- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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PINEHURST, N.C. -- Calling the greens "unfriendly" and referring to the area outside the fairways as "weeds," Masters champion Bubba Watson expects a long week at Pinehurst No. 2, where the U.S. Open begins Thursday.
Watson will attempt to become the rare player to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year, but he was making no bold predictions after a couple of days of practice.
"It's a tough test of golf," Watson said. "For me personally it's going to be all about the tee shots. I'm going to try to lay farther back than normal. It's still iffy -- I don't know what they call it, rough, dirt, sand -- but you don't know what kind of lies you're going to get [off the fairway]. So I'm going to lay back and have a lot longer shots into the holes.
"I don't see too many birdies around here, especially if they put the pins in the corners. You can't look at par or a number; you have to look at just finishing. It's going to be a tough test of golf. In four days, I'll tell you how much I really like it or hate it. And hopefully it's four days, not two."
Watson had never been to Pinehurst before Sunday, when he got his first look at some of the holes. His caddie, Ted Scott, worked for Olin Browne here during the 2005 U.S. Open, but the course is considerably different from when Michael Campbell won that year.
Thick, Bermuda rough has been torn out, and in its place is a sandy, almost unkempt, look. Although it's not rough, there are plenty of difficulties, such as clumps of native grass throughout. The resort refers to it as "undergrowth."
"Where I grew up, we call that weeds," Watson said.
Watson will be making his eighth start in the U.S. Open, with his best finish a tie for fifth in 2007 at Oakmont. He has missed three cuts.
But with wider fairways and less rough, plus the ability to hit a variety of shots around the greens, the setup should favor Watson -- who nonetheless said he will avoid driver off the tee on many holes.
That includes the 16th, one of three par-4s that measure more than 500 yards. In his practice round, Watson hit a driver and then lamented what he had left.
"I hit a drive to about 295 off the tee," he said. "Dead center of the fairway. I had 247 to the hole. It's a par-4. So for me to hit a driver and have a 3-iron into a par-4. ... It's a 'fun' golf course. So it wears you down. It wears you down mentally. You can't look at scores; you have to look at the best way to attack the hole. And I don't mean attack the pin. I mean maybe miss the green over here to right so you can chip up and make an easy par or an easier par. The U.S. Open brings that out."
Several times Watson referred to the greens as "unfriendly" but wouldn't say they are unfair.
"They're going to be fair to somebody. The top 10 this week are going to be happy with [them]," he said. "The guy winding up holding the trophy is going to be happy, and the lady who wins [next week's U.S. Women's Open here] is going to be happy with them.
"I wouldn't say unfair. I would just say they are very difficult. I think it's a different mindset of golf."
The last player to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year was Tiger Woods in 2002. Only Craig Wood (1941), Ben Hogan (1951, '53), Arnold Palmer (1960), Jack Nicklaus (1972) and Woods have accomplished the feat.