Scott, Watson have a rough go of it at Pinehurst
PINEHURST, N.C. – The World No. 1 and the reigning Masters champion played together in the first round of the U.S. Open and combined to make a total of two birdies. So what do you make of Pinehurst No. 2, Bubba Watson?
“The golf course is better than me right now,” he said. “Around here it’s hard to visualize some of the shots that I want to hit, and so for me it’s difficult.”
The two-time Masters champion struggled to a 6-over 76 and didn’t make a birdie until canning a 20-footer at the 16th hole. He failed to make hay on the two par-5 holes, playing them in 2 over. "Bubba Golf" it was not.
Adam Scott, making his first start at a major as the top-ranked player in the world, didn’t play much better, carding a 3-over 73. His lone birdie was of the tap-in variety after coming up short on a 10-footer for eagle at the fifth. Typifying his day, Scott’s effort to toss a mini water bottle in a trash can near the 16th tee box rattled out. His putts wouldn’t fall all day either – he took 34 – though he blamed his short game for leaving him too many lengthy par putts on the five occasions that he missed a green in regulation.
PHOTOS: 2014 U.S. Open (Thursday)
See photos from Thursday's first round of the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
“You’re not going to get that many great opportunities. The few I did, I didn’t make today,” Scott said. “I can’t really blame it on anything other than just a couple of sloppy runs from off the side of the green.”
Scott, Watson, and the third player in the group, Charl Schwartzel, who shot 70, played in the afternoon wave when the greens were a little firmer. At the seventh, Scott’s approach landed on the green and trickled off. He chipped to 8 feet and made his first bogey when his putt grabbed a corner of the hole but wouldn’t go down. Earlier in the day, a similar approach shot would’ve checked and stayed on the putting surface. Same story at the par-3 ninth hole, where Scott’s tee shot earned calls of “that’s right on the money,” only to have it skip over the green, down the hill and just shy of the drop circle. Scott made bogey to tour the front in 1-over 36.
Neither player could generate any momentum on the back either. Scott skated along until a 3-putt from 40 feet at 13 and missed a 6-foot birdie putt at 14. At the 16th, he went from bunker to bunker and was pleased to escape with a bogey. But as Scott put it, “not too much damage done either.”
Scott started slowly when he won the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and appeared generally upbeat after the round.
“I’m happy with how I hit it generally tee-to-green,” he said. “If I can do that the next three days, and sharpen up a little bit on the greens and around, I’ll be in great shape by the end of the week.”
Watson, in contrast, appeared psyched out by a Pinehurst course that he said, “didn’t fit his eye,” and neutralized his power game. “I’m not very good laying up,” he said.
Watson’s dream of the grand slam looked to go up in smoke when he made a double bogey at the par-5 10th to drop to 5 over. While he mostly stuck to his conservative game plan, Watson banged driver on several occasions but hit only 8 of 14 fairways. When asked to name his worst lie of the day, he answered, “All of them.”
“Today wasn’t my day for ball-striking,” he said. “Come out tomorrow and try to play better, that’s it. If I don’t, I’ll get ready for next week.”