mickelson factored into Sunday’s final-round chase, though both took away positives from the Greenbrier Classic.
Mickelson turned in his best round of the week, a 64 featuring five back-nine birdies and a 9-iron tee shot within 4 feet of the hole on the par-3 18th. He finished 6-under in his first event with brother Tim on the bag after a much-discussed split with caddie Bones Mackay.
“It’s nice to get a little bit of momentum and to finally shoot a number I feel like I’ve been playing well enough to shoot,” said Mickelson, before heading to Royal Birkdale a week early for the British Open.
“It was really an impressive week from the standpoint of getting this golf course ready in less than a year, and the way the community pulled together to pull this event off.”
Watson, a homeowner at the resort since 2012, shot 72 and finished 3-over but dismissed feeling any pressure to play well after last year’s deadly flooding.
“No, I love this place. I’m an ambassador for this place. I want to help,” he said.
“You’ve got to remember, these golf tournaments are all charity events. Evey week we go to a tournament we’re always wearing a different hat, and I think sometimes we forget that there is a hat that’s called a a golfer. But really, we’re there for more than that.”
Amid experimenting with Ping’s new G400 driver, Watson said he went “back to the old stuff” — referencing the G model. His averaged 306 yards off the tee with a driving accuracy of 53 percent.
“It’s just one of those things where you’ve got to do it because the company has asked,” Watson said. “I’m not saying that’s an excuse, but you’ve got keep grinding and hopefully you find something and something clicks.”
Chilean amateur fires 64
Joaquin Niemann, the 18-year-old phenom from Chile, matched Mickelson and Ryan Blaum for Sunday’s best round.
The world’s top-ranked amateur closed the Classic at 5-under, sabotaged only by Saturday’s disastrous three-hole stretch of a bogey sandwiched between two doubles.
Four shots back entering Sunday, Davis Love III opened with back-to-back bogeys and tumbled from contention. A 75 dropped him to 5-over for the tournament.
At 53 years old, Love was challenging Greenbrier legend Sam Snead’s title of the oldest player to win a PGA event.
“I just missed a bunch of fairways and then didn’t make any putts, so it was disappointing,” Love said.
Still no repeat winner
Defending champ Danny Lee finished 9-under after a final-day 69, continuing the Greenbrier’s streak of no repeat winners.
“I gave it a try,” Lee said. “My putting was very cold yesterday and today. If I just make half of the chances that I had, I would be up there pretty good.”