Hooks and Cuts: U.S. Open


BETHESDA, Md. – On the grounds of Congressional Country Club, storylines are forming and excitement is mounting at the 111th edition of the U.S. Open.

– Nos. 1 and 2 in the world are a combined 0-83 at major championships. Being No. 1 and 2 in the world doesn’t mean what it used to.

– There are maybe 40 to 50 players this week you could make a reasonable case for who could win this thing.

Tiger Woods is out, but not done. Remember, he tied for fourth in three of his last five major starts. Not bad. Not Tiger-like, certainly, but not bad.

– Stories that could make the front page of the New York Times: A win by teenagers, Ryo Ishikawa or Matteo Manassero; a win by Phil Mickelson; a win by an amateur; or a win by a long-shot qualifier.

–  Entry to the Hall of Fame gets sealed with a win by Jim Furyk or Angel Cabrera.

– These are hard times in Europe, with austerity in Ireland and Spain, and promiscuity in Italy and France. The Continent’s most stable currency is its golfers.

– Now 80, Ken Venturi’s back at Congressional celebrating his 1964 U.S. Open victory. The boy who stuttered turned to golf because it was the loneliest sport he could find. He’d play Harding Park in San Francisco, announcing as he played, “Venturi has this putt to win the U.S. Open.” Not only did he win his country’s Open, he won its affection as the preeminent announcer of his time. Early on, he asked Bing Crosby for an interview at Pebble Beach. When he started talking too quickly, Bing took the microphone and interviewed Ken in his slow, silky manner. “This is Bing Crosby. Today I got Ken Venturi and we’re gonna talk some golf.” What he taught Ken was that “people don’t listen to people who talk fast and loud.”

– Long-bomber Gary Woodland could become a superstar if he pulls it together at a big hitters' park like Congressional, which is very well suited for his considerable talents.

– Long shots worth a thought: Brandt Jobe and Harrison Frazar.

– The balance of power has shifted with Lee Westwood and company, taking world ranking points aboard their G5s to wherever international banking giants are doing business in emerging markets, ready to hand out sizable appearance fees. The Euros have never been averse to upfront money, nor to tapping their inner Vasco da Gama. 

– Your champion probably hasn’t been discussed in any of the pre-game shows to any great length. Recent major winners Charl Schwartzel, Martin Kaymer, Louis Oosthuizen, Graeme McDowell, Y.E. Yang, Lucas Glover and Cabrera weren’t in any discussions I can recall. So why not say a Bo Van Pelt? Or a Bill Haas? Or a Martin Laird?

– Nice to see Steve Irwin in his first U.S. Open at age 36. His dad was pretty good in this championship. Hale Irwin won three of 'em. Steve’s wife Jessi will caddie.

– I would not be shocked to see Manassero at 18 become the youngest ever to win the U.S. Open. He’s that polished and that good.

Luke Donald and Westwood are Nos. 1 and 2, but fellow Englishmen Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose are also more than capable.

– Nice to see Sam Saunders earning his berth into the U.S. Open. His grandfather had a pretty good moment at this championship in 1960.

– Donald and Westwood are best at accruing world ranking points, but the public - at least in America - seems to be saying, “Convince me. Win a U.S. Open, not the Indonesian Open.” Then again, without a single reigning American major champion, and without The Ryder Cup, is anyone listening to what America says?

Sergio Garcia could linger well into the weekend, as strong as he is tee to green.

– The sentimental choices are Phil, Steve Stricker and Rory McIlroy.

– Wouldn’t it be bizarre to see Stevie Williams hugging Adam Scott after a winning putt on Sunday?