The top-ranked players in the world were hardly a Day One disappointment. And we have just the right amount of players up there to qualify for a Monday headline that (sorry Hollywood) might read 'Cinderella Man.'
Like you, Ive got some things on my mind and some questions that you can help answer. So here we go. Six questions to ponder heading to the weekend:
1. Can Olin Browne and Rocco Mediate ' certainly quality players and PGA Tour winners ' hang in there?
I think one of them might just do it. The problem is that I cant decide which one. Both are very good ball-strikers. Neither is among the longest drivers on the tour, but they are tough customers mentally.
2. Is Retief Goosen the coolest customer among the Big 5?
Quite a statement by Goosen in Round 1. His 68 was very comfortable. Goosen admitted that he was a bit miffed by a small showing for his news conference earlier in the week. The defending champion is looking to make it three U.S. Opens since 2001. Ive got a strong hunch hell be there on the back nine come Sunday. And a win will end all talk of The Big 4.
3. Is Pinehurst the perfect U.S. Open venue?
It appears it might be the easiest to set up fairly. Nine players under par after Round ,1 compared to 20-plus back in 1999 ' and nobodys complaining. We still have three rounds to play, but thus far were seeing a golf course that demands everything. And a pair of first-day 67s is just enough to keep everyone thinking they have the chance to do the same thing.
4. If not Goosen then which of the other Big 5 has the best chance?
For my money right now.. I wish I knew. I didnt fancy Els or Singh coming in because of some inconsistent play the last few weeks. Tiger is Tiger and with that comes the thought these days that he could win by five or lose by 10. The realistic thought also persisted that Woods would certainly be in it. And with the Grand Slam hopes hanging in the balance, I expect Tiger to be there. Mickelson had it at 2-under, then let it slip even before making birdie at 18 to finish Thursday at 1-under. Hell be there, too. Im sticking with my pick that none of the Big 5 wins it, but at this stage if I have to go with one of the '5'. I like Woods.
5. Is the U.S. Open more interesting if the USGA and the players dont get along?
Simply said ' No. Last year was tough on everyone. And it left the fans of the sport squirming a bit, too. Nobody wants to see golf over the edge. And thats why I really think we have a good thing going right now. Ive always felt that Sunday at the U.S. Open had great drama. But a different drama. Folks are on the edges of their seats just like any other major. But its for a different reason. Chaos, catastrophe and carnage are ready at any moment with Sunday pressure. There are no eagles at 13 or 15 like Augusta provides. For that matter, we dont seem to see a hole-out eagle at the 11th like K.J. Choi gave us at the Masters, either. Its the dreaded double or worse that we might see that keeps us glued to the set. Who becomes unglued under pressure? Thats the U.S. Open and it doesnt need any extra 'help' from course set-up to provide the madness.
6. Hey Kraig, are you still sticking with Furyk?
Yes. Opening round of 71 has me feeling content. Round 2 will be the most important. If Jims there come Sunday, I feel his chances are strong.
And one other thing before I go Fred Couples at age 45 shot 71 on Thursday here. Perhaps theres a little magic left in his bag. A close call at the Memorial has fans ready for a miracle finish. Chants of 'Freddy, Freddy!' wouldnt be a bad story at all.
My questions ' your answers. What do you think?
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann