PGA Tour Confidential: The U.S. Open

PGA Tour Confidential: The U.S. Open

As usual, there’s only one topic of conversation
going into a major championship:
Tiger Woods.

For a change,
we’re not talking about how much
he’s going to win by — we’re talking
about what’s up with his left knee.

The vibe on Tour
is that his knee isn’t as far along as he’s been letting on.
He’s Tiger Woods and he can surprise everybody,
but this time it’s different. When he bagged the
Memorial, his agent told Jack Nicklaus that Tiger
couldn’t put as much weight on his knee as he wanted
when he swung. That can’t be good. He’ll have been out
for almost eight weeks. I don’t see him being Tiger sharp.

And you know what? If he’s not 100% sure that he can
win, I don’t think he’ll play. That would buy him a few
more weeks before the British Open.

If a U.S. Open is ever going to fall into Phil Mickelson‘s lap
(usually they seem to fall out of his lap), this is the one. Phil has to be the favorite. He’s playing with confidence,
and he just won at Colonial. His putting
got off track for a
while, and now he has it straightened out.

He grew up in San
Diego, and now he lives there again, so this is a home game
for Phil. With Tiger less than 100%, I see a Phil week.

I’m sure he and Dave Pelz, his short-game guru, have
already been out on Torrey Pines with NORAD radar checking
to see how much moisture stays in the greens.

Plus, now
that Phil is an inch taller, he’s even more formidable. Yeah,
the other players were laughing last month when Phil said
he went to a longer putter
because all the stretching
and workouts he’s been doing caused him to grow
an inch. That’s Phil being Phil. First of all, who’s
even measuring himself at age 37? Are his
pants suddenly an inch short?

Nobody has
a problem with him, but other players simply
can’t relate. He’s eccentric and plays the game
a different way. He had five wedges in his
bag when he won at Colonial. Five wedges?
Good Lord. I guess that’s why he didn’t play
safe and hit three-wood on 18, where he lost
another drive to the left on the final hole (a
trend I’ve noticed with him). With all those
wedges taking up space in his bag, he didn’t
have a three-wood to hit.

I’m really curious to see how well
Sergio
Garcia plays
. He looks
better with the putter,
and he’s always
been a good ball striker.

I thought
winning the Players would get the
media off his back, but I just watched
two guys on Golf Channel saying it’s
time for Sergio to step up and win a
major, so I guess it didn’t. Sergio’s
putting is mental. I feel that 90%
of putting
is mental, and the other
10% is mental too.

You can have
the worst stroke, but if you believe
you can make it, you can make it.
We’ll know by Saturday whether
Garcia’s revamped stroke is up to
handling U.S. Open speeds.

A guy no one will be talking about is Angel Cabrera, even though
he’s the defending champ.

He’s
off the radar for two reasons — the language barrier, since he’s
from Argentina and speaks limited
English, and the fact that his best
finish this year is 25th at the Masters.

The Gorilla, as I call him, has been
missing in action
for a while. His putting
hasn’t been good, and he’s been
spotty with his wedge game. Still,
this course is made for him.

Another guy whose name isn’t coming up much is Vijay Singh. The big Fijian, as they say in a TV commercial that I’m tired of watching, has a bad rib. I don’t know if he’ll even be able to tee it up. He’d better be 100% because a couple of slashes out of Torrey’s rough and that rib will be well done.

My U.S. Open dance card is filled with long hitters. Torrey Pines
is just damn long. Even without any rough, it’s long. Haven’t Phil
and Tiger won seven of the last nine times at Torrey? Who else won
there? John Daly was one. He’s long. Jose Maria Olazabal was the
other. O.K., he’s not long. I think this course is a bomber’s paradise.

The holes are wide (the fairways aren’t) and are not tree-lined. Geoff
Ogilvy fits the profile. He’s long, he’s been playing well — I
liked the way he finished in winning at Doral — and he’s a former
U.S. Open champion. That’s all I need to know. Adam Scott, even though he’s mysteriously been a nonfactor
in majors,
fits the profile and he’s also coming off a win, at the Nelson.

I wanted to say something about
Andres
Romero
, the young
Argentine who won in New Orleans,
but I still don’t know him. Same
with Masters champ Trevor Immelman, but I do know that
he’s been in a funk since Augusta.

Jim Furyk is usually one of my
favorites to win majors
, but this course is
way too much for him. It’s going to be too much
for every shortish hitter, like Luke Donald
and Zach Johnson and the rest.

The 18-hole playoff is obsolete, not to mention anticlimactic.
Times have changed, but the USGA hasn’t. They need to quit
being so obsessed with tradition. The four-hole playoff used at
the British Open is genius. I don’t like sudden death, but I like
the four-hole format. That’s what they should use at the Players
too — play 15, 16, 17 and 18 instead of going to sudden death
and letting a gust of wind decide the winner, as it did
with Garcia and Paul Goydos last month.

Drug testing is coming next month, and it’ll be
interesting. Butch Harmon recently said
that he wouldn’t be surprised if some guys
used drugs, even if it was just to recover
quicker from surgery.

Personally, I
think someone will get tripped up
on an unintentional infraction, like
something in a cold supplement.