Bubba Watson already has one major to his name this year, but on Thursday he goes off on search of a second at the US Open.
After securing the Masters title, for a second time in his career, Watson has not played too much competitive golf – entering only two tour tournaments since his April success. He is back in the hunt for trophies now, though, and is amongst the favourites to claim the title at Pinehurst.
That owes much to his relentless form this season. It is easier to count the competitions that Watson hasn’t been near the top in, than the ones he has. Few carry more momentum into the year’s second major than Watson, even if you discount his Masters victory.
On the PGA Tour he has only missed one cut from 11 tournaments, and has finished in the top ten seven times, claiming two victories in that time. It is a remarkable achievement for a man who has never had a golf lesson in his life.
But the American is a unique individual – and that fact is one that appears to benefit him more than hider him. There is a carelessness to his approach, a freedom that couldn’t be taught. The charismatic 35-year-old is one of the tour’s most intriguing characters, and it shows in his golf.
He possesses a massive drive, but he also has an elegance and creativity to his game, which he shows with great touch as well as power. At Pinehurst this week, it seems that he is hinting at a more cautious approach than we have come to expect from him, though.
“I'm going to lay back and have a lot longer shots into the holes,” the man with the longest average driving distance in golf said to the PGA Tour.
“For me it's the second shots what's going to matter the most. I don't see too many birdies around here, especially if they put the pins in the corners.
It is somewhat of a shock to here Watson showing signs of such prudence, given how successful his aggressive style has been for him – especially this season. And the two time major winner has hinted that he could resort to type, if things don’t go to plan early on with his new approach.
“I’m not saying it's the right strategy,” he added. “Hopefully in four days I can tell you it was a great strategy. But if I make a few bogeys and doubles right quick, I might switch to the driver.”
Watson’s previous best at the US Open was a tied fifth finish, back in 2007, and he will be hoping to better that this time. If he is to do so, he will have to compete against some of golf’s best, though, with plenty of players seemingly confident in their pre-tournament conferences.
Phil Mickelson will be chasing his first triumph at a tournament that has evaded him for much of his career so far, but Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott look more likely victors than the experienced American, given their form, and the pair will surely be in competition to take the title.
Watson will be hoping it is with him that the duo are in battle with on Sunday, and, to be quite frank, it would be foolish to expect anything else.
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