God save us from the Cinderellas
It is quintessentially American to want to see the underdog slay the kingpin. It happened just last week when Barack Obama finished off the Clinton machine and became the first African-American candidate to lead a major-party ticket. It happened in 1969 when Broadway Joe and the scrappy New York Jets beat the mighty Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. It happens anytime the Yankees get swept in a four-game series by anybody other than the Red Sox.
In golf, Cinderellas often seem to find their way at the U.S. Open. You remember Francis Ouimet (1913) and Jack Fleck (1955). They were swell guys and compelling U.S. Open winners, but they weren't great champions. When Andy North won the Open in '78 and '85, no one called him a great champion and the future of golf. He had merely survived the Open's brutality.
But shouldn't the U.S. Open champion be somebody? Shouldn't he be a guy with a great pedigree and a boatload of trophies? Shouldn't everybody know his name? I don't want to see a qualifier from Des Moines or a journeyman pro like Steve Jones, the 1996 champion, win this tournament.
Cinderellas just make things interesting for sportswriters and broadcasters. They turn an important championship into a lesson in morals and perseverance, a time to bask in the belief in the American dream.
But if we must have another out-of-nowhere champion, I have two suggestions. Tiger, with his bum left knee, and Phil, with his scar tissue from the 72nd hole at Winged Foot in 2006, would be as satisfying as any of the other Cinderella candidates in the field.