Golf

Five things to watch in this year’s U.S. Open golf tournament

1. Can Bubba make it two majors in a row?

Bubba Watson has won the Masters twice in the past three years, but he has just one top-10 finish in seven U.S. Open appearances.

Watson learned how tough Pinehurst No. 2 will be on the first hole of his practice round Tuesday. Watson had 184 yards and hit an 8-iron onto the center of the green. The ball had spin, but that didn’t keep it on the putting surface.

“Landed it where on you’re supposed to land it, and it bounced over the green,” Watson told reporters at Pinehurst. “You couldn’t ask for a better golf course, but the greens are very, very unfriendly.”

2. Can Rose repeat?

No golfer has won the U.S. Open two straight years since Curtis Strange in 1988 and ’89, but England’s Justin Rose hopes to change that this year.

“In the last few months, I sort of realized what I have achieved and it’s time to embrace it, enjoy it, and let that be the strength for me to go on and win more,” Rose said.

While Rose and 10 other Englishmen will be busy at Pinehurst, he knows the attention back in his homeland will be on England’s World Cup soccer opener against Italy on Saturday.

“I would say there’s probably more chance of one of us winning the major than England winning the World Cup,” Rose said. “Sad to say.”

3. Can a 20-year-old win?

Jordan Spieth has six top-10 finishes this year, including a tie for second at the Masters, and some observers believe has a chance to win at age 20.

“I’m a huge Jordan Spieth fan,” ESPN analyst Paul Azinger said. “He swings as much like Curtis Strange as anybody I can think of. That certainly bodes well. I feel like he is exactly the role model type that this Tour needs. He’s a mega talent.”

Spieth wouldn’t be the tournament’s youngest champion. John McDermott won it at age 19 in 1911.

4. Can the No. 1-ranked player win?

Adam Scott of Australia hopes to add another major to his 2013 Masters title.

Scott became the top ranked player in the world last month and then won the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Texas.

“It’s been a lot of work the last couple of years to play this consistent, to bring my game to the level of where I really wanted in the big events,” Scott said. “To maintain it, you’ve got to continue to have that drive.”

5. Can a Jayhawk pull off an upset?

Two former University of Kansas golfers, Gary Woodland and Chris Thompson, are in the field.

Woodland has made the cut in 14 of his 15 cuts PGA Tour events this season, including four top-10 finishes. He is in the U.S. Open for the fifth time, with his best showing a tie for 23rd place in 2011.

Thompson got in for the first time after qualifying at a sectional tournament June 2 in Springfield, Ohio. It is his second career PGA Tour event. He got in last month’s Byron Nelson Championship and made the cut, finishing in a tie for 64th place.

To reach Tom Smith, call 816-234-4240 or send email to tomsmith@kcstar.com.

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