Little late getting underway today. Was on the old golf course myself this morning. I birdied the first and last holes. No other comments to be made. Rolled in a 20 footer on 1, and then hit a 3-wood from 252 on 18 to about 12 feet and carefully lagged it up there for a 2-putt birdie. Hopefully a positive ending will obscure the rest which is good for nothing except boosting my way too skinny handicap.
Anyway, it’s a Monday tradition here to kick off U.S. Open week with a post. The last two years, I’ve gone back a decade to look at the 1999 and 2000 events. One was Payne Stewart’s curtain call before his tragic plane crash. The other was Tiger obliterating the field and making people ponder if 30 majors was a possible number for him. Unfortunately, this year is the 10-year anniversary of a yawn fest at Southern Hills that featured the worst display of 72nd hole putting probably of all-time. A tiny miss by Stewart Cink kept him from a playoff and admittedly threw his entire career into a fog. The eventual winner, Retief Goosen, was a relative unknown to American audiences at the time. There’s nothing really powerful to reflect on, so we’ll just move forward to some odds and ends for this year’s event.
Congressional is, from what I hear, a tribute to D.C. wealth with a bit of high-brow extravagance. Note the clubhouse. As far as the golf course is concerned, it’s a place that most average players would walk onto and declare it the nicest course they’ve ever seen. On top of that, it’s just undergone a 2-year overhaul to get ready for this tournament. I expect pristine and difficult conditions. If the weather stays dry, the scores should be pretty high. From a picky, course critic’s view, Congressional is always criticized for not having any memorable holes outside of what is now the 18th. It’s a bit of a monotonous death by long par-4. More Aronimink than Merion for the locals, but the course is plenty good and with the change in finish away from what used to be a par-3, I think the course certainly merits an occasional Major, but I wouldn’t rush to put it into the USGA’s regular rotation.
Tiger is not playing. We’ve known this for a bit now, and the real Tiger story of the week has become Steve Williams on Adam Scott’s bag. I think this deal has been blown way out of proportion. It’s common practice for someone to pick up a bag as a favor for a week or two and Williams asked Tiger’s permission. Adam Scott is in the process of changing his caddy, so he’s not really dropping anyone to pick up Steve. I’m sure the speculation machine will be cranking full-blast, though. And, really, it doesn’t hurt Williams to pinch-loop. There may come a day when he is looking to move off Tiger’s bag, but I’m thinking Eldrick has paid him enough to go into early retirement.
Mickelson has finished 2nd five times in the U.S. Open, but has never closed the deal. It’s a pretty glaring hole on his resume. The British Open Championship was never believed to suit his game, but the numerous chances he’s had stateside would suggest he should have picked one up by now. He’ll enter the week as the U.S.’s best shot, whether he deserves that crown or not. Unlike Tiger of late, Phil still looks like someone who can be dangerous on any given week. He’s making a lot of birdies, but he’ll have to find an occasional fairway. Coming to Congressional, it’s impossible not to think of another guy who couldn’t close out an Open. Tom Lehman dunked his chances in ’97 on the 17th hole (the new 18th), and Ernie Els won his 2nd title. It was Lehman’s last best chance over a stretch of years where he was contending annually. One of these years will be Phil’s last real shot.
The Euros and Featured Groups:
The Europeans are dominating the world rankings. No American holds a major title. Some of that is reflected in the featured groups. The Top-3 players, all from Europe start it out: (All Tee Times)
- Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer (8:06 AM)
- Graeme McDowell, Luis Oosthuizen, US Amateur Champ Peter Uihlein (7:55 AM)
- Matt Kuchar, Paul Casey, K.J. Choi (7:44 AM)
- The Spainards: Mike Angel, Sergio and Alvaro Quiros (1:24 pm)
- The Italians: Molinari, Molinari and Massero (1:35 pm)
- Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler, Ian Poulter (1:57 pm)
- Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson (1:35 pm)
For those who sour at the Masters holding back some coverage, even in modern times, the US Open just gladly throws itself onto the table. It’s everywhere. Coverage starts on ESPN at 10 AM and goes to 6 pm on Thursday and Friday. ESPN will be streaming it live and/or possibly doing feature group coverage as well on their website. Saturday and Sunday you can enjoy full-round coverage of the leaders on NBC. Bask in it. All the Johnny Miller you’d ever want. Oh, and he did shoot 63 at Oakmont once.
So, that’s about it for today. I will jinx someone on Wednesday. It’s impossible to pick these things (except for Tiger’s 7 of 11 run), so I might try to use a jinx on a Euro, or maybe I’ll get lucky, we’ll see. The other day I was thinking it’d be sweet to skip summer. Boom, football and baseball playoff season, and no more 100 degree days. Well, I’d miss the US Open. Love to see these guys grind every once in a while.
Quiz of the Day: A to Z Grab Bag: Category: Possible Re-Hash. My Score: 25/26.
Lord of the Rings? Ok, dorks, you win this time.
Quiz of the Day 2: US Open Venues: Category: Golf Loser. My Score: 81/109*
That’s two free points for their mangling of Pinehurst #2.