The Open Is A Different Game

Posted: June 13, 2012 in golf
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Bobby Jones once told Jack Nicklaus, “You play a game with which I’m not familiar.” That was from the greatest golfer of his era to the greatest golfer of that era. It has always been my contention that, regardless of the era, only a handful of non-touring pros can truly relate to the game touring pros play.

That brings me to the United States Open Championship, which is this week at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. Try as we might, how can we really analyze what the golfers will face.

Consider these facts: The opening hole is a 520-yard par-4; the 3rd hole is a 247-yard par-3; and there’s a 670-yard par-5. Forget the trees, rough, ribbon-thin fairways, slopes, lightning fast greens and hazards along the way. The distances themselves are mind-boggling for 99-plus percent of those of us who play the game.

Year in and year out, no playing challenge is greater than the one presented by the U.S. Open. The fact that a handful of the golfers in the Open will better par over 72 holes (maybe) should humble the golfing masses and make of rest of us realize how unfamiliar we are with the game they play.

No matter how difficult the course plays and no matter how unfair some of the holes may seem – and the USGA has been known to cross the line when it comes to fair-unfair – someone among the 156 players is going to win. Anyone who is talented enough to qualify for an Open is capable of winning, but it does seem to be a safe bet to eliminate some of the amateurs such as 14-year-old Andy Zhang of China. The USGA is researching to see if he is the youngest Open competitor ever.

The odds-makers have made three-time Open champion Tiger Woods the favorite now that he has recaptured some of his magic. Defending champion Rory McIlroy and five-time runner-up Phil Mickelson are high on everyone’s list.

None, however, make my top three. In fact, none of my top three picks has ever won a major championship, but don’t think I’m going out of a limb. All are ranked among the top 10 players in the world. All also are known for being incredibly accurate drivers of the ball, superb ball-strikers and cool under pressure.

My pick is Luke Donald, who is the game’s most consistent player. My No. 2 pick is Lee Westwood, who has been a fixture on the leader boards of majors for the last several years. No. 3 of my list is Matt Kuchar, who has been quiet since winning The Players but has a solid record in the Open.

But I won’t be surprised if, say, Kevin Streelman is victorious. Opens have often been full of surprises. Remember Michael Campbell? Lucas Glover? Ed Furgol? You get my point.



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