Bubba Watson swims ahead at Hope Classic
LA QUINTA, Calif. – Bubba Watson loves a little rain on his game. With his mammoth drives sticking to fairways instead of bounding across them, he had the best round of his pro career to take the Bob Hope Classic lead.
Watson shot a course-record 10-under 62 on Friday to take a two-stroke lead over Alex Prugh after the second round, which began and ended in the driving storm that washed out Thursday’s play and pushed the final round to Monday.
But there were just enough hours in between squalls for a SilverRock course record by Watson, who’s trying to show there’s more to his game than his jaw-dropping work off the tee.
“I didn’t expect it to be that wet,” Watson said. “I didn’t come out of my house yesterday, so I didn’t know what it was. It was really wet.”
The Palm Springs area, which typically gets about 5 inches of rain a year, has been pounded by 3.3 inches already this week. Although it’s expected to clear on the weekend before returning Monday, the storm has wreaked havoc on the PGA Tour’s only five-round, four-course tournament – but some players handle it better than others.
Prugh, no stranger to rain from his college career at the University of Washington, followed his opening 64 with a bogey-free 66 on the Palmer Course at PGA West. First-round leader Shane Bertsch (69) was at 13 under with Joe Ogilvie (66), Chad Collins (64) and Martin Flores (65).
Watson passed off his Thursday by filming videos for Twitter of himself hitting balls out the door of his rental house – but the prolific tweeter had no trouble getting back to business.
Watson still hasn’t won on the PGA Tour, but he showed off an improved putting stroke and capitalized on wet fairways at the four-course tournament’s longest venue for a 29 on the front nine, including an eagle on the fifth hole when he drove the green from 335 yards and made a 7-foot putt.
Watson, who led the tour in eagles and was second in driving distance last year, was at 16-under 128 after taking on the tournament’s two toughest courses in his first two rounds.
“My length is definitely going to play a part on that golf course, because it’s got wide fairways,” Watson said. “I can rip it if I want to. The par 5s are reachable, unless you get a day like today. … It’s different (in the rain). It’s going to be hard for everybody, but I putted well today. That was my key. I hit a lot of good shots, but I putted well.”
After a morning delay to avoid the worst of Friday’s storm, the early starters played through the rain before it largely stopped an hour later. Their iron shots still produced large sprays of water from the fairways throughout the round.
In such marshy conditions, the rest of the players could see reasons for Watson’s success.
“The wet weather just totally plays into his favor, because his ball’s not going to get out of control when it hits the ground,” Bertsch said. “He can just fly it his 330 (yards), and plug it and lift it, clean it, and hit wedges into every hole. It doesn’t surprise me one bit.”
The rain hasn’t been quite so kind to Watson’s wife, Angie. Her Friday round with actor Kevin Nealon in the pro-am portion of the Hope Classic was canceled when the amateurs were scratched in an effort to get the round in between the raindrops.
“She would rather her play and not me,” said Watson, who got his wife into the field as a fifth-anniversary present of sorts.
Angie Watson is a former Georgia basketball player who’s even taller than her 6-foot-3 husband. She’s a 4 handicap after six years of serious play.
Bubba Watson finished fifth at the 2007 U.S. Open in Oakmont, but he’s best known for his freakishly long drives and his even more prodigious tweeting abilities. Watson attempts to answer every tweet sent to him, and he posts links to videos of everything from his swing to his rendition of “Happy Birthday” to talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres.
In the morning hours before Friday’s round, he tweeted 112 responses to fans – albeit most of the one-word variety.
While Watson played indoor golf Thursday, Prugh waited out the rain by going to see “The Book of Eli” with another pro.
“I think the biggest factor was having to control your wedge shots,” Prugh said. “Water-wise, there wasn’t any trouble, no casual water that I found. There might be (Friday night), with all this downpour that we’re getting.”