With the final 18 holes to be played on Sunday at famed Pebble Beach, the question is simple: Who will win the 110th U.S. Open? Senior writers Randall Mell and Rex Hoggard offer their takes.
By RANDALL MELL
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Tiger Woods has never come from behind in the final round to win a major championship.
He scores another first changing that today.
Five shots down but alone in third place, Woods has just two players in front of him, formidable foes in that Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell are playing so well. Neither, though, has won a major. Johnson and his aggressive game plan might be due a reckoning at Pebble Beach.
Woods’ experience with 14 major championship triumphs makes the difference as long as his swing remains manageable and his putter’s working. Woods looked terrific on both counts Saturday. He looked like he turned a corner, like he’s finding his old powers again.
Woods doesn’t have to hit driver to win the U.S. Open today. That’s a big deal the way he can spray his driver. He has to putt like the Tiger of old, though, not the guy who lost to Y.E. Yang in the final round of the PGA Championship. Woods’ stroke looked terrific again on the back nine Saturday at Pebble Beach.
I wrote Friday that Woods’ colleagues weren’t looking over their shoulder in fear of Woods when he was seven shots back. I wrote Woods’ invincible aura was switched off and would remain so until he started throwing lightning bolts. That was a frightening lightning bolt he threw the 18th hole. That was something to fear.
By REX HOGGARD
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Sometime since Dustin Johnson put the finishing touches on that third-round gem someone within the confines of “Team DJ” has mentioned the obvious – Tiger Woods has never come from behind to win a major championship.
It won’t be a loose swing or another snapshot 3-wood at the 18th hole that will decide the 110th U.S. Open, it will be that confounding fact that will lift Johnson to his first major.
Johnson may be untested. He may even be a tad too aggressive for a national championship that cherishes par, but know this about the towering kid from South Carolina, he will not be overwhelmed by the moment.
“The dude never freaks out, never,” said Johnson’s caddie Bobby Brown.
Nor will he be cajoled by uncut rough or rock-hard greens to dial back a game plan that has lifted him three strokes clear of the field and five ahead of Woods, who has rallied from that far back just twice on Tour in his Hall of Fame career.
Hank Haney once explained Woods’ pedestrian record when playing from the pack, if he’s trailing he doesn’t have his best stuff and that’s an unnerving reality on a demanding golf course.
On Saturday Woods said he needed one good nine. On Sunday he will need more than that to run down Johnson.