Jason Day has learned that life in a motor home can be rewarding on the PGA Tour. He also has learned it can be messy when Bubba Watson is around.
Day is staying in what he calls “the bus” in a parking area close to Shinnecock Hills for the U.S. Open. The Australian uses the RV for about 15 tournaments a season, and several other tour golfers have joined him.
One is Watson.
“Bubba just got one this year, and I’m very kind of more private, and he’s, yeah, he’s a little bit more outgoing,” Day recalled, a wide smile on his face. “And I think we’re at Augusta, and he walks under my bus, and he’s like, ‘Hey, man, what are you doing?’
“I’m just sitting in the bus watching TV. He’s like OK. And he’s standing there. And I’m like, do you want to come inside? And he’s eating a burrito, and he decides to come in and talk to me for about 30 minutes. He gets his burrito all over the ground and then just leaves.
“Actually, it’s nice to have people like that around, you know, to mess your bus up when you need them to.”
A sense of history often helps in major championships. For Jordan Spieth at Shinnecock Hills, that’s not part of the equation.
Asked if he’d studied much from the previous two U.S. Opens held at the course, in 1995 and 2004, Spieth grinned.
“I was 1-year-old in the first, and I was 10 in the second,” said the three-time major winner and 2015 U.S. Open champ. “So I haven’t. The only thing I have from the ’04 was a couple of replays I’ve seen in the last couple weeks, like No. 7, you know, the wind kind of blowing the ball off the green. That’s about it.
“… And it’s 14 years ago, so with technology and the changes in the golf course anyways, I think it will be a totally different experience from any previous Opens here.”
What kind of experience?
“It’s the toughest test in golf,” Spieth said. “The Masters is the Masters. The Open Championship, the oldest championship, typically links golf course, a different style of golf altogether, really playing in conditions.
“The U.S. Open has that hardest test of golf to it, where you have the tallest rough, you get guys who are advancing full swings like six feet. I did it last year. I have done it multiple times in a U.S. Open. That’s just what the U.S. Open is. It’s very different from any other golf tournament and any other major.”
Patrick Reed, Masters champion.
That’s how Reed always can be introduced after his victory at Augusta National in April. When he plays Shinnecock Hills at this week’s U.S. Open, that title carries a lot more than simply status for him.
“It’s been a whirlwind for sure,” Reed said of becoming a major tournament winner. “It’s awesome to be able to reflect on succeeding in something you’ve desired and worked so hard: being Masters champion. To be able to come to the U.S. Open after winning the last major adds a little more confidence and self-belief about being able to win the tournament because you’ve done it before.”
Regardless of how many tournaments or majors he wins, Reed doesn’t see the challenge as being where he might rank on a list of champions, though he wants plenty more titles. It’s more about his maximum performances.
“Me vs. myself,” he said. “If I go out there and set a goal and fall short of a certain number, that’s what I am chasing. If you improve every aspect every day, you get better overall.”
There’s a fringe benefit to more wins, too.
“I’m out there to try to win trophies. I keep on promising my daughter that I’ll bring home trophies,” Reed said. “Daddy needs to get on track and win more trophies.”
A year ago, while watching the U.S. Open on television as he recovered from another back surgery, Tiger Woods had no idea if he’d ever compete again in what he calls “our national championship.”
On Tuesday, he spoke about playing Shinnecock Hills as an opportunity to add to his three U.S. Open titles, but also as filling a hole in his existence after skipping the last two. This is his 20th U.S. Open.
“I missed playing the U.S. Open,” Woods said. “It’s our national title and it has meant so much to me in my career. The biggest event you can win when I was growing up, it was a USGA event. To have won nine times is pretty special.”
Woods was including his three U.S. Amateur victories and three in the U.S. Junior Amateur in the 1990s.
Woods has been stuck on 14 majors for a decade, his epic victory in the 2008 U.S. Open being his last. In the interim, of course, health issues – he wondered last year if he’d get healthy enough to play with his kids again – and off-the-course problems have stymied his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 majors.
So is Woods surprised he hasn’t gotten to No. 15 yet?
“I’d been there on a number of occasions to win the 15th and haven’t done it,” he said. “I don’t like that feeling. I’ve certainly had a nice run and won a few, and unfortunately in the last 10 years I haven’t.”
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