Justin Rose and Bubba Watson both enter this week's U.S. Open at Pinehurst in unique positions.
Rose is the defending champion after holding off Phil Mickelson last year at Merion. No player since Curtis Strange in 1988 and 1989 has won back-to-back U.S. Opens.
Watson won the The Masters in April and is hoping to become the first player to win The Masters and U.S. Opens in the same year since Tiger Woods did it in 2002. It has been six years since anyone has won back-to-back majors.
Rose was the first Englishman to win the U.S. Open since 1970, but being called the defending champion isn't a moniker he is comfortable with.
"And for me being the defending champion, I don't even like that word," Rose said during his press conference on Tuesday.
"It puts you in already behind the 8-ball. You don't want to be out there being defensive at all. So I'm really excited about the opportunity this week presents. It is only one guy who has the opportunity."
For his part, Strange can't pinpoint any specific reason why no one has accomplished what he did in the last 25 years. Time has helped him put his accomplishment in perspective.
“I think the longer it goes, the more fortunate I realize I was,” Strange said during his news conference on Monday.
“You can go the obvious reasons: It’s a year removed. Different golf course. The talent level has always been deep. You have to be at the right place at the right time. Be fortunate.
“I’m not a Miami Dolphins-type person. I’m not rooting against him. I’m not drinking champagne Sunday night. If Justin would happen to do it this year, that would be fantastic.”
Rose's game seems to be trending upward. Though he hasn't won since last summer's Open win, he has seven top 20 finishes this season, including a tie for 14th at The Masters and a tie for fourth at The PLAYERS, his best finish of the year.
Rose didn't play at Pinehurst when the U.S. Open was held there in 1999 and 2005, but the course is much different now than it was then.
“My preparation’s going to be key,” Rose said. “It’s developing and designing a game plan that you believe will hold up over 72 holes that you can execute, that suits your game, and that will produce the winning score."
Watson has missed the cut in three of his seven U.S. Open starts and was not in the field when the event was last held at Pinehurst in 2005.
But with the course being restored to be more in line with the original design by Donald Ross, Watson said that the natural areas with sand, wire grass, and groundcover, are similar to the course he grew up playing in Florida.
He told reporters: "I was talking to -- I've got a friend, Randall Wells, here -- me, Boo, Boo Weekley, Heath Slocum, we grew up at a golf course called Tanglewood in Milton Florida.
"This looks like the same golf course I grew up on, a lot of pine trees, sand everywhere. So I'm used to hitting out of sand and hard pan with, again, we call it weeds where I grew up. So when I'm in there I'm actually comfortable, I've grown up playing golf that way."
Watson knows he is in for a tough test this week, but relishes the opportunity to win consecutive majors that is before him.
“Any time you have that chance, it’s been a good year because you’ve done well early,” Watson said. “Every championship is about putting and where they put the pins. Obviously, we like our chances. But it’s going to be a challenging golf course.”
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