LOUISVILLE Kentucky Two victories by Bubba Watson in the first four months of this year, including a second triumph at the Masters, highlighted a sizzling start to the 2013-14 PGA Tour by the long-hitting American.
The left-hander piled up seven top-10s in 10 events, two of them runner-up spots, and it seemed that an emotional player known for audacious shot-making and up-and-down form was heading for a season of extraordinary consistency.
Though Watson has since failed to maintain that red-hot momentum, missing the cut at the U.S. Open and also at last month's British Open, he was in confident mood on Tuesday about his prospects for this week's PGA Championship.
"I feel like my game's all right," the Masters champion told reporters at Valhalla Golf Club while preparing for Thursday's opening round. "I tweaked a few things here and there, and hopefully I'll be ready this week.
"This is my first time being here in Valhalla. The course is in great shape. It's a good layout, a good test of golf. Obviously long irons are going to be key around this place, there's a lot of long holes.
"There are about five tee shots for me that are very difficult that I've got to really pay attention on. You're going to wear out your long irons. My six and five-iron are going to get a lot of work this week."
Asked if he was at all disappointed with how his PGA Tour form had tailed off over the past few months, Watson replied: "No, I'm not disappointed. I haven't played many rounds of golf
"I've been taking it easy with the family and stuff, cutting back with the schedule. It's one of those things where you don't see yourself as that far off.
"You see yourself as really close. So I've just got to keep going and try to make putts or try to make less putts, however you want to word it."
Watson, who withstood an early challenge from fellow American Jordan Spieth to clinch the Masters for a second time in three years at Augusta National in April, felt the Valhalla layout was softer than organizers would have liked on Tuesday.
"Right now, every shot is kind of receptive," said the 35-year-old from Florida, who is known for his pink-shafted driver with a pink head. "It's not backing up off the green. Obviously a higher shot is going to be a lot better for you.
"A big hitter, a big hitter that's hitting his driver well can play this golf course. The rough's not too demanding. It's really demanding around the greens.
"A lot of crazy chips are going to happen this week, a lot of pitch shots that are going to be different because the ball is sitting up around the green, so it's hard to decide what shots you want to hit."
Watson, a six-times winner on the PGA Tour, will tee off in Thursday's opening round along with U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer of Germany and Northern Irish world number one Rory McIlroy, who clinched last month's British Open.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)