I will cringe every time this week somebody boldly posits that Phil Mickelsons imagination around the greens will make him one of the tournament favorites at Pinehurst No. 2 where the U.S. Open will begin Thursday.
Yes, Mickelson has a lively imagination'on and off the course. And yes, Mickelson, who finished second to Payne Stewart in 1999, the last time they played this tournament on this course, is on a very short list of strong favorites.
But this imagination thing, I think, does Mickelson a disservice.
Mickelsons short game prowess is more a product of skill. And precision. And experience. And preparation. And repetition. He will succeed at getting it up and down more than most, if not all, at Pinehurst NOT because he is making it up on the fly (imagination) but because he has done his physical and mental homework.
All kinds of interesting statistics are circulating in the days leading up to the seasons second mens major. Here are a few of my favorites:
You might also be interested to know that less than 40 percent of the green surfaces at Pinehurst No. 2 are deemed pinnable by USGA set-up people.
All of these numbers help paint a profile of the kind of golf it will take to win this week. It always helps to be long and straight. But at Pinehurst it also helps to hit the ball high.
Since the best players in the world are going to be missing more greens than they are accustomed to, their short games will have to be sharper than a tack.
Players who have to rely on their imagination around the greens this week will have already missed the boat.
Phil Mickelson hits it long and high. He chips and putts like a dream and he knows what it takes to be there late Sunday at this venue in this event.
All of which is why he is my pick to win the golf tournament.
Yes, of course, Tiger Woods fits all the above criteria and he was just one spot back of Mickelson here in 1999. Woods should never surprise anyone when he wins. But he simply must be more consistent off the tee if he is to get half way to the 2005 calendar Grand Slam.
Other names that intrigue me include, Jim Furyk, David Toms, Tim Herron, Davis Love III and, of course Ernie Els. Retief Goosen, Vijay Singh and Luke Donald are not to be ignored. Justin Leonard must be watched, too.
But if you ask me to pick one, my considered imagination tells me it will be Lefty.
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