PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Eighteen months ago, Bubba Watson’s health started to go downhill. He suffered from an undisclosed medical condition and the 6-foot-3 39-year-old ended up losing more than 20 pounds, dropping to a rail-thin 165 pounds.
He started to lose his game, too.
In 26 starts since the start of 2017, Watson missed the cut eight times, withdrew once and had just two top-10s. Coming into this week’s Genesis Open at Riviera, where he last won two years ago, his world ranking plummeted to 117th.
“I thought about retirement,” Watson said Friday. “Physically I’m not going to be out here if I am going to be sick or it’s going to cause problems. I needed a change for the better.”
He started to feel better late last summer and slowly started playing better, too, tying for 17th at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and 10th in the Northern Trust, the first event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
He planned to take four months after being eliminated from the playoffs following the second event but ended up feeling better than expected, so he made two starts in the fall before resuming his season in Palm Springs last month.
The upward trend has continued this week. Through two rounds at Riviera, Watson is four under and tied for seventh just three strokes off the lead.
After a second-round one-under 70, he headed to the NBA All-Star Game at nearby Staples Center to participate in the celebrity game.
“The stress came from the medical stuff,” Watson said. “You want to be healthy. You think, Should I still be playing? What should we be doing? Changing the structure of everything, mentally it was hard.
“Physically, I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I didn’t have the power, couldn’t produce the shots I wanted to produce and that takes away confidence.”
“We have the shots now,” Watson said. “It’s where we wanna be. It’s turning out to be a good trend.”