Magical Watson moves one ahead at sunny Riviera

Sat Feb 20, 2016 7:23pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Former champion Bubba Watson birdied three of the last eight holes, and conjured a brilliant up-and-down on 18, to edge one stroke clear of a congested leaderboard in the Northern Trust Open third round on Saturday.

The American left-hander used his booming length off the tee and his creativity around the greens to good advantage as he fired a four-under-par 67 at a sun-splashed Riviera Country Club, a venue he has always relished playing.

Champion here in 2014, Watson mixed five birdies with a lone bogey on a firm and fast-running layout to post a 12-under total of 201, one better than fellow Americans Dustin Johnson (68), Chez Reavie (69) and Jason Kokrak (70), the overnight leader.

Rory McIlroy (67) was a further stroke back at 10-under, level with Australians Adam Scott (67) and Marc Leishman (68), South Korean KJ Choi (67) and American Kevin Chappell (66), to set up the prospect of a thrilling shootout in Sunday's final round.

"We all feel good about our chances, even the guy that's five (shots) back," twice Masters champion Watson told reporters after covering his back nine in three-under 33.

"I'm going to go out and try to do the same thing, keep my head down ... slow it down and hopefully it works out with one or two pars and one or two birdies giving me the victory."

Watson seized the outright lead with birdies at the 11th, 13th and 17th and maintained it with a clutch up-and-down at the par-four last.

After missing the fairway off the tee, his second shot ended up under an electronic scoreboard below the green to the right from where he hit a superb lob wedge to within three feet of the pin.   Continued...

February 20, 2016; Pacific Palisades, CA, USA; Bubba Watson hits from the second hole tee during the third round of the Northern Trust Open golf tournament at Riviera Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports