By Mark Lamport-Stokes
PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - The PGA Tour's West Coast swing has always energised Bubba Watson and the American pronounced himself to be "on top of my game" ahead of his title defense at this week's Northern Trust Open.
The left-hander triumphed by two shots at the iconic Riviera Country Club last year, a win that proved to be a springboard for his most successful season on the U.S. circuit as he went on to claim a second Masters crown at Augusta National in April.
"It seems like I play pretty good on the West Coast and then, when it gets hot and later in the year, I kind of struggle," Watson told reporters on Wednesday after competing in the pro-am competition at Riviera.
"I always get excited about the West Coast ... I just get excited about the New Year and the new season starting.
"Seems like Doral is my key," Watson said, referring to the WGC-Cadillac Championship played in Miami. "If I finish second in Doral, I'm going to have a good shot at the Masters. Every time I've won the Masters, I've finished second at Doral."
Watson was runner-up at the 2012 WGC-Cadillac Championship before winning his first Masters title the following month, then tied for second last year at Doral before going on to earn his second green jacket at Augusta.
He has since claimed his first World Golf Championships (WGC) crown, at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai three months ago, to replicate the stellar form he has displayed since the start of 2014.
"I'm as good as I can be right now," said Watson. "I don't see anything that I need to really change or do differently. I'm on top of my game.
"Doesn't mean I'm going to play good this week, doesn't mean I'm going to play good the rest of the year. Just means right now, I'm playing good.
"I've had three top-10s in a row ... everything's in the right place in my life."
Watson, who will tee off in Thursday's opening round in the company of fellow Americans Bill Haas and Dustin Johnson, has vivid memories of his victory 12 months ago when he went bogey-free over the weekend as he fired successive 64s.
"I barely made the cut ... and somehow lit it up on the weekend," he recalled of his first two rounds last year. "I feel refreshed, feel excited to be here."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)