Jim Furyk is one of them. So is Zach Johnson. And Adam Scott. And Vijay. And defending champion Geoff Ogilvy. And three or four others.
But there are only two stars here.
Tiger and Phil.
Whether you like it or not, they are the stars. They are the first and second best players in the world right now, respectively. And whether youre sick of their media exposure or you cant get enough, they are the stars.
As such, they held center stage Tuesday at Oakmont. Tiger is the unquestioned favorite. He has won two U.S. Opens, and three PGA TOUR events already this year. His wife, Elin, is very pregnant with their first child. He is very excited about the impending birth.
Mickelson is the happy father of three. Right now he has an injured left wrist. Last year he made a mess of the 72nd hole at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot and gave the golf tournament away to Ogilvy who was more than happy and competent enough to seize the moment.
Mickelson is most definitely not the favorite to win the week. As one former TOUR pro said Tuesday, Dont bet on a fighter with a broken hand.
Mickelsons hand isnt broken. But a bad wrist on a golf course with thick, penal rough and anorexic fairways ... well ... he might as well have a broken hand.
Im trying not to go in with too many expectations, Mickelson said.
Mickelson and Woods as a concept work better as rivals than they do as friends. Which is why the defining moment at Oakmont came Tuesday when someone asked Mickelson if he had advice for Tiger when it comes to being a father.
Me giving Tiger advice doesnt really feel right about anything, Mickelson said with that sheepish Phil grin. After the laughter stopped Mickelson politely and sincerely added that he thought Tiger and Elin would be wonderful parents.
Mickelson hasnt been able to prepare with the normal volume of work he believes he needs to ready him for a major championship. He will wear a non-restrictive wrist brace all week.
But he simply hasnt played much golf since tweaking the wrist here a couple of weeks ago when the rough was much thicker. Driver, the longest and crookedest club in his arsenal, has stayed in the bag during most of his practice. If he hits too many drivers, the wrist flares up again.
Yet, he admitted, to win this tournament you have to hit driver and get it down the fairway.
Woods, when asked, pointed out that Mickelsons injured wrist is the left wrist. The left wrist, he added, is not the impact wrist for a left-handed golfer.
A lot of people have forgotten that Woods injured his impact (left) wrist, as an amateur at the 1995 U.S. Open. He had to withdraw. He knows wrists.
Woods is stronger and healthier now. His biggest concern at most majors these days is finding the fairway off the tee and zeroing in on the pace of the greens for 72 holes. The latter is especially crucial at Oakmont which, arguably, has the most complex set of green complexes in the world.
This is one of the most difficult tests well ever face, Woods said. You really have to play well from tee to green. Then the fun really begins.
Next thing we knew, Tiger was a comedian.
Asked if he had a favorite hole, Woods cracked, Yeah, the 19th hole is great.
Asked about the 288-yard, par-3 eighth, Tiger said, Pretty good. You can drive a par-4 every day.
He was a regular Rodney Dangerfield.
Anyway, if Phil is playing possum here this week, he has everybody fooled. If Tiger wins, no one will be surprised.
Jim Furyk is the last American to capture this championship. He did so in 2003 at Olympia Fields. He is my pick to win.
The best story this week, if he wins, will be Mickelson. Hands down. Putting to bed the ghosts of Winged Foot, and all that.
The best story for golf, if he wins, will be Woods. It always is. When he wins, everybody outside the world of golf pays attention.
Whatever happened to The Big Five?
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