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Sunday, October 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Olympic course worries Masters champion Watson

Masters champion Bubba Watson feels a 5-over-par could be good enough to win this weekend’s U.S. Open. (Associated Press)
Masters champion Bubba Watson feels a 5-over-par could be good enough to win this weekend’s U.S. Open. (Associated Press)
By Lynn Debruin Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – Bubba Watson is a Masters champion. Yet this big hitter with an imaginative swing is wary of what awaits at the U.S. Open. So much so that he’s warning fans to beware of wild drives this week at The Olympic Club.

“Hopefully, I don’t hit too many people,” Watson said after playing 10 holes Tuesday morning on the tight, twisting fairways. “Hopefully, they forgive me if I do.”

Winning a major hasn’t changed Watson, the self-taught player who still tells it like it is. His unorthodox approach to golf and distance off the tee endears him to fans, who greeted him Tuesday with shouts of “champion Bubba” and “Master Watson.”

While he obliged autograph seekers, and even shared laughs with a reporter between holes, he wasn’t laughing when asked about a demanding layout that he said could make top players look silly.

“I don’t want to come out here and shoot 80,” he said. “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.”

Watson, who entered the week ranked 99th on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, insisted he can win despite that.

“Yes, I believe I can the way I hit it,” said Watson, who vowed to use driver on nine holes. “Obviously, this week everybody is going to have trouble hitting fairways and out of the rough. 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.”

Watson, 33, is playing in his sixth U.S. Open but first as a major champion, having pulled off an astounding shot from the pine straw to win the Masters in April.

Watson is still trying to figure out how to play several holes. He was particularly critical of the par-3 No. 13, where the left side has been shaved so tight it’s possible to land on the green and still end up in the hazard. And he said he had to slice a 9-iron about 40 yards on No. 14 Tuesday just to hit the green from the middle of the fairway.

Even a guy leading the tour in driving distance can’t reach the 670-yard par-5 No. 16 in two.

“You can’t reach that hole in two from the forward tee,” Watson said.

He predicted those who hit it in the rough won’t get there in three shots.

“The other parts of the golf course are just tough,” he said, predicting 5-over-par may have a shot at winning.

Still, no matter what happens Watson wouldn’t trade where he is right now – a major winner and father of a baby boy.

Both were life-changing events, and they happened within weeks of each other as he and wife Angie adopted Caleb on March 26.

“It’s been a tough road trying to get back to golf, trying to get back focusing on golf,” said Watson, who skipped The Players to spend time with his son and wife.

Sunday is Father’s Day would make winning back-to-back majors all the more special. This will be Watson’s first Father’s Day as a father, having lost his own father to throat cancer in October 2010.

“Hopefully, I’m here on Sunday,” Watson said. “Father’s Day will be different. No matter where I’m at, it will be different because I’ll be a father.”

With that the guy who broke down in tears after his Masters win gushed about Caleb’s bright smile, especially watching him splash more water out of his little tub during baths.

“It’s been fun every day,” he said.

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