Tied with Patrick Cantlay as he played the 14th hole at Riviera Country Club, Bubba Watson stood 48 feet, 7 inches away from the hole and in the sand on the par 3. But then Watson did Bubba things, holing the bunker shot to grab a two-shot lead after Cantlay bogeyed. The club Watson used to hit that shot was a Ping Glide 2.0 TS (thin sole) 60-degree wedge (with an actual loft of 62.8 degrees) to catapult him into the lead, one he wouldn’t relinquish as he won the Genesis Open for the third time in five years.
After finishing the 2016-’17 season ranked 20th in driving distance at 305.8 yards – nearly five yards shorter than the previous year – Watson changed his ball and driver, switching to a Titleist Pro V1x ball and Ping’s G400 LST driver. Both moves were significant as Watson left Volvik after one year of what was originally termed a multiyear pact.
The driver change also was notable. The LST is Ping’s low-spin model, but Watson’s spin rate off the tee had gone up drastically, from 2,541 in 2015-’16 (about the tour average) to 2,918 in 2016-’17, ranking as the 11th highest on tour. Reducing spin off the tee would be key in regaining some of the distance he had lost. This year Watson’s spin rate has dropped about 200 rpms and his distance coming into Riviera was 313.3 yards, ranked 11th on tour.
Watson’s driver is truly unique to him, with an enormous grip that has 15 wraps of tape where he would place his bottom hand and 13 wraps on the top hand. Watson used the club to help secure the win with a 349-yard bomb off the par-5 17th that allowed him to hit the green with a 6-iron for an easy two-putt birdie.
Still, it was the wedge shot that won the tournament for Watson, his first US PGA Tour victory since winning the same event two years earlier.
The equipment Bubba Watson used to win the Genesis Open
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Driver: Ping G400 LST (True Temper Grafalloy BiMatrx), 8.5 degrees
Hybrid: Ping G, 19 degrees
Irons (2): Ping iBlade; (4-PW): Ping S55
Wedges: Ping Glide 2.0 SS (52, 56 degrees); Ping Glide 2.0 TS (60 degrees)
Putter: Ping PLD