Play It Forward Feb. 16-22 on your sports calendar: Can Bubba bubble up to the top at Riviera again?

8262488-850x560THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

GOLF: PGA NORTHERN TRUST OPEN
Details/TV: At Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Thursday-Sunday, Golf Channel, Channel 2:
1392593457000-USP-PGA-Northern-Trust-OpenSo there was Bubba Watson, nine shots out and tied for 40th going into Saturday’s third round of this classic L.A. tour stop a year ago. Ever since his breakthrough win at the Masters in 2012, the 34-year-old had developed a nice gallery of followers, but hadn’t rewarded them with much. But then the most recognized lefty not named Michelson, with his big pink-shafted driver, put down a 64 for round three, finishing his back nine in 30 that included a bunker shot out of the par-3 fourth hole that woke the crowd up. For Sunday’s final round, Watson charged hard from the start — four birdies in six holes, and a birdie putt from 15 feet at No. 8 suddenly gave him sole possession of the lead. He didn’t give it up. Somehow, he put up another 64, and as the only player to shoot bogey-free all weekend, the tournament was his at 14-under. Watson’s march was two strokes better than Dustin Johnson, who closed with a 66, and he also outlasted local favorite Jason Allred, the Pepperdine grad who somehow qualified for the event on the previous Monday and shot his own 64 in the second round.
00003475476538As Watson celebrated his fifth PGA event to end a 41-tournament drought, there was Allred, a longtime junior golf friend, one of the first to fist-pump him. Allred’s $388,600 payday for finishing tied for third was more than he had made in his previous 58 PGA events combined. And he wasn’t even sure if he’d finish the event since his wife was due to deliver their third child. “I’ve known him since, man, we were 14 or 15,” Watson said. “I was cheering him on, probably his biggest fan, especially inside the ropes. I want to see a friend like that do well.” Inside the ropes, Watson went on to win the 2014 Masters by three and hit a high of No. 3 in the world golf rankings. The year played out pretty nice for Allred, too. His daughter arrived healthy. He made the field in eight other PGA events after that. And Pepperdine inducted him into its Athletic Hall of Fame last October. Since Allred still doesn’t have his PGA Tour card, and he didn’t get a sponsor’s exception, he paid his fees and will go back to Monday’s qualifying event at Industry Hills (along with former World No. 1 David Duval and 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman) to see if he can squeeze back in at Rivera again. All the best.
Golf Channel has Thursday and Friday coverage starting at noon; Channel 2 has the CBS coverage on Saturday and Sunday starting at noon.

NHL: KINGS vs. SAN JOSE
Details/TV: At Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, Saturday at 7 p.m., NBCSN:
B87QES0CQAEVhP5.jpg largeThe sight of Katy Perry’s now-famous “left shark” at the recent Super Bowl halftime show inspired Kings’ mascot Bailey to tweet out during the telecast: “Finally, the San Jose Sharks make it to a championship game,” along with a photo of it helplessly flapping its fins. Roar to that. Whatever evil lurks within the mascots’ minds for this first-of-its-kind NoCal outdoor meeting is worth watching here. No two NHL teams have faced each other more times since the 2010-11 season than the Kings and Sharks — 41 meetings, including extended playoff encounters the last three seasons. The Kings’ outdoor experience consists of a 3-0 loss to the Ducks at Dodger Stadium last season. The Sharks have a 68,500-seat football stadium to fill, and don’t plan to tank. Maybe next year, let’s send these two to Las Vegas, eh?
The Kings, winners of four straight and four points behind the Sharks in the Western Conference, start the week with a home game versus Tampa Bay (Monday, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket), whom they defeated 4-2 earlier this month, and then go to Colorado (Wednesday, 7 p.m., NBCSN).

ALSO THIS WEEK:

UCLA’s game at No. 7 Arizona in Tucson (Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN) has piqued the network’s interest as it decided to send its basketball version of “College GameDay” crew to Tucson – the show begins 11 hours before tipoff. The Bruins (16-10, 8-5) have won five of their last six but are just 2-5 on the road in conference. …  The Clippers return from the All-Star break against San Antonio at Staples Center (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., TNT) ….   Matt Kenseth is the defending champ at the Daytona 500 (Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 11), but soon-to-retire Jeff Gordon starts on the pole … Early-exit UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley has his shot to impress the NFL teams at the scouting combine (at Indianapolis, Wednesday-Saturday) … More at this link.

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