Golf / Sports

Pinehurst likely to push Watson

PINEHURST, N.C. -- Bubba Watson's welcome-to-Pinehurst moment came on the first hole Tuesday.

Playing a morning practice round on a sweltering day, Watson had 184 yards in. He chose an 8-iron -- that's not a typo -- and landed his ball on the center of the green. It was struck from the fairway, so it had spin. Didn't matter.

"Landed it where on you're supposed to land it, and it bounced over the green," Watson said. "You couldn't ask for a better golf course, but the greens are very, very unfriendly."

Watson has won the Masters twice in the last three years but has only one top-10 in seven U.S. Opens. It's no mystery why. He's a so-so putter who obliterates par-5s.

This Pinehurst setup has just two par-5s, and they'll play as long as 576 (No. 5) and 617 yards (No. 10).

"You're going to have a lot of guys hitting an iron off the tee, which is weird for the longest hole on the golf course," Watson said. "If I hit 3-iron, 3-iron, I still have about roughly 160 yard shot to a par-5 for a third shot -- which is what we're not used to.

"The U.S. Open is challenging you at all levels. If you want to be a man and hit driver off that tee, you can. If you want to lay back and try to play smarter, you can."

Tap-ins: Ryder Cup veterans Tom Lehman, Tom Kite, Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie will take part in a Q&A session June 18 during Luke Donald's "Taste of the First Tee" event at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Ill. The wine-tasting event, tied into next week's Encompass Championship, benefits The First Tee of Greater Chicago. Ticket info: thefirstteegreaterchicago.org/taste. ... Odd sight on the range Tuesday: Former top-ranked player Martin Kaymer practicing swings with a tennis ball lodged between his forearms. ... Justin Rose, attempting to win back-to-back Opens, has this advantage: Putting coach David Orr lives in the Pinehurst area and, as Rose said, "definitely knows the golf course."

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