I keep hearing the same thing coming into the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines:
If Phil Mickelson is ever going to win the Open, this is it.
Oh really, doctor?
While it’s true that Torrey Pines is essentially Lefty’s home course, while it’s true Lefty has as many runner-up finishes in the Open as Jack Nicklaus (four), and while it’s true that Tiger Woods is an unknown in his return from knee surgery, Mickelson simply can’t be a shoe-in favorite this week.
Yes, he’s won at Riviera and at Colonial this year. But yes, in his win at Colonial, he blocked another tee shot on 18 way, way, waaaaaaaaaay left and needed the shot of the year to win the tournament.
It was eerily reminiscent of Lefty’s colossal meltdown on 18 at Winged Foot two years ago, only this time he got out of it.
So while Mickelson should be in contention, I’m of the opinion he comes oh-so-close again and rips his fans’ hearts out again with another disastrous ending.
I hope that doesn’t happen, because he’ll be the legitimate rival to Woods should he win.
But he needs to win first.
Then I’ll go back to picking him.
As for Tiger, he’s Tiger. So if anybody can come back with barely a full round of golf under his belt and win the U.S. Open, it’s him.
But if Woods were able to actually play and walk a full 18 by now, wouldn’t he have? Hard to make the call on him.
Hard not to, though.
Here are a few other guys I think have as good a shot as anybody to win this week:
Geoff Ogilvy — With a golf course that is listed at more than 7,600 yards, you need to be long, real long, to win. While the USGA is saying it won’t set the course up to play more than 7,400-7,500 yards any day, it’s still going to be a haul, especially with the foggy mist by the ocean, which could keep things slightly damp. Ogilvy has all the tools and is playing well right now.
Sergio Garcia — It all comes down to how he’s putting, especially on fast greens. But he’s striking the ball as well as anybody in the world, can go on runs of being impossibly straight, is strong as a bull and is creative. The win at The Players is a big boost, as was his performance at a U.S. Open-like St. Jude’s in Memphis, where he finished a shot out of the playoff. I like him this week.
Jim Furyk — Actually, the course is probably too long for him. But if he is in contention on Sunday, he’ll make some sort of inexplicable decision on the tee with two holes to play and throw it away — just like he has done the last two Opens.
Pat Perez — My sleeper pick. He’s never won on the PGA Tour, but he grew up working at Torrey Pines. Maybe he’s the unlikely hometown hero — if he can keep his tempter in check.
Stewart Cink — I just think he’s an Open-type player. As long as he isn’t paired with Woods…
Justin Rose — He’s better than his late-round finishes in the Masters, and he was the European Tour’s Order of Merit winner last year.
Brandt Snedeker — He hasn’t played very well since his grueling coming-out party at Augusta, but his game is tailor-made for the Open. While he isn’t excessively long, when his putter is right, he’ll make everything, including those gut-wrenching 5-footers to get up and down for par.
Andres Romero — The 27-year-old Argentinean has been a pro for 10 years. He almost stole the British Open last year and was eighth in the Masters. He’s emerging on the biggest stages.
The Artist Formerly Known as Ernie Els — This guy has won three majors, as many as Mickelson and Vijay Singh. Remember that?
The Artist Formerly Known as Retief Goosen — You know how I think about Lefty after Winged Foot? That’s how I think about the Goose after Pinehurst. Lefty just lost his majors’ edge after that double bogey. I think Goosen lost his game after that 81.