1. The U.S. Open. Golf’s ultimate crucible has been on nice roll beginning with the unforgettable hijinks at Winged Foot in ’06 and culminating with last year’s dramatics at Torrey Pines, which may or may not have been the greatest golf tournament of all-time. Now comes a monster golf course hosting the dramatic returns of the game’s keynote players, Tiger and Phil, in the shadow of the media capital of the world. Anything less than an epic four days will be a surprise.
2. Brian Gay. From mild-mannered journeyman to cold-blooded killer in the span of a few months. This has to be golf’s most stunning transformation since Mianne Bagger.
3. Christina Kim. Yes, she missed the cut, but the Hot List’s favorite player did the unthinkable when she wore a mic at the LPGA Championship — she actually made a golf telecast kinda fun.
4. Pinehurst No. 2. This Donald Ross masterwork will host the 2014 U.S. Open and Women’s Open in back-to-back weeks. It’s a great move for gender equality, sure to prove that men and women are just as likely to 3-putt on those ridiculous greens.
5. Bronson Burgoon. His wedge to win the NCAAs was instantly famous, and now this likeable Aggie has qualified for his first U.S. Open. If you’re looking for an underdog to root for, this is your guy.
1. The USGA pairing gurus. It used to take a little wit to figure out what mischief the blue coats had sneaked into the Open tee times. This year’s stuff is downright embarrassing. Vijay and Jeev Milka together? Really? Soren Kjeldsen, Soren Hansen and Peter Hanson in the same group? This is supposed to be clever?
2. Annika. While she’s off selling perfume, another saucy Swede, Anna Nordqvist, has reminded us how fun it is to watch Nordic precision at the majors. Here’s hoping Ms. Sorenstam invokes the Jay-Z clause and ends her retirement post-haste.
3. Colin Montgomerie. The perennial Open bridesmaid didn’t even try to qualify this year. Remember that silly Golf Digest campaign from the last Bethpage Open? This year the buttons oughtta say BE NICE TO MONTY AND TRY TO REMEMBER HE STILL EXISTS.
4. Lorena. Once again she’s a non-factor at a major championship, and don’t look now but she’s not even atop the money list. I’m starting to panic, even if she’s not.
5. CBS. I know Sunday at Memphis was a snooze, but analyzing a squirrel’s ascent of a tree with SwingVision was silly even in that desperate situation. Now, if they had used the slo-mo technology on some of the honeys in the gallery …