Bubba Watson is the only player in the field at Pinehurst who can capture back-to-back major championships. If he comes up short, which is likely given the last guy to win at Augusta and at the U.S. Open in the same calendar year was Tiger Woods in 2002, the two-time Masters winner can point the finger at the guy on the bench.
Much is being made this week about Curtis Strange jealously cherishing his place in history as the last player to win consecutive U.S. Opens, which he did when he came from behind to claim victory at Oak Hill in 1989. Strange told Doug Ferguson on Monday that he would certainly congratulate Justin Rose if last year’s winner at Merion were to buck the odds and triumph at Pinehurst on Sunday.
Strange, however, added that while he was "not rooting" against Rose, he was also "not particularly" eager to place such a call. He also found it a bit of a head-scratcher that it took him 38 years to do what Ben Hogan did in 1950-1951 and that no one has repeated his feat since, though Woods won consecutive Masters (2001-2002), British Opens (2005-2006), and PGA Championships (twice -- 1999-2000, 2006-2007).
As for Bubba, he sounded Tuesday as if he did not like his chances of sweeping the season's first two majors, thanks to the 14-time major champion who’s still recovering from back surgery far from the action in the Tar Heel State. Aside from his repeatedly calling the Pinehurst putting surfaces "unfriendly," Watson addressed the challenge Woods has created on a potential chase for back-to-back.
"Tiger changed the game in many ways," Watson said during his press conference in response to a question about why it was so difficult to go back-to-back in the majors.
Watson noted that Woods raised the skill level of professional golfers by modifying the way players work out, eat and practice. Because of how Tiger has grown the game, he observed, younger and younger players are in the chase for the hardware for which oldsters are still competing.
The former No. 1 golfer in the world also made the game so popular that players have to deal with far more distractions outside the ropes than in the past.
"It’s harder because of the competition, it’s harder because of the media attention, to win multiple majors or back-to-back majors," said Watson. "What Tiger’s done to grow the game has made 20-year-olds having a chance to beat 40-year-olds pretty easily now. Anybody at any age can win at any time."
The ripple effect from the Tiger Effect has been beneficial for the game even if it lessened his chances of adding this year's U.S. Open title to his resume, Watson averred.
"It’s good for golf because people may not like me so they won’t want to see me win all the time," said the popular and divisive six-time PGA Tour winner.