Oakmont could be the new Shinnecock this week. Maybe not in terms of the poor maintenance of greens back in 2004, but Oakmont’s greens are almost as slippery even when watered better than Shinnecock’s and the biggest penalty is the graduated rough that surrounds thin fairways. Bunkers no fun either.
Talk this week has been that the course is going to play well above par. They’ve removed more than 5,000 trees in the last five years, to try to return it to its linksy original design near the Allegheny River.What are the odds Phil Mickelson will hit one of the few that are left?
I’m tempted to break my Mickelson position of not wagering for or against him. A golf history buff, he knows the best thing he could do to elevate his career from Hall of Fame status to one of the best ever would be to win a bunch more majors, starting with this one after last year’s debacle. I don’t know how much I believe in the wrist injury or the problems it might give him this week and I could see Mickelson play this major like A-Rod played April for the Yankees. Bottom line, though, you just don’t know with those guys. I’m staying away.
I always pick Tiger in the majors because he’s Tiger. A grueling mental test sets up perfectly for him. I could see him playing this like he did the British Open last year: lay off the temptation of the short par-4s and play it safe and back with his irons. Stay out of the hay at all costs. Oakmont’s still no walk in the park with a conservative approach because the greens aren’t going to hold much. It’s not like I’ll be kicking myself if he does win at only 11-4 odds.
On the stats front, a good look at driving accuracy and putting can help this week, but the fact is that when players in practice rounds are talking about the possibility of rounds in the 90s, it’s anyone’s guess.
Last week: No go in the outright but Scott Verplank came through in the head-to-head at 11-10, 1 unit for 1.1 units.
Take David Toms (50-1), 1/6 unit: Quietly having a good year with five top-10s and eight top-25s. He’s coming off a third place finish last week in Memphis, which was a tough test in itself. He ranks 37th in driving accuracy, pretty good, and he’s been rolling the ball well with that sweet putting stroke. He withdrew from the U.S. Open last year but since 2000 he’s gone T16, T66, T45, T5, T20 (in 2004,at nasty Shinnecock) and T15.
Take Jim Furyk (16-1), 1/6 unit: Four top-10s and eight top-25s this year, he’s plodding along. Plodding along being a good approach this week. Always among the top players in driving accuracy, finding greens and a grinding putter, it’s no surprise his only major win was the U.S. Open in 2003. Since then, he’s gone T48, T28 and T2 last year because of a costly 18th at Winged Foot. Furyk has his own cross to bear and may be flying a little under the radar this week.
Take Retief Goosen (25-1), 1/6 unit: Not the first time I’ve picked the Goose to win this tournament (I was right in 2004 when he outlasted Shinnecock with brilliant play around and on those treacherous greens). I think there’s a distinction between mentally tough and unfazed. He’s probably as much the latter as the former. Goosen finished T2 at the Masters this year. Driving accuracy is a problem and he hasn’t been putting all that well. Since 2001 he’s won the U.S. Open twice and missed the cut twice, one of those MCs last year.
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