And he learned to play on a scruffy golf course in Milton, Fla.
So with that combination, you would think the reigning Masters Tournament champion would love the U.S. Open venue this week at Pinehurst No. 2.
Well ... Maybe, maybe not.
Watson used the word “unfriendly” a few times in his Tuesday news conference to describe Pinehurst’s greens.
“It’s going to be tough for me, just because the greens are so unfriendly, I guess is the best way to say it,” said Watson, who stopped short of calling them unfair. “These greens were built back in the early days when green speeds were a little slower. So I believe that these green speeds we’re putting them to and the firmness we’re putting them to makes it unfriendly, we’ll say.”
Pinehurst No. 2 underwent a restoration by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw that has put back much of the natural sandy waste and wire grass areas. It’s the opposite of Augusta National Golf Club, where Watson has won twice.
He compared it to Tanglewood, his home course as a youth.
“It looks like the same golf course I grew up on, a lot of pine trees, sand everywhere, we don’t call it natural area, we call it not very good conditions where I grew up,” Watson said with a smile. “So I’m used to hitting out of sand and hard pan with, again, we call it weeds where I grew up. So playing out of that stuff, I’m used to that.”
Watson has played only twice since winning the Masters by three shots over Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt. He tied for 48th at the Players Championship, and two weeks ago he was in position to win the Memorial before finishing third.
Watson knows winning the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year is difficult; only five golfers have done it.
“Well, obviously any time you have that chance it’s been a good year, because that means you’ve done well early,” he said. “So obviously I like my chances, that’s what we are here, to compete, and have the best chance of any to have two majors this year, since I’ve already got one.”
Watson’s best showing at the U.S. Open was a tie for fifth in 2007. He has missed the cut three times in seven appearances.
Still, the long hitter plans to play smart and try to hit as many fairways off the tee as he can, even if it means hitting irons.
“I’m not saying it’s the right strategy, but hopefully in four days I can tell you it was a great strategy,” Watson said. “But that’s what I’m planning right now. Now if I make a few bogeys and doubles right quick, I might switch to the driver.”