By Tom Gaffney
Beacon Journal sports writer
It will always be considered one of the most adventuresome pars ever on the South Course at Firestone Country Club.
For those who saw it and lived it, ''the Monster'' was transformed into ''the Bouquet'' for a brief time.
Hunter Mahan survived a harrowing experience on Firestone's famed and ferocious 16th hole on Sunday to win the Bridgestone Invitational by 2 shots.
Mahan, 28, of Colleyville, Texas, saved his best for last with a final round of 6-under 64 that gave him a 72-hole score of 12-under 268. Ryan Palmer fired a 1-under 69 to finish second at 10-under 270.
The victory in the World Golf Championships tournament was the biggest of Mahan's life and netted him the first prize of $1.4 million.
''To win any time on the PGA Tour is great, but an event like this, 80 of the best players in the world, it's something special,'' said Mahan, who now has three tour titles. ''This is a great, great tournament. Bridgestone does an incredible job. The course is immaculate. Every time we come here, it's like a major.
''All the players all over the world come here to play. It's definitely the best win of my career, for sure.''
Without question, the key moment for him Sunday came on No. 16, a challenging par-5 hole of 602 yards (the tee was moved up from the normal 667 yards) that has proved pivotal in past tournaments and has sunk many a championship dream.
Mahan had a 2-shot lead when he came to the hole known as ''the Monster'' and hit a perfect drive that traveled 375 yards.
The adventure began on his approach shot when cries of ''fore,'' ''coming right'' and ''look out'' could be heard from the gallery.
The 5-wood shot was far right of the green, brushed a fan, bounced once on the cart path and came to rest in a flower bed behind one of the grandstands.
As fans and officials milled around wondering what the ruling would be, Mahan made the long walk to the area not knowing what to expect.
''One of the TV guys said it was in a bush, in a flower bed. I was thinking, 'Where the heck is a flower bed up there' because I had no idea,'' he said.
Mahan eventually saw his unplayable ball buried in the flowers. The official ruling was favorable in that the flower bed was an obstruction because it is considered part of the cart path.
He took a drop between the two grandstands and chipped just over the green, 60 feet from the pin. He then used his putter to get the ball to two feet and made the par putt.
''I pushed it, probably a little bit of adrenaline and I just flew it and it went into that bush,'' Mahan said about his second shot. ''It was a pretty easy drop, and I got out of there with a 5.''
Mahan parred the final two holes to become the clubhouse leader and then waited while none of the other contenders was able to overtake him.
''Yeah, it feels good,'' said Mahan, who had rounds of 71, 67, 66 and 64. ''I got better each day and then came out today and I thought I had a good round in me.''
Mahan began the final round in a tie for seventh place, 5 shots behind co-leaders Palmer and Sean O'Hair.
He moved into the lead with a 5-under 30 on the front side that saw him make five birdies, highlighted by putts of 22 feet on No. 3, 16 feet on No. 5 and 22 feet on No. 8.
He protected the lead on the back nine with eight pars and one birdie (on No. 11) for a 34. The 64 was the lowest final-round score by a winner in tournament history.
Mahan is just starting to realize his potential as a pro after winning the Class 5A high school state championship in Texas, winning the United States Junior Amateur and being a two-time All-American at Oklahoma State.
He joining the PGA Tour in 2003 and got his first victory in the Travelers Championship in 2007. He also was a member of the Presidents Cup team in 2007 and the Ryder Cup team in 2008. He got his second title by winning the Phoenix Open in 2010.
Now, with this victory, he is second in Ryder Cup points and appears a lock to be a member of the U.S. team again.
''I felt my game was good enough to make it . . . and that was a goal of mine this year,'' Mahan said.
Palmer, 33, also of Colleyville, Texas, hurt himself with bogeys on Nos. 2 and 9, but got back in contention with birdies on Nos. 10 and 11. But he could never make up ground by settling for pars on the final seven holes.
''I played good today, being under the gun like I was,'' said Palmer, who earned $850,000 for second. ''You have to hand it to Hunter Mahan. He went out and did what I expected somebody to do and shoot a low round. I didn't lose the golf tournament. I'm proud of that.''
Retief Goosen of South Africa and Bo Van Pelt of Tulsa, Okla., tied for third at 9-under 271.
Phil Mickelson, who could have become No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings with a victory, shot an 8-over 78 to tie for 46th. He was a contender heading into the final round, but dropped out of sight with a 41 on the front, marred by a double bogey and four bogeys.
Defending champion Tiger Woods, who remained No. 1 in the world, had the worst performance of his Firestone career with a final-round 77 that left him in a tie for 78th in the field of 80 at 18-over 298.