Number 17 in the world, Rocco Mediate, qualifies as a favorite. He won here in 1993, hes an accurate marksman well suited to the Forest Oaks layout, which features thick rough, and at 39 his timing is perfect. The last six winners here have averaged 39 years of age.
Jim Furyk is only 31, but hes usually in the fairway. If he can improve his normally reliable putting, then he should be a factor.
If Scott Hoch can see straight, then he, too, figures to be in the chase for a successful defense. Hochs struggling with double vision, a result of a procedure used to try and correct astigmatism. Depth perception is the problem. When he tees a ball up, hes fine. But he skulled the first three wedges he hit on the range. Hell make a decision as to whether or not he can play on Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, its hard to imagine that anyone is more excited this week than the Haas family. Jay, 48 years old, is in the field along with his son Bill. Bill is a talented 19-year-old sophomore playing at his dads alma mater, Wake Forest. Ironically, Jay, too, was a 19-year-old Wake Forest sophomore when he played here in 1973, alongside Arnold Palmer and the great Canadian, George Knudson. He shot 68 in the opening round and made the cut.
One of Bills collegiate peers, Bubba Dickerson, makes his professional debut this week. He seems to understand what it will take, explaining to me that the key on tour is to turn those 75s into 71s. Dickerson left Florida early and is forgoing his exemption to the upcoming U.S. Open in hopes of using up to seven sponsors exemptions to get his card. Along with Tiger Woods, Dickerson is the only man to have captured both the U.S. Amateur and the Western Amateur in the same year.
Finally, this tournament, among the 10 oldest in golf, shifts to an October date next year. That will really boost the field as players look to make the top 30 on the money list for the Tour Championship ,as well as the top 50 in the world rankings for The Masters.
As for this year, you dont really want to trim the bushes, do you?