THE ODDS WINDOW
OK, class, lets review our previous chapter and pat ourselves on the back a little bit. I had Sergio Garcia as one of the favorites at THE PLAYERS and he kept that putter in check to take home the big prize. Now if only I had used my hunch and taken him in my golf pool. I wont be making the same mistake this week. The USGAs annual examination will test the 156 players on a track that most of them know ' Torrey Pines. The difference will be that the rough is a lot higher, the greens are a lot faster, and the grounds will be a lot firmer than they are during the moist conditions in January at the Buick Invitational. So without further ado, heres the rundown of who you need to put in your five this week.
Phil Mickelson (3-2): When you think of Phil at the US Open, you think of a lot of heartbreak ' Paynes putt in 99, the 3-jack from short range on the 71st hole in 04, the pitiful driver on the 72nd hole in 06. Phils tired of wearing the bridesmaid dresses, and frankly, he wouldnt look all that good in a periwinkle tea-length gown anyway. To make matters more interesting, the USGA put him in a group with Tiger Woods for the first two rounds. Since 2002, Phil is 4-4-2 against Tiger in rounds when they play together but two of those wins came at last years Deutsche Bank Championship when Phil outlasted Tiger to win the tournament. Its time, Phil. Youve caught enough bouquets. Its your turn to actually throw one.
Jim Furyk (3-1): Furyk has donned the green chiffon bridesmaid gown each of the last two years but hes at least reached the altar, having won at Olympia Fields in 2003. Torrey Pines has been set up in a way that doesnt cater to the medium-length hitters but as weve learned from Furyks performances, he keeps it in the fairway and he stays in contention. And really, thats all you need to do to win this tournament.
I promise no more wedding dress jokes. You can find Marty Hackels advice elsewhere on this website, Im sure.
Tiger Woods (4-1): This could be the most controversial ranking since the undefeated Auburn Tigers got left out of the BCS a couple years back. But I have serious questions about his comeback. I know he came back from his previous surgery to win at Torrey Pines but thats a different setup. I dont think the US Open is a good setup to be making your first start in 8 weeks, I dont care who you are. Granted it was under much different circumstances but we saw what Winged Foot did to Tiger when he came back from his fathers death in 2006. This start wont have the same result as that one; hell certainly make the cut here. If Tiger does win, forget that you ever read thisor send me hate mail, your choice.
Sergio Garcia (6-1): If ever there was a major for Sergio to win, it would be this one, but only if he can channel the same game he had at Carnoustie last year and Sawgrass this year. But inevitably, hell hit a flagstick or get a bad bounce off a tree or a spectator will accidentally hit his ball into deeper rough and hell complain once again. Nows the time for Sergio to step up. But if he doesnt, itll give me more of a reason to take him at Birkdale next month.
Yes, I think there are only four real favorites. The US Open is a far different animal than any of the other majors. But there are a whole host of double-digit odds guys that could take this title this year.
Bubba Watson (15-1): As I stated earlier, Torrey Pines has been set up with the bomber in mind. Theres no bigger bomber on the PGA Tour this year than Bubba. He got himself a top-5 last year at Oakmont and Ive got to think that all of these practice rounds that he plays with Tiger will come in handy and equal a couple of wins. Why not start with a big fish?
Geoff Ogilvy (15-1): Speaking of bombers, heres another one whos had success at the US Open; he is the 2006 champion after all. And remember that when he won at Winged Foot, it was after having won the WGC-Accenture Match Play. Ogilvy captured the WGC-CA Championship back in March so that could be a harbinger of a repeat performance.
Vijay Singh (15-1): The BIG FIJIAN (tired of those commercials yet?) says that hes fully healed from the oblique muscle injury that hes fought since THE PLAYERS. And hes back to using the long putter again. So maybe thats the real reason why they call him the Big Fijian. Well, he can also hit it like a mile, too.
Angel Cabrera (20-1): The Duck hasnt quacked too loudly this year. Hes 37th on the European Tour Order of Merit with his only top-5 coming in a quarterfinal loss at the Match Play in February. Hes also fighting history at this event as no one has repeated since Curtis Strange did it 19 years ago. But one difference you will notice this year is that Cabrera will be chomping a lot of gum. Hes given up cigarettes which is a good thing since San Diego municipal laws dont allow smoking in their public parks. It could be a big jump for Nicorette.
Anthony Kim (25-1): We havent heard much from Kim since he smacked the field around at Wachovia. Kims also a Southern California guy who has the mindset that can be a benefit and a curse at a US Open venue. A benefit because if those long drives continue to catch fairways, he has the iron play to really contend. But its a curse if those hammered drives end up in the ankle-high rough.
Retief Goosen (25-1): Its been easy to forget about Retief lately but this guy hasnt won 2 US Opens because hes some hack at the local driving range. If he can get his putter back to where he had it when he won at Shinnecock in 2004, I think he could be a real wildcard on the Torrey layout.
Trevor Immelman (30-1): Trevor said in his press conference on Tuesday that he would retire if he won the Grand Slam this year. I think its pretty safe to say that his quest will come to an end this week. But he did get his game back last week at Memphis and if he can keep that same thing going this week, hell be halfway home to collecting his 401k.
Justin Leonard (40-1): In keeping with the tradition of including the previous weeks champion, Leonard has one tool in his bag that can be very lethal at these US Opens ' his putter. However, hes missed 3 of his last 4 cuts and has never had a top 10 in an Open. So tread lightly.
Colin Montgomerie (75-1): Montys back to knock himself over the head again. He likely wont even make the cut given that his play lately has left a lot to be desired. But wouldnt it be fun if he was in contention again and he could avenge that poor 2nd shot on the 72nd hole two years ago? And remember, the last time there was a major played in Southern California, Monty got edged out in a playoff at Riviera by Steve Elkington in 1995.
Ernie Els (80-1): Its amazing how far the Big Easy has fallen since he won the Honda back in March. We thought then that he was back and 2008 could be a real big year for him. Since then, he has changed swing coaches, employed another mental guy, and skipped a couple of tournaments. My suggestion to Ernie is take a little trip down south to Tijuana this week, throw down a couple of tequila shots, maybe even eat the worm too and then come back rarin to go. Hes a lot better than what hes put out the last 2 months and it would be nice to see the old Easy again.
Any OTHER European (100-1): Sergio would be a tough pick simply because no European has won the Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970. But if you look at the rest of the eligible roster ' Rose, Donald, Casey, Dougherty, Westwood, Harrington, and Poulter ' its hard to believe one of these guys wont crack an egg at some point. Donald has played the best of the group at Torrey Pines, having finished second here in 2005.
OFF THE BOARD
Kenny Perry: The Memorial champion decided to bypass sectional qualifying for his national championship in order to concentrate on making his nations Ryder Cup team. Its especially on his mind because it will be played in his home state of Kentucky. Perry has stated that hes never played well at Torrey Pines and didnt want to go through 36 holes the day after winning the Memorial to do it. The Ryder Cup is just an exhibition, really. The US Open is a major championship. If hed rather work his schedule toward the Ryder Cup instead of a major, can fans be confident when hes on the Cup team and hes got to earn a crucial point at Valhalla?
THE TONY ROMO PROP
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was one of three celebrities to tee it up last Friday to try to break 100 at Torrey Pines. He shot 84. In honor of that
Over/Under number of US Open competitors that shoot higher than 84 ' 8
THE FINAL SCORE
The US Open hasnt finished with an under-par score since Retief Goosen won at Shinnecock in 2004. Also note that Tiger Woods has finished under-par at an Open just two times ' his two wins in 2000 and 2002.
Over/Under final score ' 287 (+3 )
HUNT FOR RED FIGURES
Last year, Oakmont yielded just 8 rounds under par for the entire tournament. Angel Cabrera shot two of those eight en route to his title. Because of the familiarity that a lot of these players have with this course, I think that number will be a bit higher this year.
Over/Under number of under-par rounds ' 15
NUMBER OF AMATEURS TO MAKE THE CUT
Last year, all 12 amateurs met an untimely fate at the hands of the Oakmont setup and didnt make the cut. This year, 10 amateurs will tee it up and one player who is getting a great tutorial about Torrey is Stanford sophomore Jordan Cox who has played the last two days with Tiger.
Over/Under number of amateurs to make the cut ' 1
JOHNNY MILLER PROP
Over/Under on number of players who will choke this week ' 2
THE BIG SCORE
Over/Under best round of the tournament ' 66
Over/Under worst round of the tournament ' 87
WHAT WILL PHIL DO?
This prop is only in play if Phil gets to the 72nd hole in the lead. Hes had a very bad tendency to spray it left off the tee when leading lately. Some of the tourneys that come to mind include his loss at Winged Foot, his drive at 18 at the 2007 Northern Trust that he lost to Charles Howell III, and of course, his push into the trees at Colonial a couple weeks back. So Phil, if youre leading, hit a 3-wood, even though its a par 5. And please dont dunk it in the water on your approach.
What will Phil make on the last hole of tournament?
DOUBLE BOGEY/WORSE +600