Wednesday, June 14, 2006


The 106th U.S. Open is upon us! They're predicting pretty nice weather throughout (about 75-80 F and mostly sunny, slight chance of thunderstorms), and since we haven't had much rain lately I suspect the greens will be slick as always. In fact, some are saying the conditions are the toughest ever, and not many players are expected to finish under par after 72 holes (although it will probably not be as bad as the ridiculously named Massacre of 1974, when Hale Irwin won at +7). One thing is for sure: the winner will not be a fluke.

Here are some interesting facts about Winged Foot (West Course) Golf Course in Mamaroneck, NY:

Yardage: 7,266 yards
Par: 35 - 35 – 70
Opened: 1923
Designer: A.W. Tillinghast
First timers: 23-year-old Madalitso Muthiya will be the first golfer from Zambia at the U.S Open; U.S. Open qualifier Tadd Fujikawa of Honolulu is the youngest and shortest player in the tournament, a 15-year-old who is 5'1", 135 pounds
Quote: "Winged Foot is to golf what Wimbledon is to tennis – what Yankee Stadium is to baseball. Winged Foot is a state of mind." – Dave Marr, 1965 PGA winner.
Fun fact: the term "mulligan" possibly came from early club member David Mulligan, who would become president of the Biltmore Hotel, who would often plead for "another chance" after an errant tee shot. Through the years, his name became synonymous with a "do-over", with President Eisenhower using the term, it became part of the golfing vernacular.

So who has a chance to win this thing?

In case you were hiding under a rock, Tiger's back and ready to play after his dad's death 6 weeks ago. He looked like he was having a good time at the Yankees game a few weeks ago, but he decided to forgo several tournaments since the Masters to relax instead (and I don't blame him). Is the long layoff going to effect him? Unlike other golfers who "don't pick up a club" when they take time off (I'm looking at you, Lefty), there's no doubt he's been training for this. I expect that Tiggs is going to be focused and hard to beat. Of course, winning this thing on Father's Day would be a bittersweet ending, made for Hollywood.

According to his officially bland website, this Friday's Round Two happens to coincide with Phil Mickelson's 36th birthday. Please, I beg the New York gallery this weekend: don't sing Happy Birthday to him, it only makes him stronger! Plus, it's kinda gay. Will FIGJAM have two drivers in his bag? The answer is: who gives a shit? Actually, he's carrying four wedges: sand, gap, lob and meatball parm. Seriously, there's no doubt that Phillis is going to be a factor this weekend, he always seems to be in the mix in the U.S. Open.

But since everyone's predicting a TIGGS/FIGJAM showdown (on MSNBC, 39% say Tiger will win, 26% Phil), that's probably not going to happen. As for the others, I wouldn't rule out Retief 'Grey' Goosen, his overall game fits the U.S. Open conditions, and he's way overdue to win something. Others who have been playing well lately and have a shot at this: Adam Scott (who is just as stonefaced as Goose), Luke Donald, and David Toms. Stuart Appleby can stay in it if he keeps his enormous drives out of the rough. And of course if Padraig wins it, I will be hitting James Joyce Irish Pub pretty hard that night (meh, I'll be there anyway).

What can we expect from Ernie Els? I would say not much; the Big Easy hasn't rebounded from his knee surgery very well, and has been putting badly. I suspect Vee-ger, fresh off a Barclay Classic win in Westchester (which is the last time it will be held the week before the U.S. Open), will be too fatigued to win this. Jimmy the Hitch has a bad back, Henrik Stenson is too Swedish, and Sergio "Los Pantalones Feos" Garcia always implodes at some point.

Since buying my HDTV, I have watched a lot of bad programming merely because it was in HD (D.E.B.S., National Treasure, and NBA basketball, to name a few), but no program was worse than "John Daly vs. Niagara Falls". Merely a promotional stunt to advertise his new golf course in the area, he tried unsuccessfully to drive a golf ball 342 yards across the Falls, from the observation deck in Canada over to a green set up on Goat Island in New York. Because of the mist, no one including the cameras could even see where the fucking balls went, although an announcer on the other side claimed to have heard 1 out of 20 balls hit the rocks on the other side. Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone's Vault was more exciting. To make a long story short, John Daly will not make the cut at Winged Foot.

(By the way, is it pronounced 'WINGED' or 'WING-ed'? I've heard both, and I always thought it was the latter. I guess I'll find out this weekend.)

Here are the current odds to win the 2006 U.S. Open (favorites & notables):

Tiggs: 5/1
FIGJAM Mickelson: 13/2
V-Ger: 14/1
The Goose: 16/1
"Hitch" Furyk: 20/1
Big Easy: 22/1
Luke "The" Donald: 28/1
Adam "Great" Scott: 28/1
David "Two First Names" Toms: 32/1
Serge "Los Pantalones Feos" Garcia: 45/1
David Howell: 45/1
Paddy "Whiskey" Harrington: 50/1
Tim Clark: 55/1
Trevor Immelman: 55/1
Stuart "Don't Eat At" Appleby(s): 60/1
Chad Campbell: 60/1
Davis "Crazy In" Love III: 60/1
Mike "Canuckelson" Weir: 65/1
Jose Maria Roland Orzabal: 80/1
Michael Campbell: 90/1
Justin Leonard: 110/1
Freddie: 135/1

Of course, any discussion on this blog eventually turns to the HD broadcast. Here are the TV Times:

THU 6/15 ESPN 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. ET
THU 6/15 NBC/NBC-HD 3 - 5 p.m. ET
THU 6/15 ESPN 5 - 7 p.m. ET
FRI 6/16 ESPN 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. ET
FRI 6/16 NBC/NBC-HD 3 - 5 p.m. ET
FRI 6/16 ESPN 5 - 7 p.m. ET
SAT 6/17 NBC/NBC-HD 12:30 - 7 p.m. ET
SUN 6/18 NBC/NBC-HD 12:30 - 7 p.m. ET

Even though they CLEARLY have the technology and the money, there's no way to know if ESPN is showing this in HD until Thursday. In fact, the just changed its listings in the PAST HOUR to say YES--don't these fucking networks even have a clue as to what they're going to show? Ugh. Regardless, people in the know are already saying it won't look as good as the Masters, since they use wireless RF for the handheld cameras, and not fiberoptics. We'll see.

Tee times are listed here, and the real-time leaderboard is here.

I'll close with a picture of Phil and Tiger's wives (Amy and Elin). This is the real reason you should learn how to play golf:

Amy & Elin

Wait, are they holding hands? Awesome.

My pick: Tiger Woods' wife.

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