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Is Tiger's game steady enough to win U.S. Open?
Showing flashes of his old self at Memorial, Woods has invited discussion as to whether he has a realistic chance of competing at Shinnecock Hills.
By Alan Shipnuck
Monday, June 11, 2018

It's the most wonderful time of the year. The Masters is more glamorous, the Open Championship more freewheeling fun, but the U.S. Open is, quite simply, the greatest golf tournament in the world. Bring it on.

When will DJ win his second major? #AskAlan -@PurdueMatt05

From the looks of things, in about six days. Last week, when GOLF.com forced me to commit, DJ was gonna be my pre-tournament pick, but I outsmarted myself and went with Justin Rose. But Dustin had quietly been playing at an extremely high level all season, and the thrilling finish in Memphis brings into sharp relief how dangerous he'll be at Shinnecock. With caddies and players already on the ground there, the early word is the setup will favor long hitters, so DJ is headed to Shinny like King Kong lumbering toward Gotham.

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Backstopping: Much ado about nothing or against the spirit of the game? -@IronForty

To mark or not to mark, that is the question. And clearly Jimmy Walker is fortune's fool, but to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man on Twitter. Okay, I'll stop now. Honestly, I'm having a hard time caring about who does and doesn't backstop, but the surrounding debate is fascinating. I think a lot of players are just lazy and don't want to have to hustle to mark their ball. Some are utterly oblivious. Others, as Walker suggested, are happy to help out a pal. This is not keeping with the Rule 22 but it is within the spirit of the game: we help playing partners look for lost balls, show them the bottom of the club so they know which iron we hit on a par-3, watch each other's lines on the greens. It's a game of small courtesies.

Tour & News
Jimmy Walker on 'backstopping' on Tour: 'If you like the guy you might leave [your ball] to help on a shot'

On the list of golf's ills, backstopping doesn't make my top 10. Maybe top 20. But it sure gets people fired up. After I retweeted Walker's screed, my phone started dinging like a Vegas slot machine with texts and DMs from players, caddies and one salty Tour wife, the latter offering an unusual analogy that I won't use on this family-friendly website.

Most deserving winner; least deserving winner; most surprising winner? -Jo (@jascheid)

Phil is clearly the most deserving – dude has paid his dues and then some. Least deserving is tough. I'm gonna say Jon Rahm. He's clearly a world-class talent bound to win majors but winning this one would feel too fast; you're supposed to have your heart broken a few times before you break through. It's too easy to pick a random qualifier as most surprising so I'll go with Bubba. Even on courses where he has a great record he's as jumpy as a cat on a hot tin roof. The U.S. Open is golf's crucible, and Shinny the ultimate examination. Watson clearly has the game to win anywhere but if he can keep his composure and take this Open it would be a monumental achievement …and upset.

Phil Mickleson after missing a bogey try on the 18th hole to lose the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

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Is Shinnecock the greatest of the U.S. Open venues? -George (@_the_burns)

Given its history, regal setting, rustic beauty and awesome challenge, it's a spectacular spot for the Open. But is it the greatest? See below.

What would be your 10-course rota for the US Open? -@MackRenner

I'm a known Pebble homer, but I think there is one other course that is the ultimate Open venue. Here's what my rota would be, listed in order of greatness for hosting this particular tournament. Note that I'm only realistic choices, not pipe dreams like Pine Valley:

1. Oakmont
2. Pebble Beach
3. Shinnecock Hills
4. Pinehurst No. 2
5. Bethpage Black
6. Olympic Club
7. Winged Foot
8. Merion

Shinnecock and Bethpage get all the majors right now, will Friar's Head ever get an Open? -@IamTimClancy

I'm not sure those ol' boys want one, and all the attendant hassle. But to make a more thorough assessment, I'm going to play there on Wednesday. Brace yourself for a week of FOMO-inducing tweeting as the golf cognescenti freeloads at all the great courses on Long Island. I would mention my other games at National, Garden City and St. Georges but that would be obnoxious and not at all my style.

ESPN just listed Tiger as an 18-1 shot to win the US Open. Short odds for a guy that can't putt and struggles at times to find a fairway. I think Shinnecock will eat him up. I say he barely makes the cut. Your Tiger odds? #AskAlan -@Daver40

The driving stats are definitely worrisome: 182nd in driving accuracy, 123rd in strokes gained off the tee, although he had stretches of driving the ball beautifully, like during the weekend at the Players. But for Tiger the driver will always be a question mark, while it's a weapon for DJ, JT, Rory, Koepka, Rahm, Rose and many other top contenders. That puts a ton of pressure on the rest of Woods's game. Statistically, he's only average on the greens, at 89th in strokes gained putting. I think Tiger has the guile to put himself on the fringe of contention, but to really threaten he has to have his best week of the year on the greens and off the tee. That's a very big ask.

Tiger Woods last U.S. Open win (and last major win of any kind) came 10 years ago at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Getty Images

Could we get the USGA to enforce a ban on birthday singing to Phil? I'm convinced having to deal with that distraction on every fairway and green has affected his results over the years. #askalan -@MuirFalls

Many players would indeed be distracted but Phil is such a cheeseball I think he actually enjoys it.

If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question what/who would you ask? #AskAlan -@ROIChristie

For Tiger: "Was it worth it?"

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