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2005 US OPEN - IN REVIEW

Day 1 - PINEHURST, THIS PLACE IS SCARY!!! - June 16, 2005 - "If you can shoot par or better for four days you're looking awfully good."
Tiger Woods
“If it gets any harder this week, it will be all most impossible to shoot under par.”
Phil Mickelson

That's what the world's top players are saying today at Pinehurst after their first rounds. It is as if they are scared of the possibilities over the four day event. According to the players, this year's Open has somewhat slower greens and deeper rough than last year at Shinnecock when the greens were incredibly fast. Still only nine players could better par versus 23 on the first day in 1999 at the same venue.

So here's what's happening thus far. Rocco Mediate, looking ever so slender, and Olin Browne are in the top spot after 67's, three under par. Brandt Jobe, Retief Goosen and Lee Westwood stand at two under, one back. Of the top players in the world, Goosen leads at minus two, followed by Mickelson at minus one, Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods at even par, then Ernie Els at plus one. Number six ranked Sergio Garcia is at one over, 71. Aussie, Adam Scott is at even par. So what we have is the world's top players still bunched toward the top and very much involved. I think we just might get our shootout.

Goosen got to minus two by hitting 16 of 18 greens in regulation coupled with 11 of 14 fairways off the tee. This is really impressive for an Open and probably explains his two Open trophies. As I wrote earlier, iron play to the greens would be critical and he was on the mark. but he took 32 putts to complete his two under, 70, first round. On the otherhand, Lefty Mickelson only had to putt the ball 27 times in route to his 71 indicating an above average short game.

We must assume that the remainder of the week will bring about more difficult conditions and higher scores. My prediction is that we will have a field bunched together going into Sunday. I don't see anyone being able to distance themselves from the field. Sunday should be fun!

Day 2 - June 17, 2005 - THIS IS TOTALLY UNPREDICTABLE!!! - I am beginning to wonder about the direction of the USGA and it’s championships. Here we are on Friday evening, after two rounds of the US Open at Pinehurst No. 2 and this event is wide open and looking like a process of elimination. After two rounds the leading American golfers at the American open are Olin Browne, a 48 year old journeyman tourist who is tied for the lead at -2, Jason Gore who has spent most of his professional career on the Nationwide Tour and very little time on the PGA Tour who is also -2 plus Brandt Jobe who most have never heard of and he is at +1. What are we trying to achieve with the national championships?

This tournament, like so many USGA events, seems to reward average distance, accuracy and steadiness as the field plays defensively and tries to avoid disaster. Have you ever heard of a tournament when the cut line was eight over par. That’s right, plus eight gets one into the last two days of play. Several of the players in contention are predicting a plus 3, 4 or 5 as the winning score.

This course as set up by the USGA is a disaster waiting to happen. Today, Ernie Els, the third ranked player in the world shot a six over 76 and just made the cut at +7. Lefty Mickelson, ranked fourth, shot a 77 and is plus six. Chris Dimarco who plays so well in majors missed the cut at +13. David Toms who led the championship by a shot through 16 holes today met disaster, face to face, and finished double bogey, triple bogey. This can happen to anyone in this event. So until we get to the last nine on Sunday we won’t have a clue as to who is still alive and in the running. Again, each player is only a shot away from a disaster that will eliminate that person from the championship.

Personally I think golf courses and golf organizations should set up courses in such a way as to encourage risk and reward shot making. We want to see the world’s great players play at their aggressive best. None of this bunt the ball down the middle, bunt it on to the green and two putt for par. That is why we love the Masters. Just think of the risk, reward through “amen corner” and the last nine at Augusta. It is so much fun to watch.

In case you are interested, Retief Goosen is tied for the lead at -2, one shot ahead of Korean K.J. Choi and Aussie Mark Hensby. Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Adam Scott are at +1, three back while Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia, Michael Campbell and Lee Westwood are at even par. It looks to me as if Retief Goosen will win each and every US Open until he retires sometime in the next 10 to 15 years. That is what the USGA seeks.

Day 3 - JUNE 18, 2005 - GOOSEN GROOVING - Retief Goosen of South Africa, ranked number five in world golf, is the only golfer under par after the third round today at the US Open at Pinehurst No. 2. Goosen is a US Open golfing machine. He is alone in red numbers at three under. Should he hold his lead and win again tomorrow it will be his third Open title this new millennium. He is defending his title from last year at Shinnecock Hills and he grabbed the trophy in 2001 at Southern Hills.

As Tiger Woods pointed out following his round today, the Pinehurst Open has had perfect weather with no wind and only one golfer has a score below par. In today’s third round only two golfers, Goosen and 51 year old Peter Jacobsen broke par. Jacobsen had to make a hole in one to do it. The top four players in the world have not faired as well as Goosen ranked fifth. Number one ranked Tiger Woods shot a two over 72 and is at plus three, Vijay Singh shot 74 and is plus four for the championship, third ranked Ernie Els posted a plus 2, 72 and is at plus nine for the week and Lefty Mickelson shot 72 and is plus eight while number. Other top golfers include Sergio Garcia, ranked sixth in the world, shot 75 and is plus five for the week; seventh ranked Adam Scott counted 74 shots today and is plus five for the tournament.

Meanwhile we have some no names trying to catch Goosen. The crowd favorite seems to be Californian heavyweight, Jason Gore of the Nationwide Tour. Jason started qualifying at the local level and has advanced though the sectionals to get an invitation to Pinehurst. Gore has shot 71, 67 and 72 to put him at even par and three back. He will play in the last group tomorrow with Goosen. Olin Browne, age 46, sits at even par after rounds of 67, 71 and 72. Others chasing include Mark Henby, the Australian, at plus one, Michael Campbell of New Zealand at plus one and David Toms at plus two. Tiger at plus three is still alive but will have to go low to win. Goosen predicted that he needed a one or two over par round to win tomorrow.

Day 4 -JUNE 19 - CAMPBELL SURVIVES ELIMINATION - WINS OPEN - As I wrote earlier in the week, this tournament was going to be a process of elimination. This was an event that was like a disaster waiting happen and that disaster did happen for most of the top players in the world. There was one golfer who finished this 72 hole, meat grinder at even par, Michael Campbell of New Zealand, and he is our national champion. It was a very emotional Michael Campbell who accepted the winner’s trophy following Sunday’s finish. As he told the press afterwards he knew Tiger was making birdies ahead of him but, “there was little ol’ me, I snuck in there and won it all.” Tiger finished at -1, 69 and was second alone. By shooting 69, Tiger had a chance as everyone else was moving backward.

A Kiwi from down under in the tiny nation of New Zealand, Campbell had showed his face in 1995 as a rookie at the British Open at Saint Andrews as he led after three rounds, eventually losing to American John Daly. In the days since he has had many ups and downs as a golfer. He has struggled with injury and illness but managed to win six tournaments on the European Tour but he had never challenged in America or at the majors. At the early part of the week he was ranked 80th in the world. On Sunday’s evening he is one of the top Kiwi’s to have achieved world acclaim including Everest climber, Sir Edmund Hillary, 1963 British Open champion, Bob Charles. Campbell, who is a descendant of a Scottish great, great, great grandfather and a Polynesian, has established his place in golf and Kiwi history.

Would you have ever thought that the top five golfers in the world would finish this Open at 37 over par? That is not my idea of interesting and entertaining golf. What happened to our Cinderella Man, Jason Gore? He shot 84 on Sunday. Gore’s playing partner, leader Retief Goosen shot eleven over 81. Olin Browne in the next to last grouping, shot a 10 over 80. Of the last four golfers going out today they finished 35 over par. Only Campbell shot par and he is our champion.

Lastly, on this Father’s Day, I shed a few tears today. I could tell as I felt their warmth on my cheeks as I remembered Payne Stewart, his widow and kids. Stewart who won at Pinehurst in 1999, was a special person and one of my heroes. He was a swashbuckling, flamboyant, energetic personality. He had great panache. He was a caring person, a friend, a father and husband. He was a good guy! He was part Bobby Jones, part Walter Hagen, part Errol Flynn. The bronze statue of Payne, at Pinehurst, pumping his fist after the putt to win in ‘99 is special to see. The memory is branded in my brain. It was wonderful to hear the nice things said about Payne over the weekend as his friends remembered his triumph in ‘99, four months before his tragic and premature death.


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