The U.S. Open conjures up images of long, thick rough, slick greens and par a competitive score. Winged Foot is all that in its meanest form.
In 1974, Hale Irvin won at Winged Foot at 7 OVER par. The 36-hole cut was 13 OVER. There will be plenty of storylines this week, but Winged Foot will again be the winner. Whoever carries the 2006 trophy, will have done the best job surviving.
That usually means Tiger Woods, whose championship grit shows better when not having his A-game. Make no mistake, with Tiger off dealing with his dad’s death since the Masters, Winged Foot, will show no mercy.
When Irvin won 32 years ago, he held the lead at the halfway point at 3 OVER with Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Raymond Floyd. The Toms, Watson and Kite, were one shot back.
Not a bad leaderboard.
It’s no stretch to think golf’s big 5 (Tiger, Phil, Ernie, Vijay and Retief) will be at or near the top of the chart anywhere from 2 to 6 OVER par. For all the PGA Tour whiners out there, this is not Phoenix and 28 UNDER target golf.
The New York Metropolitan Area has seen more than its share of rain. Winged Foot is oblivious to bad weather. The course is old school tough on its own.
My picks this week are grinders, who shoot par and cash on golf’s most difficult tests. Winged Foot is documented as one of the 10 best golf courses in the world. More than a few would say No. 1.
Adam Scott (25-1): His game is rounding into shape for Open. Strong showing at Westchester bodes well for Winged Foot.
Stewart Cink (60-1): Great price at the Hilton for a player that is as steady as they come. Flash doesn’t get it done this week. Cink fits the bill to a ”˜tee.’
Jeff Maggert (field): You may have to shop around town to get an individual price, but it’s worth it. Maggert gears his game to the majors and should again factor.
Tiger Woods (9-2): Winged Foot’s difficulty plays right into Tiger, the game’s best grinder. He’ll work his way into it, and this price is as high as you’ll see.
Vijay Singh (10-1): Again, a nice price for one of the game’s top ball-strikers. Bad putting won’t hurt him as much this week. Solid tee to green.
Phil Mickelson (11-2): New York loves Phil and, much like Jimmy Connors, he will feed off the crowd. If Lefty makes the cut, he’ll be right there.
Lee Janzen (field): Lee has this knack of surfacing on the most difficult courses. A past Open winner worth considering.
Jim Furyk (15-1): Has all the tools to win here, especially the patience. That’s what could get him to the top.
19th hole: David Duval is listed 250-1 at the Hilton. That ought to be for making the cut!
”¡ Don’t rule out either Irwin or Watson or even Jeff Sluman as 36-hole contenders. Their course smarts may produce early drama.