No Regard

June 12, 2008

Don’t be “such an idiot”

Filed under: golf — Tags: , , , , , — Andy Vasquez @ 2:40 am

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a little golf tournament that starts on today in San Diego. Here’s the storyline, in brief:

There’s this Tiger guy. He’s really good. But he’s returning from an injury on his left knee — his third time injuring the same knee. What a gimp! He needs to get it together. Seriously.

Then there’s this Phil guy, pictured above. He’s really good, too. But he’s also a bit of a self saboteur.

The prime example: Two years ago this week Phil played 71 holes of perfect golf and was one well-played hole away from winning his third straight major. But, sadly, he then proceeded to lose his damn mind — it turns out, Phil, golf balls do not actually fly through trees, no matter how good you are. Moments later, after losing the tournament, he actually said: “I still am in shock that I did that. I just can’t believe that I did that. I am such an idiot.” (seriously, that’s a direct quote. I know, awesome, huh?)

Well said, Phil. Well said. He still hasn’t recovered, going majorless since.

So, for this year’s U.S Open, the USGA had the brilliant idea of pairing these two players — far-and-away the two most popular characters in pro golf — together for the first two rounds of the tournament. Great move for the game, and for getting people excited about this week’s tournament.

But, naturally, the hype leading up to the tournament has devolved almost exclusively into Tiger vs. Phil talk.

So we’re here to tell you that there’s more to it then that, dammit.

Here are five bits of knowledge that will help you avoid being “such an idiot” during this year’s U.S. Open.

1. There’s a reason Tiger and Phil have combined to win NONE of the last five U.S. Opens: The U.S. Open is a course setup that rewards hitting the ball straight. And this is something that neither Woods or Mickelson has done particularly well recently. Yes, Tiger and Phil have combined to win eight of the last 10 Buick Invitationals contested at Torrey Pines. However, that tournament is played with the rough down, slower greens and includes one round on the far easier North Course. With the rough at full length this week, and the tees all the way back, Phil and Tiger will have to be much more accurate to win. The fairways are wider at Torrey Pines, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility. But accuracy will still be very important.

2. Golf is a fickle game: There’s a good chance that Tiger OR Phil will get hot this week and play well. But the chances for both of them to play well aren’t good. Golf is a funny game. Sometimes, a player just can’t get it together for no good reason. Look for Mickelson to be the player who can’t get it together this week. He’s put an immense amount of pressure on himself, saying that this tournament could be career-defining. How many other players are playing with the burden of defining their career this week?

3. Find a sleeper, now: Five of the last seven years the U.S. Open winner has been a first-time major winner: Here’s the list:

  • 2001 (Southern Hills — Tulsa, Okla.): Retief Goosen, South Africa
  • 2003 (Olympia Fields — Chicago area): Jim Furyk, USA
  • 2005 (Pinehurst — Pinehurst, N.C.): Michael Campbell, New Zealand
  • 2006 (Winged Foot — NYC area): Geoff Ogilvy, Australia
  • 2007 (Oakmont — Oakmant, PA): Angel Cabrera, Argentina

All these guys have some things in common. They all hit the ball reasonably straight. They all had a fair amount of experience before this win. None had a previous history of a debilitating choke under major championship pressure in the past. (Sorry Sergio, but this just is not going to be your week.) Here are three guys in the field who have never won a major and meet those qualifications going into this week’s tournament:

  • Steven Ames: This veteran is good enough, and steely enough to win a major. But at age 44 the opportunities are running thin. This seems like a great opportunity for him to get the job done, now.
  • Boo Weekley: He’s very talented with the driver and irons. If he can overcome nerves with the putter, watch out.
  • Paul Casey: He had a miserable 79 in the final round of the Masters. But that was more of a bad day — in extremely windy conditions — than a choke. He’s got the game, he just needs to stay in contention until the back nine on Sunday.

4. Prime time? Look, this has nothing to do with anything on the course. But the fact that the tournament is getting broadcast during prime time in the East is pretty exciting. Major championship golf at night? Sounds good to us. It just adds to a tournament that is dripping with pre-game hype, perhaps the most in the last decade: Tiger’s return from injury … Top players in the world being paired together … Torrey Pines is only the second municipal course ever to host a U.S. Open (Bethpage Black was the first in 2002) … Tiger and Phil’s familiarity with the course … the U.S. Open being played at the site of a regular PGA Tour stop for the first time since 2000 (Pebble Beach).

Certainly, there is a lot to be excited about.

5. Prediction: There is a reason the folks in Las Vegas can build those phenomenally large and beautiful casinos. They’re not dumb and they know what they’re doing when they make Tiger the prohibitive favorite with 5-1 odds.

You just can’t count count this guy out, even if he hasn’t walked 18 holes in the last six weeks. Somehow, Tiger will find a way to win. I mean, the guys a legend. And winning this week, injury and all, would certainly be the stuff of legend.

PHOTO: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

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1 Comment »

  1. Well, just for variety’s sake, I got the following odds on Sportsbook.com:

    Ian Poulter: 100-1
    Boo Weekley: 40-1
    Phil Mickelson: 5-1

    BTW, Tiger Woods is listed at 5-2 there.

    Comment by Hoyler — June 12, 2008 @ 5:14 am


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