British Open chances: Will rust be an issue for Bubba Watson?

Jonathan Wall

Leading up to the British Open, we'll offer up our thoughts on some of the game's best players and their chances to win at Royal Lytham and St Annes. We continue with this year's Masters champ, who comes into the week having played just once since his missed cut at the U.S. Open.

Bubba Watson

His 2012 so far: Anytime you win a major the year is considered a complete success, regardless of how you play for the rest of the season. Watson won the Masters earlier this year and has five top-5 finishes in 12 starts, but the last few months have been ... well, they've been interesting. Since his victory at Augusta, Watson's only played four events in the last three months, missing the cut in two of those starts (Memorial, U.S. Open). We've seen other guys in the past ratchet back their schedule following a major win, but Watson's taken it to a Tiger Woods extreme.

His record at the British Open: Not good. It's difficult to judge a golfer on just three British Open starts, but it's safe to say Watson hasn't exactly figured out links golf. His best finish was a T-30 last year at Royal St Georges, and he missed the cut the two years prior.

Why he could win: Because it finally sounds like Watson's willing to embrace links golf this year. Speaking to the media earlier this week, he mentioned that the best way to get around Royal Lytham and St Annes was to take an iron off the tee and keep it in the fairway. Whether he follows that game plan remains the be seen, but tabling "Bubba Golf" is the way to get around this course. Also, Watson has the imagination around the greens that's needed to win a British Open. If he gets the putter going, stays patient and leaves the driver in the bag, he may have a shot at winning two of the most coveted major titles in golf.

Why he could fall short: Olympic Club and Royal Lytham and St Annes don't have a lot in common, but if there's one thing you have to do at both courses, it's keep the ball in play. After talking about the need to take an iron off pretty much every tee, Watson said, that "doesn't mean I'm going to be able to do that." That could honestly be his downfall this week. If Watson feels the need to pull driver for whatever reason and press, he's going to get in a lot of trouble. Plus, you have to wonder if rust is once again going to be an issue. Watson made only two starts prior to the U.S. Open and struggled to find his swing the entire week. Going into the British Open he's only made one start, and that was three weeks ago at the Travelers Championship. You can't take extended breaks between majors and expect to contend when you show up.

Our take: Simply put, Watson's game isn't where it needs to be going into a major. The lack of competitive reps leading up to the British Open will likely be an issue this week -- meaning we wouldn't be surprised if he missed the cut and took the early flight back to Florida. Watson is a bomb and gouge guy, and this course definitely doesn't cater to type of game.

And you? What's your take on Bubba Watson's chances this week?

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