Bubba Watson spends time at City of Hope before Northern Trust Open
Bubba Watson loves L.A.
It's true, the small town Southern boy out of Bagdad, Fla., is transfixed by the City of Angels. Wednesday afternoon, the seven-time PGA Tour winner was at the City of Hope, professing his love for everything Los Angeles.
He loves the Clippers and his buddy Chris Paul; he loves the church in Beverly Hills that he and his wife, Angie, donate to; he loves that the weather is perfect for golf every day; and Watson especially loves Riviera Country Club, the site of the Northern Trust Open and where he will attempt to defend that title next week.
Watson won last year's tournament in dramatic fashion on the iconic 18th hole before going on to win a second green jacket at The Masters a few short months later. It was a career year for Watson. Now, off to his hottest start yet, he's hoping for some more 18th-hole magic.
"Riviera is a very tough golf course and they haven't changed it very much," Watson said. "I come here every year because I love it. It's a golf course that they haven't really tweaked."
The classic layout of one of the most classic courses on Tour is what brings Watson back to Riviera each season. He's played in the event eight times and netted over $1.5 million in the area's marquee event. Last season, he barely made the cut but recovered to go 64-64 with two bogey-free rounds on the weekend to claim the title.
The key is putting on the bent grass greens that bake in the afternoon sun. It's no easy task, but that's what he likes about it.
"We always want the smooth bent grass, this is a little bit bumpy and gets a little bit spongey," he said. "Last year, when I played on the weekend, I didn't miss a putt inside eight feet, which is rare."
While putting is the challenge of Riviera, the charm is the course itself. The country club has kept nearly the same layout since the historic course was built in 1926.
"We're the only sport that keeps changing our grasses and our holes, but why?" he said. "If the guys are great, you're not going to change it. You're not going to make 12-foot rims because LeBron James jumps higher than everybody else or even tell LeBron that he can't jump. Let's just let the pros show their skills, and Riviera has done that."
There's some new things going on this season at the Northern Trust Open. Tournament director O.D. Vincent, the former UCLA golf coach, wanted to respect the tradition of the longstanding event while also aiming to draw some new fans by providing more of an L.A. experience. New events include an O.A.R. concert and food trucks and proceeds will benefit the City of Hope, the tournament's partner charity.
Watson himself will have a sandwich named after him - the "Bubba Melt" - that he chose Wednesday. Three children who have received treatment from the City of Hope competed in a Grill Off and Watson chose the winner. A 10-year-old leukemia patient from San Dimas, Karah Casas, made the winning sandwich.
Despite Watson's distaste for tomatoes, he plans to indulge in a few more Bubba Melts next week. After all, it's for a good cause.
"It's an honor to be a part of this and getting to eat grilled cheese is nice," he said. "To be associated with the grilled cheese cook off, how special is that? It's something that I love and they timed it well."
Since 1926, there have only been 15 players to repeat as champions at Riviera. If anyone is going to do it this year, it might as well be the guy who loves L.A.
"A golf course that I love, a community that I love - it was a privilege and an honor to win it," he said. "There are so many great things happening in this city. When you look at it as a whole, it's just a fun place to be. There's many different cultures here, many different food types and every time you turn around there's always a cool car driving past."