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US Open notes: Masters winner Bubba Watson starts with a 76 at Pinehurst

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/12/19/58/6tbzk.Em.138.jpeg|224
    Jeff Siner -
    A leaderboard worker checks the numbers along the 10th green during first-round action of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/12/22/37/18Urmv.Em.138.jpeg|372
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Jason Dufner carries his golf ball in his mouth as he walks to the 13th tee box during first-round action at the U.S. Open on Thursday at Pinehurst No. 2.

PINEHURST Masters champion Bubba Watson had a 76 but no excuses Thursday after the opening round of the U.S. Open.

That’s not Bubba’s way.

“The golf course is better than me right now,” Watson said.

Watson’s card: one birdie, five bogeys and a double bogey on the par-5 10th hole Thursday on Pinehurst No. 2. He was all over the golf course.

“This week I’m just not very good,” he said. “I hit some good shots, (or what) I thought were some good shots. A couple of times I hit it into whatever that area you want to call – the rough area. I got some iffy lies, and it could easily have went the other way.

“Make a couple of ten-footers and it keeps the momentum going. So it’s just (the) execution wasn’t very good today.”

Watson must quickly recover, saying he probably has to shoot something under par Friday to survive the cut. In 23 Open rounds, he’s had just one in the 60s, carding a 67 in 2009.

“I’m not going to change anything,” Watson said. “Hopefully the putts go in. It’s not science, it’s just golf.”

QUOTABLE

“If you guys want to see some disasters, you should get a hot dog, Snickers and Coke and head down to 5 green, because that’s as hard as it can ever get.”

– Henrik Stenson, who did birdie the par-5 fifth hole.

OPEN SCUTTLEBUTT

Word has it the 2005 Ryder Cup matches once were promised to Pinehurst. Had that happened, the 2005 U.S. Open obviously would not have been played in Pinehurst and the resort’s relationship with the U.S. Golf Association could have been strained.

HEAVYWEIGHT GROUP

The USGA likes to have some fun setting the pairings for the first two rounds of the U.S. Open, but Shane Lowry thinks they went over the top this year.

Lowry, from Ireland, was put in a threesome with Brandon de Jonge and Kevin Stadler. All are stocky, rotund types, and Lowry said the USGA was “a bit cheeky” in putting them together.

Writing a column for The Irish Times, Lowry said the USGA made a “mockery” of the three players and opened them up to potential ridicule by golf fans at No. 2.

Fat chance of that in a U.S. Open. Golf fans are pretty civil, especially at Pinehurst.

PAIN GAME

Had to laugh a little at Justin Rose. The defending Open champion shoots 72 Thursday and admits to having to deal with some knee pain.

“Nothing crazy, just part of getting old,” Rose said.

Rose is 33. Wait until he’s 53.

WEATHER ALERT

The USGA issued this early directive Thursday:

“Given that the golf course avoided rain that was virtually all around us last evening, an ample amount of water was given to the putting greens to ensure their health throughout the day and to provide proper firmness for Round One. Because no putting green syringing/watering is planned today mid-round, a bit more water was placed on the greens this morning (relative to past mornings), which will make the morning round firmness slightly softer than the past three days. We expect afternoon firmness to mimic practice-round firmness.

Translation: very firm, very fast conditions.

“This is the easiest day we will have,” Australian Jason Day said after an early 73. “From here, it will be a grind.”

ARMED AND READY

The USGA has been vague in describing security measures for the Open, and understandably so. From a visual inspection Thursday, security is tight.

Armed policeman were walking with the threesomes and they’re not watching the golf. At the 16th tee box, a policeman positioned himself near a bush where he had a line of sight on everyone in the gallery as Rickie Fowler, Brendon Todd and Hideki Matsuyama teed off. Not once did he turn to see where a tee shot landed.

BY THE NUMBERS

7,360 The number of yards No. 2 played Thursday, tee markers to flag sticks.

DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME

In case you thought Pinehurst No. 2 looks easy, Brandon McIver – an amateur who shot a 12-over 82 – wants to set the record straight.

“When people ask you, ‘Was it really that hard?’ it’s like, yeah, it’s really that hard,” he said. “I don’t think TV quite does it justice, the slopes and the plateaus, things like that. I mean, you’re going to have bad days.”

McIver, 20, a rising junior at Oregon, was one of the final additions to the field, an alternate who earned his spot after just two of five open tee times this week were used by exempt PGA tour players. Even though his first professional event didn’t go as he had envisioned, his spirit wasn’t broken, as he spoke after his round about the positives he would take away – primarily that it can’t get any harder.

“I hope that’s the way it is, because if not, I don’t know much much longer I’d last,” he said. “It’s brutal.”

No. 2, FINALLY

Growing up in Cary, Brendon Todd said he was able to get to Pinehurst “a million times” and has played the resort’s No. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 courses.

The only one missing there, of course, is Pinehurst No. 2. The former Green Hope High golfer said he never teed it up on No. 2 until this week, in preparation for the Open.

How did he manage to miss out on No. 2? “I never played in the North and South Amateur,” he said.

Todd had an opening 69, saying he and playing partners Russell Henley (70) and Chris Kirk (71) spurred each other on.

TALE OF THE TAIL

Turns out Miguel Angel Jimenez doesn’t have the only ponytail in the field. There’s also Marcel Siem of Germany.

Siem, who qualified in the England sectional at Walton Heath, teed off at 6:56 a.m. and posted an early 70 to begin this third Open appearance.

Siem, 33, had no qualms about his tee time, saying he once went off at 6 a.m. in Dubai. Asked about the course, he said the 16th tee shot was the toughest and the third green the hardest to read.

STOCK REPORT

Phil Mickelson’s “stock” seems reasonably high after a 70. However, that’s his worst opening-round score in an Open at Pinehurst. He had a 67 in 1999 and a 69 in 2005.

But Mickelson is in a good spot, just a few shots out of the lead. Keep an eye on him this week.

BEST ON-COURSE TIP

Try the frozen lemonade. At $5, a good buy on a hot day.

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip
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