Open length playing into Tiger’s hands

June 11, 2002 7:49 AM
by

share

The 102nd U.S. Open is quickly upon us, and one would hope that there is a good deal more excitement during the fourth round Sunday than we saw in the Masters.

However, it may be more of the same as the 7,214-yard course will be the longest in the majors’ history and favors the longer hitters. Previously, the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional C.C. held claim to being the longest course played, but will be overtaken by a New York public course that will play exactly one yard longer: Bethpage State Park (Black Course).

In 1997, Ernie Els beat out Colin Montgomerie and Tom Lehman (who played in the final group for the third straight year, only to come up short once again) to grab the second of his U.S. Open titles.

Tiger Woods finished 10 strokes back.

While Els will once again be among the favorites, his driving distance, and more important on an Open course, his accuracy, is a bit off. In contrast, Woods, this year, is ranked second in distance, 77th in accuracy and first in greens in regulation.

Last year’s champion, Retief Goosen, will also be among the favorites this year, despite playing in his first PGA event just last week since the Masters. Goosen placed second, even after a final round 74.

His appearance the week before at the Bell South Classic, netted him a win as a charge by Phil Mickelson developed into another Sunday collapse, but his results on the European tour have been shaky lately.

Goosen, of course, will be remembered for winning at Southern Hills in Tulsa in what truly has to be described as bizarre fashion. His play over the weekend was most memorable simply because he remained a leader despite being all over the course, and miraculously saving par.

This came to a head on the final hole on Sunday where he blew a two foot par putt that would have given him the win. Instead, he had to face Mark Brooks in an 18 hole playoff the following day to cash in on a victory.

Stewart Cink would have been the third player involved in that playoff, but he missed an 18-inch putt moments before Goosen putted into a playoff.

Last year’s final round featured some impressive shooting by Tom Kite (who currently has seven Top-10 finishes in 10 events entered this year on the Senior Tour, including two wins) and Vijay Singh.

Both golfers finished at 6 under par 64s to finish in the Top 10. Unimpressive scores were shot by heavy favorites Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia. In fact, Mickelson’s 5 over par 70 was topped by Garcia who went into the Sunday round one shot off the lead.

Garcia ended up finishing tied for 12th after a 7 over par blow up. Interestingly enough, while Phil has been getting the headlines for losing it on Sundays, Garcia has exhibited some troubling form ever since the 1999 PGA Championship where Tiger bested him by one shot.

Since then, Garcia has played in nine Majors, missing the cut twice (2001 Masters and the 2001 PGA Championship), and has only shot under par twice in the final round (69 in the 2000 PGA and 70 in the 2001 British Open.

In the seven Majors where he has made the cut, Garcia’s average weekend score is approximately 4.1 strokes over par, which suggests that Sergio may still be lacking the experience to pull out a win when the pressure is on.

The course this year features the two longest par 4 holes in U.S. Open history, the 492 yard 10th and the 499 yard 12th (which in a recent practice round, Tiger was able to reach with a combination driver and 4-iron).

Only one of the two par 5s is likely reachable in two shots (the 4th hole is a Par 5, 517 yard hole, while the 13th is a monster 554 yards).

The long hitters are once again the ones to watch. Throw in typical U.S. Open conditions, and the fairways will play between 26 and 28 yards wide. The rough will be grown to four inches in height and the greens will be lightning fast.

Once again you have set the stage for some intense pressure to be placed on the World’s greatest golfers. Sunday’s leaderboard should look remarkably similar to what we saw on Sunday at Augusta this year.

If once again the field feels it has to force shots in order to try and catch Tiger, the resulting play could turn very ugly, very quickly.

US OPEN GOLF, JUNE 13

BETHPAGE, NY

OPEN NOW

1.  

 T. Woods  

 9-5  

 2-1

2.  

 P. Mickelson  

 8-1  

 8-1

3.  

 E. Els  

 10-1  

 10-1

4.  

 R. Goosen  

 12-1  

 12-1  

5.  

 S. Garcia  

 15-1  

 20-1

6.  

 V. Singh  

 15-1  

 15-1

7.  

 D. Duval  

 18-1  

 18-1

8.  

 J.M. Olazabal  

 25-1  

 28-1

9.  

 C. DiMarco  

 25-1  

 25-1

10.  

 D. Toms  

 25-1  

 20-1

11.  

 M. Weir  

 30-1  

 30-1

12.  

 J. Furyk  

 30-1  

 20-1

13.  

 J. Leonard  

 30-1  

 25-1

14.  

 S. Cink  

 35-1  

 30-1

15.  

 D. Love III  

 35-1  

 30-1

16.  

 C. Howell II  

 35-1