Can anyone beat Tiger Woods in the U.S. Open?

June 12, 2001 11:08 AM
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Of course, the real issue at the 101st U.S. Open is Tiger Woods. Will he continue the Tiger slam? If he does, isn’t that putting him one step closer to what purists call a grand slam and an unprecedented seven straight major wins?

Tiger could be an even money favorite to win this year’s Open by tee off time, but there might be some competition.

The most likely challenger is Vijay Singh who stands at 12-1 odds to win. Just like Ernie Els in 2000, were it not for Tigers success this year than Vijay would most certainly be the player that would be on the lips of golf fans everywhere. Singh ranks first in Putting Average, second in Scoring Average (69.03), first in Par 5 performance and third in Par 4 performance. Surprisingly, it has been the Par 3’s that have hurt him this year. In 14 PGA Tour events he has eight Top 10 finishes including runner-up at Pebble Beach to Davis Love and at TPC to Tiger. With Singh’s distance and putting ability he has two factors that will come in handy on this year’s course and he’s finished strong the past couple Opens with a third place finish (tied with Tiger) at Pinehurst in ’99 and an eighth place finish last year at Pebble Beach.

In 1994 Southern Hills hosted the PGA Championship which was won in record fashion by South African Nick Price (35-1 to win this year’s Open). Price shot a 269 to win the Major by a then amazing six strokes. Three months earlier he had won at the Colonial (in Ft. Worth, TX) and history suggests that those who play well at this PGA event do well at Southern Hills as architect Perry Maxwell had a hand in designing both courses. This may mean bad news for Phil Mickelson (8-1) who collapsed in the Final Round of this year’s Colonial. It may not be a stretch for 30-1 Sergio Garcia to play well here.

Garcia, fresh off his first PGA Tour win at the Colonial, followed up with a second place tie at the Memorial and has three Top 10 finishes in his last three tournaments. While not finishing particularly strong in his U.S. Open debut last year (46th), he finished one stroke behind Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah and was a member of the 1999 European Ryder Cup team finishing with a 3-1-1 record. For 2001, Garcia is ranked first on Tour in Total Driving and fifth in Scoring, but gives away a lot in Par 5 performance when compared to the above mentioned Woods and Singh. Still, the odds make him attractive.

Another choice the odds make attractive is Lee Janzen at 50-1. In 1998 at Olympic, Janzen staged the best final round comeback (a five shot deficit) to beat Payne Stewart (who suffered a horrible second round finish due to pin placement on the 18th hole) and win his second U.S. Open. Janzen has not had the most spectacular three years since his last Major victory. Still he has a runner-up at the Houston Open and a grinder’s mentality which explains why he has two U.S. Open victories while many of this year’s favorites do not.

Ernie Els (15-1), along with David Duval (12-1), and Tom Lehman (20-1) all have excellent games that could put them in position to win on a final round Sunday which only adds to the intrigue of what will undoubtedly be another fantastic golfing event. The USGA claims their job in developing the U.S. Open is not to embarrass the game’s greatest players, only to identify them. Come June 17th we’ll once again have an opportunity to judge for ourselves.

Odds to win U.S. Open
Tiger Woods 3-2
Vijay Singh 12-1
Ernie Els 15-1
Jim Furyk 24-1  
Sergio Garcia 30-1
Phil Mickelson 8-1
Justin Leonard 22-1
Mike Weir 34-1
Mark Calcavecchia 36-1
John Huston 65-1
Jesper Parnevik 28-1
Scott Hoch 95-1
Steve Flesch 65-1
Stuart Appleby 60-1  
Hal Sutton 30-1
David Duval 10-1
Tom Lehman 22-1
Lee Westwood   32-1
Fred Couples 48-1
Justin Leonard 40-1
Michael Cambell 60-1
Greg Norman 74-1
Miguel jimemez 85-1  
Mark O’Meara 100-1  
Jerry Kelly 70-1
Paul Azinger 53-1
Robert Allenby 60-1  
Scott Verplank 34-1  
Joe Durant 50-1
Chris DiMarco 65-1
Frank Lickliter 38-1
Brad Faxon 39-1
Carlos Franco 80-1
Rocco Mediate   42-1
Chris Perry 60-1
Lee Janzen 42-1
Bob May 46-1
Steve Stricker 70-1
Davis Love III 18-1
Colin Montgomerie 32-1
Nick Price 35-1
Jose Olazabal 43-1
Loren Roberts   50-1
Bernard Langer   58-1
Jeff Sluman 65-1
Thomas Bjorn 76-1
Nick Faldo 100-1
Field   15-2