Filling In The Blanks

Filling In The Blanks

Too many people thought Geoff Ogilvy's victory at Winged Foot was a fluke. It wasn't, and he's a serious threat to win the U.S. Open again.
John Biever/SI asked contributing writer and CBS analyst Peter Kostis to complete a few thoughts and give us his impressions of the first day of the 2007 U.S. Open. Here’s what he had to say.

On Friday, Phil Mickelson will … “need to drive the ball better and make some birdies. He made none on Thursday! A score of four over par on Thursday is not a bad thing, but shooting four over for four days will not get it done at Oakmont. I think Phil was playing somewhat defensively, protecting his left wrist, but in order for him to win, Mickelson, like all the other players in the tournament, will need to swing aggressively at defensive targets.”

If Tiger Woods wants to stay in contention, he’ll need to … “eliminate one side of the fairway or the other. Golf is a difficult game to play well when you are missing fairways on both sides, but golf is impossible to play well in major championships when you are missing it both ways. Before Friday’s round, Tiger will have to work with his swing coach, Hank Haney, and come up with a game plan that takes half of the trouble out of play. If he can hit more fairways, and know that if he misses it will avoid serious danger zones, he’ll stay in the hunt.”

The score of the 36-hole leader will be … “even par. If there is no change in the weather, and no rain is expected, the course will not play as easily in the morning as it did today, so I think the cut line will float up to +10.”

If the course does not get an more rain, I think … “the winning score on Sunday will be somewhere between +4 and +8. I am convinced that the 9th and 18th holes will be the two toughest holes relative to par for the week. The 9th has not changed a bit since the 1994 U.S. Open, except that the USGA has made it a par 4 instead of a par 5. It still plays to 477 yards and is all uphill. On Thursday, the 18th did in fact play as the hardest hole, with players averaging a score of 4.654.”

After 18 holes, the most dangerous player in the field is … “aside from Tiger Woods, the two names on the leaderboard that would concern me are Geoff Ogilvy and Vijay Singh. Ogilvy has maintained an unbelievably good attitude going into this event, but I don’t think he feels that he’s been given the respect he’s due. That could be motivation for the young Australian to play well — along with defending his championship — and he has a lot of game.

Vijay has been building toward this week, and this course, for some time. He is swinging the club better and putting better, and while ultimately Oakmont comes down to putting, the ball striker who can hit shots into the best positions on the greens can make putting less of an issue.”

I would call Thursday’s course set up … “fair. A player my son would call a No Name has the lead at two-under, and the course will not get any easier. But on Thursday, the pin positions were as benign as they could be. The previous evening’s rain made greens softer in the morning, but the course could be made nearly unplayable if the USGA tucks the pins a little more, so I think they will be cognizant of that Friday and then turn up the screws on the weekend.”

Oakmont is … “brutally hard, but I’m not sure if Oakmont is truly a great test of golf. I’m sorry, but I don’t think hard automatically means great. Do you have any idea what the following players have in common: Tim Clark, Adam Scott, Padraig Harrington, Nick O’Hern, Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey, Zach Johnson, K.J. Choi, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson and 18 other guys? They are the 28 players who did not score a birdie on Thursday. If competitors are forced to play defensively all the time, that’s not a great setup. I think there must be a blend of holes where you can make birdie with good shots and bogeys with bad shots.”