The U.S. Open is hard enough without having to be part of a circus.
So regardless of what he says, Bubba Watson can’t be pleased with a made-for-TV pairing that has him playing with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson during the first two rounds of the U.S. Open.
Did I say circus? It’s going to be an absolute zoo. You can be sure Woods and Mickelson also aren’t thrilled with this threesome, but at least they’ve had plenty of experience with massive galleries and people scurrying all over the place.
It’s a different story for Watson, who has struggled ever since winning the Masters. He’s only played twice and missed the cut at the Memorial a couple of weeks ago. Yes, the sudden spotlight can be overwhelming.
Clearly, the United States Golf Association wants to create more of a buzz for the Open with this pairing. But why? Isn’t the tournament big enough?
During a conference call today, I asked NBC producer Tommy Roy if the USGA consults with the network on the pairings. He said:
We talk about it, more about the timing that they go off so that it fits within certain windows. But the fact of the matter is that the pairings are up to them. But they have a good sense of what makes for good television, as well. They play consult a little but it’s their pairings.
Obviously, NBC and ESPN will focus the majority of their coverage on that one pairing. Steve Stricker is 6-under through 13? Great, save it later for the Golf Channel.
It’s going to be all-Tiger-Phil-Bubba, all-the-time when they’re out on the course. I asked Johnny Miller about the pairing. He said:
I’ve played in similar type of threesomes with Trevino and Nicklaus, and not so much in the U.S. Open, because they would never do that in the mid 70s, have the three biggest draws together.
But golf is a new world. It’s a big sport now. It will be very interesting to see how that pairing pans out or whether they all play poorly or they all play well or just one plays well. With that many people and that much pressure, to be honest with you, at the Open, knowing this pairing is historical, the three biggest draws in the tournament being together, it will be fun to watch. I can’t wait to watch it. I hope they do great.
It’s just sort of unique. So, is this a precursor of something of the future we are going to see a lot more of, where you put the best players together, or if it’s just a one‑time thing.
Is it fair? Frank Nobilo said:
(Watson’s) stated goal, he stated recently, is to be the best player in the world. So I think he would embrace that opportunity to take them on. You have got to beat them, whether it Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday; but for him, it’s something I think he would relish.
And just to add, you have three different types of fans that are going to come out, which I don’t think golf has really had. Phil and Tiger ‑‑ but Bubba brings a different element to golf which we haven’t seen in many a year and that’s something that has to be said, as well.
Miller said as only he could:
Let’s put it this way: I would much rather play with two guys that are shooting 67, than two guys that are shooting 79 going to every toilet, you know.
I’m not sure about the toilet part, but I’m betting Watson’s scores will be closer to 79 than 67.