DORAL, Fla. — Justin Rose expected a moment like this, posing on the 18th green of the famed Blue Monster at Doral with a World Golf Championship trophy in his hands. It’s the rest of the script that made Sunday so surprising.
The biggest charge 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-par 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 so early in the season,” he said, pointing to the blue trophy beside him, “(it’s) 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 wedge that settled 5 feet away from the hole for a birdie on the 14th and 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 at 16-under 272 and made $1.4 million.
Woods’ future, however, 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.
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.