Prior to the Bruins game 6 win over the Canucks, I realized the US Open was going to start on Thursday. After the game was over, I decided that writing a US Open preview would take my mind of the upcoming Game 7. Boy was I wrong. Therefore, I have decided to only take a look at a few of the story lines for golf fanatics can ponder this weekend.
Tiger Woods has withdrawn from the US Open
A week ago, Tiger Woods announced his withdrawal from the 2011 US Open. This is the first time since 1994 that Tiger is not going to play in the national championship. (Keep in mind, Tiger was just graduating high school in 1994). Tiger’s decision to withdraw came at the advice of doctors. His doctors have finally gotten through to him that if continues to play, he could do more damage to his already ailing left knee and Achilles tendon.
Honestly, I think this is a good decision for Tiger. His knee is obviously in bad shape and he reportedly tweaked it at the Masters earlier this year. I think sitting this one out will not only help his injuries, but also help his psyche. He clearly has not been himself since his infidelities caught up to him. He’s also within 4 Major victories of catching the Golden Bear (Jack Nickolaus). Hopefully he can use this time off to heal, regroup and come back rejuvenated.
Can Phil Mickelson overcome his US Open demons?
Phil Mickelson has never won the US Open. Not only has he never won, but he has finished in 2nd place on 5 separate occasions. That’s right, 5 runner-up finishes. And now with Tiger out, “Lefty” has a chance to overcome his demons and finally secure the US Open Championship.
The field this weekend is deep, very deep. The PGA tour has had an influx of young guns. Guys are coming onto the tour younger, stronger and ready to play against the seasoned veterans. This year Phil has played some great golf. He’s made the cut in all 12 of the tournaments he entered. He has one win in 2011 (Shell Houston Open) and four top 10 finishes. Pretty impressive, but not dominant. I think one of the younger guys will take this major.
Are we going to see another major collapse?
Over the past 5 years, golf fans have witnessed several collapses on the final day of major tournaments. But none are as well known Dustin Johnson at last year’s US Open and Nick Watney’s at the 2010 PGA Championship.
Last year, Dustin Johnson went out on Saturday and put up an insane 66 in 3rd round of the US Open at Pebble Beach. This put him first place and the final group on Sunday. This was when things went horribly wrong. When it was all said and done on Sunday, Johnson finished with an 82. After watching Graeme McDowell celebrate his win on the final green, Johnson left without even addressing the media.
At the PGA Championship last year, Nick Watney was in a great position on the Sunday. On the 17th hole, Watney made a birdie to give him 1 shot lead with 1 hole to play. Watney shanked his drive on the 18th but showed great poise and perseverance. He scrambled to get onto the green and then missed a makeable putt that would have sealed the win. Then something bizarre took place. Watney was forced to take a 2 stroke penalty. Apparently his wayward drive on 18 actually landed in a bunker. However, with people standing in this supposed bunker all week, Watney didn’t know it was even a bunker. So he stepped up, took his stance, grounded his club, and took his shot. What did he do wrong? He grounded his club. According to the Laws of Golf, players are not allowed to ground their clubs while in a bunker. Thus, the rules official penalized him 2 strokes and that spelled the end for Watney.
I don’t foresee anything like Watney’s collapse happening this year. But there is always the possibility of blowing up the way Johnson did last year. It’s golf and anyone who has ever picked up a club knows that self destruction is just one swing away. Hopefully that does not happen this year, but you can never rule it out.
Can Ernie Els rekindle the flames of his 1997 win at Congressional?
In 1997, at the young age of 27, Ernie Els won his first US Open at Congressional Country Club. Congressional will also host this year’s national championship. So, can Els get his game back on track and win another here? I don’t think so.
Els has won 3 Major Championships: Two US Opens and a British Open (the REAL Open Championship). He holds two World Golf Championships and seven World Match Play titles. In addition, he was recently inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame. Given all those accolades, I still don’t think Els can win this week. In his past 5 tournaments, Els missed the cut 3 straight times before posting a tie for 16th and a tie for 61st. He’s simply not on top of the game anymore.
In all honesty, I have no clue who will win this thing. As I said before, there are tons of young bucks who are very capable of winning: Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan, Jason Day, Martin Kaymer, etc. The only thing I can predict is an enjoyable golf tournament. Congressional is a beautiful country club steeped in history. There will be great shots and lousy shots. In the end, there will be one winner….but I have no idea who that will be. Just sit back and enjoy the tournament.