Bubba Watson does not want rain on his parade
PACIFIC PALISADES -- Given that he's won two of the last three PGA Tour events at Riviera Country Club and the one a year ago came after passing a kidney stone, Bubba Watson might seem to be able to just will his way through pretty much anything.
Of course, he can only control so many things. Including whether or not the weather wants to rain on his parade.
"I'm not a history buff, but I've never played good in the rain," Watson said after Wednesday's Genesis Open Pro-Am, where his group that included actor Mark Wahlberg had the low score in sunny, almost perfect conditions.
"It always frustrates me. Just the water dripping and stuff and keeping my mind at ease. But hopefully it rains enough, or it thunders enough, where we can postpone it to the next day ... But I've never won a golf tournament where it rained all the time, so it will be a tough test for me as well."
The latest weather forecast issued by PGA Tour officials optimistically calls for only a 90 percent chance of rain Friday with winds up to 30 mph and temperatures in the high 50s. The National Weather Service shows a strong low pressure system arriving after Thursday's opening round with 2 to 4 inches of rain possible. Flash flood warnings are in effect from 7 a.m. Friday to 11 a.m. Saturday.
As the system pulls away, there are scattered showers predicted for Saturday and drier conditions Sunday, but both days are listed at 60 percent chance of some wetness.
When Watson meets up with Jordan Spieth and 2012 Riviera winner Bill Haas for a 12:12 p.m. start from the first tee Thursday, the morning fog should have burned off, but cloudy skies are supposed to remain.
Some rain history: Last year there was only a little of it during Thursday's first round with sunny and pleasant conditions the last three days. In 2014, while the state was in drought conditions, the sun blazed all four days for Watson's triumph, accentuated with two rounds of 64 on Saturday and Sunday, overcoming a four-shot deficit to win by two.
Even if history isn't Watson's expertise, there is enough of it on his side.
Making his 11th consecutive start at Riviera, he's had six Top 20 finishes out of 10, racking up more than $2.8 million in winnings.
Yet having banked $35 million in career earnings, two Masters titles and a current No. 15 world ranking, he isn't coming into this event on any hot streak.
He has played only three times on the Tour this season, logging 10 rounds and ranking 158th in the FedEx Cup standings. Two weeks ago, he missed the cut in Phoenix. He tied for 25th at the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua in January. Since winning the then-called Northern Trust Open at Riviera last year, he has only two Top 10 finishes on the tour, plus a tie for eighth at the 2016 Olympics.
Left to his own devices, the 38-year-old left-hander otherwise has many things figured out, including the confidence that a course like Riviera, as well as Augusta National, causes him to raise the level of his game.
"I just get pumped up for tough courses ... old traditional golf courses," he said. "Looking at the history that a golf course has, not changing the tee boxes, not changing the greens or complexity of the course. This course has a lot of history and Augusta has a lot of history and you get to see it year after year."
Watson even noted that when you walk around Riviera, there are new displays that show the course history back when it had horse stables, but they always have similar photos of the first tee box that launches into a fairway that starts the trip into the ravine.
"You just have to be careful or the spectators will be in your backswing right there if they don't scoot the tees up far enough," he said.
And there's the 10th hole, which Watson isn't afraid to call "the most demanding par 4 I've ever played in my life. It doesn't matter if it's 500 yards or it's 200 yards. Demanding is the nicest way I can say it. There are a lot of other words I can think of, but I probably shouldn't say them."
That 315-yard hole with the tiny green and array of tilted bunkers gave Watson fits last year during his title run. He played the 10th hole one-over par for the four rounds.
"The first year I won here, I laid up (on the 10th hole) on Sunday," he said. "I think I had about 80 yards, give or take. Perfect lob wedge. But the green gets so firm, and the back pin, you land it on the green but it can bounce over the green because it slopes away."
He can recall each stroke he took and ending up with a par-4. The first round of that 2014 event, he shot a double-bogey 6. In the third round, he had a birdie-3.
"Those demanding shots, that's almost impossible," he said. "I got lucky. But that's how you win a golf tournament, right?"
Sure, if you're looking at the sunny side of things.
This article is written by Tom Hoffarth from Los Angeles Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network.