- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 12, 2008

TORREY’S TITANS

The favorites for this week’s 108th U.S. Open, which begins Thursday on the South Course at Torrey Pines, a 7,643-yard, par-71 on the San Diego coastline. Ladbrokes of London, England’s oldest bookmaker, provided the official odds:

Tiger Woods (4-1) - The game’s No. 1 player draws long major odds by his standards thanks to the uncertainty surrounding the state of his left knee. Eight weeks removed from the third arthroscopic procedure on his leading knee, Woods has yet to walk 18 holes since the surgery. But his record at Torrey Pines (six victories at the Buick Invitational) and this week’s forgiving rough make Woods a lock to contend if his knee holds up.

Phil Mickelson (9-1) - It’s a home game for Lefty, who grew up playing his high school matches at Torrey Pines and has placed more focus on this week’s major than any in his career. Like Woods and Spain’s Sergio Garcia, Mickelson has the perfect game for the South Course, but will his desire to perform this week place too much pressure on the three-time Open bridesmaid?

Sergio Garcia (21-1) - The hottest player among the favorites, the 28-year-old has recorded a victory (Players Championship) and a tie for fourth (St. Jude Classic) in his last three starts. Garcia is riding a rare wave of confidence in his putter and has the perfect combination of length and ball-striking to master Torrey Pines. A major breakthrough seems imminent.

Padraig Harrington (21-1) - The defending British Open champion has recorded six top-20 finishes in eight PGA Tour starts without a victory. The 36-year-old is an excellent long-iron player, a must given the length of Torrey Pines.

Vijay Singh (34-1) - The 45-year-old is an automatic consideration on any layout on which extreme length and pure ball-striking are the primary prerequisites. But Singh has posted just one top-five in 14 U.S. Open starts (a tie for third in 1999 at Pinehurst) and isn’t enjoying a vintage Singh season.

Jim Furyk (34-1) - The bookmakers valued past success (five Open top-fives including a victory in 2003) over current form when they assessed Furyk’s chances this week. For one of the few times in his career, Furyk doesn’t rank among the PGA Tour leaders in top-10 finishes (only four in 15 starts).

Geoff Ogilvy (34-1) - The 30-year-old is in the midst of his most consistent season, backing up a win at Doral with four other top-10 finishes over the last three months. Ogilvy fell backward into the winner’s circle at Winged Foot in the 2006 U.S. Open, and there’s still question whether he can earn a Slam title in a major crucible.

Luke Donald (34-1) - This is an inflated position for the 30-year-old, who hasn’t fared particularly well at previous Opens (no top-10s in four starts), hasn’t won on either side of the Atlantic Ocean this season and wouldn’t seem to have the length to contend at Torrey Pines (tied for 118th on the PGA Tour in driving distance at 281.4 yards). Among the young Brits, both Paul Casey and Justin Rose would seem more logical choices to contend this week.

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