This One Open to All

By Mercer BaggsJune 10, 2003, 4:00 pm
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. -- Tiger Woods will not win this years U.S. Open. Or so say a few brave prognosticators.
 
They say Olympia Fields straight-forward, relatively short demeanor will provide more competition than last year ' when he was the only man to finish under par, or in 2000 ' when he won by 15 strokes.
 
To that, Tiger agrees: The depth of challengers is greater than that of a year ago.
 
Reason No. 2 Tiger wont win ' so they say ' is because Woods hasnt won in his last ' Oh, my gosh! ' four whole starts. Hes encountered yet another slump. To that, Woods says: I dont think Ive ever been in a slumpEver since I came out of the womb and Ive started playing golf, Ive had a pretty good career.
 
En garde!
 
Woods enters the second major of the season trying to become the first player since Curtis Strange, in 1988 and 89 to successfully defend his Open title.
 
Hes won the Masters two years in a row, and done the same at the PGA Championship. He has only one British Open crown, and tied for 25th the following year. After winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, he tied for 12th in 2001 at Southern Hills.
 
Olympia Fields has drawn comparisons to Southern Hills, where Retief Goosen won in an 18-hole playoff over Mark Brooks, and where Tiger tied for 12th.
 
It wasnt a beast like the Black Course, where several players complained it suited only one kind of player ' the kind who won.
 
This course is certainly more of an open venue ' as in open to all. At 7,190 yards on the card, it is just 24 yards shorter than the Black Course. But the North Course's length is spread throughout its entirety. There are no 260-yard required carries off the tee, and only one par-4 hole ' as opposed to four at Bethpage ' in excess of 475 yards.
 
It is because of the difference in venue ' not just between this year and the last, but from year-to-year over the years ' Woods says makes it so difficult to repeat as champion.
 
I think when you go to certain courses, they just fit your eye. And, all of a sudden, the next year its a completely different golf course, he explained.
 
This one seems to fit many an eye. Including that of Masters champion Mike Weir, who believes his game is more suited to succeed at a U.S. or British Open venue than at a lengthy Augusta National.
 
One of those two tournaments I thought would have been my first (major victory), he said.
 
What makes me feel that I can have a chance hereIm not going to be hitting 3-woods and 5-woods and 3-irons into every hole. Theres going to be a couple of holes like that, but for the most part its going to be a lot of mid-irons, which I think is the overall strength of my game.
 
Davis Love III is a bomber off the tee who enjoys his share of traditional set-ups ' like Winged Foot, where he won the 1997 PGA Championship. He said he also likes the novelty of playing a new layout.
 
Were thrilled to get a course like this, especially one that not anybody in this field really knows the golf course. So its a fresh, new thing for us, and its very exciting, he said.
 
This course lets more people in the game than Bethpage.
 
Phil Mickelson agreed: Out of the number of players in the field, I see a great number of players that could potentially win, he said.
 
Mickelson, of course, is still in search of that elusive first major championship ' he's now 0-43, if you're keeping count ' though he does have a pair of runner-up finishes in this event (1999 and 2002).
 
On the other hand, Ernie Els is a two-time Open champion. He prevailed in 1994 at Oakmont and again in 1997 at Congressional.
 
'It's absolutely the same,' Els said when asked how this course compared to the two on which he won. 'It's not playing all that long, but I think the way the USGA set it up this year it's very fair at the moment. The greens are difficult, very undulated. They've got a lot of break on them.'
 
Els got off to a torrid start this season, capturing the first two tournaments on the PGA Tour, and winning four times worldwide before March. But he hasnt won since, thanks in part to a nagging wrist injury.
 
This wrist is not an issue at all,' he said, but added that putting is. 'I don't feel very comfortable with the putter. But I spent a lot of time last week (practicing), and so it's just a matter of time, I think, before I start playing the way I want to play again.'
 
The same can be said for Woods. He is no stranger to success in the Chi-town area. He won the 1997 and 99 Western Opens at Cog Hill in Lemont. He also won the 99 PGA Championship at Medinah.
 
He got a sneak peek at Olympia Fields a couple of weeks ago when he played a practice round with Michael Jordan. By his caddies estimation, Woods managed to break par that day.
 
Monday, he got in another 18 holes, playing without haste with Hunter Mahan and Thomas Bjorn. Tuesday, he played another early-morning practice round in the rain with Mark OMeara, Jay Haas and Jay's son Bill..
 
Its a little different than what we played nine days ago. They cropped the rough last night. I dont think theyre going to cut it again for the rest of the week, so it should get up a little bit, he said.
 
But the greens are certainly faster than we were playing, and theyll get up to speed for the tournament. Other than that, everything is the same.
 
And, no need to worry, everything is on track with his game, despite having failed to crack the top-10 since his victory at Bay Hill in March.
 
My game is pretty good, I think. I hit the ball well in Germany, I just didnt make any putts ' and if you saw the greens, youd know why. Then I hit the ball well at Memorial, and I just had nine holes there Saturday afternoon that cost me my chance of winning the tournament, he said.
 
Im hitting the ball well this week so far. Im pleased at the signs that Im showing.
 
And, getting back to that perceived slump, Woods says much of what he does is hyperbolized ' on both extremes.
 
I think Ive had some success, but I think sometimes all of you can be a bit dramatic in your writing styles ' very flowery at times, he told the media. Ive hit some good shots, but they havent been that good. And then Ive hit some bad shots, and they havent been that bad.
 
Touch.
 
Related Links:
  • U.S. Open Home
  • Full Tournament Coverage
  • Olympia Fields Course Tour
  • Getty Images

    Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

    By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

    One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

    Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

    "I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

    Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

    "I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

    Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

    "Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

    Getty Images

    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


    Masters victory


    Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

    Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

    Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


    Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


    Green jacket tour

    Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

    Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

    Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


    Man of the people


    Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

    Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

    Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


    Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


    Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


    Growing family

    Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

    Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


    Departure from TaylorMade


    Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


    Squashed beef with Paddy

    Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

    Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


    Victory at Valderrama


    Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm