- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2006

Golf writer Barker Davis of The Washington Times takes a look at the favorites for the 106th U.S. Open, which starts today on Winged Foot’s West Course (7,264 yards, par 70) in Mamaroneck, N.Y. Official odds were provided by PinnacleSports.com, the internet’s largest sports book.

Tiger Woods (5-1)

Woods has won twice before (2003 and 2006 Buick Invitationals) after similarly long absences, and he has rarely looked so ready to pounce. That said, 5-1 seems somewhat short given the way Woods has putted this season.

Phil Mickelson (13-2)

Few players have ever entered a U.S. Open with such a preponderance of course knowledge. If Mickelson continues his major roll, and he deserves shorter odds than Woods, golf will enter an epic golden phase as Lefty tries to match the Tiger Slam at Royal Liverpool.

Vijay Singh (14-1)

His drought completely forgotten following last week’s victory at Westchester, the Fijian rolls into Winged Foot in form and sporting the layout’s ultimate prerequisite (iron play). As always, his streaky putter is the only variable.

Retief Goosen (16-1)

The Open terror would have won an unthinkable three in four years if not for last season’s anomalous Sunday meltdown at Pinehurst. The best putter inside of 12 feet in the world, the Goose will always be a factor at the Open, where mid-range par saves are always key.

Jim Furyk (20-1)

Winged Foot’s sublime taste in champions — Jones, Casper, Irwin, Zoeller and Love — would seem to work against the Flail. Then again, he’s probably the toughest guy in the game not named Tiger.

Ernie Els (22-1)

Els has given no indication this season that a third Open uprising is in the offing. He doesn’t have a top-five finish in the States this season. Frankly, he seems to have misplaced his passion for the game.

Luke Donald (28-1)

This is a perfect track for Nick Jr., the steady, Faldo-esque Brit. Donald finished tied for fifth at the Barclays last week, and his fairways-and-greens routine makes him an Open natural.

Adam Scott (28-1)

The gifted Aussie has neither the accuracy off the tee nor the short game to merit serious Open consideration. Expect Scott to make his major breakthrough at a British Open or a PGA Championship.

David Toms (32-1)

Please. Toms is a TPC stallion who feasts on modern-style tracks (see TPC at Southwind, English Turn, etc.). If he wins on a traditional, Northeastern gem like Winged Foot, start hoarding canned food and prepare for the Four Horsemen.

Sergio Garcia (45-1)

The golf world is tired of waiting on a major breakout from the oldest 26-year-old in the world. Wake me when he makes a putt.

David Howell (45-1)

A compelling dark horse, the 30-year-old Brit won the BMW Championship two weeks ago and then led last week’s Barclays Classic through 36 holes (66-68) before fading to tied for 13th on the weekend. No player is enjoying a better run of form, but this week marks Howell’s debut as an anticipated major contender.

Padraig Harrington (50-1)The Irishman hasn’t been a factor in the majors since 2002 and hasn’t posted a top-10 finish in eight stroke-play starts on the PGA Tour this season. At 34, his days as a member of the game’s upper echelon look numbered.

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