Time to Put a Win in the Bank


US Bank Championship in MilwaukeeThis is where it all began. Ten years ago. Hello, world.
Tiger Woods made his professional debut a decade ago in the Greater Milwaukee Open, which will be contested this week as the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee.
Ben Crane
Ben Crane is the defending champion of this year's U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee.
This years event will not feature Woods, as has been the case since he tied for 60th in 1996. Woods used his first professional sponsors exemption here, made a little cash, and hasnt since been back.
Woods isnt the only big name player skipping this week. All of the top 20 players in the world are anywhere but in Milwaukee this week. That happens when a tournament is held the week following the Open Championship ' which was won, of course, by Woods.
Tiger may not return until the PGA Championship. As for this week, it should once again prove to be a good opportunity for a first-time winner, or for a veteran to get a win for the first time in a while.
This year, weve seen the likes of Tim Herron and Jeff Maggert win on TOUR for the first time since 1999. And weve seen J.B. Holmes, Arron Oberholser, Aaron Baddeley, Chris Couch and Brett Wetterich win for the first time ever.
Prior to the British Open, three straight first-time winners had prevailed ' J.J. Henry, Trevor Immelman and John Senden. And just before that, Ben Curtis won the Booz Allen Classic for his first TOUR triumph since his first TOUR triumph three years ago.
The field for this weeks U.S. Bank Championship may not have Tiger or Phil or Ernie. But it does have a vast array of players who could really use a win for one reason or another.
Like Paul Azinger, who is trying to shift gears from TV analyst to full-time pro ' but is in need of solid playing status for 2007.
Like Mark Brooks, who made a valiant run last week at the B.C. Open, but is still winless since 1996 ' and his 10-year exemption for winning the 96 PGA Championship runs out this year.
Like Ryan Moore, who seems to be forgotten among the new crop of TOUR rookies, but may have more talent ' and definitely a better amateur resume ' than the lot of them.
Of course, these are just a few examples. There are 156 players in the field, all hoping that their story has a happy ending come Sunday evening.
This will mark the 39th playing of this event and the 13th consecutive year that it will be held at Brown Deer Park Golf Course.
Here are our five favorites to make this years edition the most special of them all ' at least in their minds.
Jeff Sluman
Jeff Sluman is trying to become the first three-time winner of this event.
Jeff Sluman
Sluman has already wrapped up his playing status for next season, thanks to a trio of top 10s and only three missed cuts. But he hasnt won on TOUR since 2002 ' when he captured this event. So this would be as good a place as any to end his current drought. He has played this tournament 18 times throughout his lengthy career and has six top-10 finishes, including a fourth-place showing a year ago. Two of those are victories, with the first coming in 1998 and the second four years later ' its now four years later once again.
Kenny Perry
Perry is still trying to find his form after being sidelined for two months due to a knee injury. He cracked the top 15 at the Booz Allen and the Western Open, but he still doesnt have a top 10 all season long. This, however, is one site Perry seems to enjoy very much, so perhaps all will change this week. Perry has finished inside the top 10 each of the last six years here, winning in 2003.
Scott Verplank
From 1992-2003, Verplank was M.I.A. in Milwaukee. He then returned in 2004 and promptly tied for 11th. He returned last year and finished runner-up to Ben Crane. Hes back once again to see if he can once again graduate his results. Verplanks last win on TOUR came in the 2001 Bell Canadian Open. He began this campaign with back-to-back runner-up finishes, but hasnt recorded a top 10 since Bay Hill in March.
Jerry Kelly
While the British Open is a major to every golfer in the world, this weeks event is also a major in the eyes of Kelly. Kelly was born and still resides in Madison, Wis. He is a true cheesehead at heart. Though he hasnt won on TOUR since 2002, Kelly has had a fairly successful season this year, with a pair of top-5s and over $1 million in the bank. He has played his home tournament 14 times and has three top 10s. Over the last three years, he has finished T12, T13 and T14.
Chris Smith
Smith is guy who desperately needs to make some big money this week to give him a chance to earn his card for next year, having missed eight cuts in 15 starts. Smith, who hasnt won on TOUR since the 2002 Buick Classic, has a good track record at this event. He has managed to break into the top 10 on three of his last four trips around Brown Deer Park.
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