SAN FRANCISCO — Bubba Watson may be a Masters champion now, but personalitywise, there's no mistaking that he's still a Bubba.
As one of the PGA Tour's longest hitters — and one not always knowing where his long hits are going — Watson would seem out of his element at the U.S. Open, particularly at the Olympic Club with its tight fairways, sloped greens and deep rough.
Green jacket or no, he doesn't necessarily disagree.
“Do I like it?” Watson said of the course earlier this week. “I'll tell you in a few days. I don't want to come out here and shoot 80. As of right now, I don't like it. There's an 80 lurking. After four days of golf, if there's not an 80, then I like it all right.”
And that was just a warm-up statement.
“I hope I don't hit too many people,” he said a few minutes later. “I hope they forgive me if I do.”
Whether he likes Olympic or not, Watson has become one of the most high-profile players in golf with his Masters victory, and if that wasn't obvious enough, it was underscored when the USGA matched him up in the same group with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson the first two days.
“Two legends of the game and me,” he said. “If nothing else, I got a front-row seat to watch those two guys.”
Don't get the wrong impression. A lot of Watson's self-deprecating humor is just that. Deep down, beyond the Southern twang and the glib one-liners, he's a prideful, serious golfer with serious game.
And yes, even though he is 99th on the tour in driving accuracy (he's No. 1 in driving distance at 314.5 yards), he does believe he can win the Open here.
“I believe I can the way I hit it,” he said. “Obviously, everybody is going to have trouble hitting fairways and out of the rough. But I think with my length, with my so-called strength, I can hit irons out of the rough that people can't hit as far. If I can just putt ... it comes down to putting and chipping. Anytime in the U.S. Open, it's always short game.”
This is Watson's sixth U.S. Open and his resume is mixed: He's missed a pair of cuts, barely made the cut last year with a tie for 63rd at Congressional but also finished fifth in 2007 at Oakmont, historically one of the Open's toughest layouts. He also notched a tie for 18th at New York's Bethpage Black in 2009, another beast.