LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Rickie Fowler survived a nervy back nine on Sunday to shoot a three-over 74 and outduel Branden Grace down the stretch to win the Phoenix Open for his fifth US PGA Tour title.
Fowler closed with the highest score by a winner in tournament history but he still managed to banish some demons at the TPC Scottsdale.
He held the 54-hole lead here twice before, including last year when he finished in a tie for 11th.
‘‘I had to dig deep and fight through. It wasn’t easy out there,’’ said Fowler. ‘‘I am happy to get this one out of the way.
‘‘It has been long time to get a win here. There have been plenty of good finishes, but too many second-place finishes.’’
His 17-under 267 total was good enough to win by two strokes over South Africa’s Grace, who briefly held the lead on Sunday but then lost it with a bogey on 17.
Grace fired his second straight two-under 69 to finish alone in second.
American Justin Thomas was third after a one-over 72 for a 14-under total to finish three strokes back of his roommate this week Fowler.
Matt Kuchar (75), Bubba Watson (71) and Chez Reavie (68) finished tied for fourth at 12-under.
This is the PGA Tour’s lone stop in Arizona and the only event on the annual West Coast Swing that’s held outside of California.
For a while, it appeared the tournament might even be heading for a playoff for a fourth straight year as both Fowler and Grace found sand and water on the back nine.
Playing in a driving rain, Fowler had to survive a triple bogey on the par-four 11th hole.
He chipped his third shot into the water. After his penalty drop, his ball rolled back into the water resulting in another penalty stroke. He would eventually sink a 16-foot putt for a seven.
Determined not to let another title slip through his fingers, Fowler re-captured the lead with a nice approach shot and then a two-putt birdie on 17.
On the final hole, Fowler hit his third shot to three feet and then tapped in the winner for his first victory since the 2017 Honda Classic.
‘‘It wasn’t fun,’’ said Fowler. ‘‘I had a couple of bad breaks. I just had to roll with the punches.’’