US Open preview: Why take risks with Mickelson's wrists?
I’ve read so many words about wrists I’m tempted to slash mine. When it’s not David Howell’s denying him a shot at the US Open, it’s Michelle Wie’s off-again on-again wrists tying her up in futile knots, or Phil Mickelson’s leaving us all guessing whether he’ll even make it through four days at Oakmont.
What gets me about Lefty is that, knowing his situation, hundreds of thousands of squidollars, not to mention the odd euro, have been thrown at him by eager punters. I know his exchange price has gone out from 8 to about 18 since the extent of his injury has become clear, but I still can’t be having it unless someone’s being economical with the truth.
Here’s what I’ve read: his left wrist is in a brace, it hurts especially when he has to hack balls out of the rough, and he admits that if this was any other competition he would pull out. He has struggled to complete his practice rounds and says he will have to rely on hitting the fairways to avoid the 5in rough and more pain. Lefty? Hitting EVERY fairway? He only needs to miss a few times for his wrist to start complaining. Just how many painkilling injections can he take? You might as well just toss your money down the nearest drain as back Mickelson in those circumstances.
I’d like to be wrong, because I was really looking forward to the “summer of fun” promised by Lefty’s new coach Butch Harmon.
As for those spraying cash at Tiger Woods, I sometimes wonder about their sanity too. The case for him beating Oakmont is full of holes and, although his price of near 5 is higher than we have seen him open at in his most recent outings, it’s not enough to tempt me. Read this excellent article to understand the question marks over Tiger: in essence a par 70 with only two very long par 5s and a rough tough enough to make anyone regret going in it, especially now the rain has made it stickier. For someone who generally only manages to hit just over half his fairways that’s got to be bad news. The question is whether his pretty awesome approach work and putting will be enough to make up for it.
One thing that should make him happy, along with most of his rivals, is that the rain will have softened the greens at least on day one. So, as my colleague Brandon Tucker has suggested in his excellent dispatches from the front, scores are likely to go lower than expected. On the flip side, the wet will slow up the fairways Thursday, supposedly to the detriment of the shorter hitters.
So who to fancy? Well, practically no one in my book. The US Open can be a bit of a lottery even when bone-hard greens aren’t tossing balls straight back with gay abandon. And who knows who is the next Woody Austin to produce a spectacular round out of thin air? (If you get the impression I still haven’t got over last week - you’re right). And almost all our merry band carry negatives in their baggage.
Jim Furyk: tops the accuracy stats and only falters on distance off the tee. He has been one of the season’s biggest disappointments, although some of that is down to, yup, wrist problems, but he is an Open winner who almost forced a playoff last year.
Vijay Singh: This competition has eluded him although he is a fairly regular top-tenner. He could have a few problems with the rough though and hasn’t really been much in the running lately (but then, neither had Woody Austin before Sunday).
Ernie Els: You wonder if Ernie is ever going to win in America again. And yet there are flashes of the Els of old. He has the stats except for accuracy and that is the big negative. His recent results don’t inspire confidence either (but then see Woody Austin).
Adam Scott: After last week’s meltdown? Maybe, actually, because there’s an argument for saying he had Oakmont on his mind a bit too much to concentrate on the job in hand. Again though, wayward tee shots could well be his undoing.
Retief Goosen: You can’t say no to a two-time Open winner, except that he’s been well below par this season and his stats suggest he’ll be mired in the rough more than the average contender.
Padraig Harrington: Many fancy the Irishman’s chances but count me out. He’s too flaky and, despite coming fifth last year, his recent record is pretty poor (but then wasn’t Woody Austin’s?).
Luke Donald: tenth in the Masters, seventh at Wentworth, he’s not long off the tee and his iron work has been a little off-key, but he’s accurate and a pretty hot putter, the two stats expected to stand out here.
Sergio Garcia: yet to demonstrate major credentials and accuracy is his weak spot.
Geoff Ogilvy: Why not? I’d read more into his 9th at the Memorial than his missed cut last week and although he rather won by default last year the all-round nature of his game is enough to suggest he can show it was not such a fluke.
Zach Johnson: his stats say yes, except for his distance shortcomings. But his Open record is awful - a 48th and two missed cuts.
A few others worth mentioning:
Sean O’Hair: He followed the disappointment of the Players with a fifth place at the Memorial two weeks ago (he should have won it) and his stats scream out as all-round figures to kill for - 18th for accuracy, 10th for distance, 23rd for putting and sixth for greens in regulation. It’s the mental challenge that is the imponderable.
David Toms: despite his Sunday phut last week he too has a very respectable set of stats and is 15th for accuracy and 28th for putting. Maybe he was saving himself (or simply in awe of Woody Austin!).
Jerry Kelly: he’s fallen off the radar recently yet is another with strong credentials.
Colin Montgomerie: a brave call from J B White and not beyond the bounds of possibility. He should have won it last year after all. But that’s it, Monty is the perennial nearly man and in the US he has missed his last two cuts.
Woody Austin: Heck, after last week I’m rooting for him to shoot the first sub-50 round in golfing history on Sunday to win by a country mile. Remember, you read it here first.
PS: Can someone tell me what a “rain event” is? That was the phrase used by Jim Hyler, the USGA’s championship committee chairman, Wednesday. Oakmont, he said, had had a “rain event". What was this “event", a witch-doctors’ convention, some kind of rain dance, an umbrella bring and buy sale perhaps? Or was it, simply, raining? You can tell Mr Hyler that I’m having a rage event right now.
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(1) There will be a "screwball" winner, someone like Joe Durant, Steve Elkington, or Woody Austin.
(2) Tiger Woods will not make the cut ! He cannot keep his ball out of the rough.
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