- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 18, 2009

BETHPAGE BLACK BEAUTIES

The Washington Times’ Barker Davis looks at the favorites at this week’s 109th U.S. Open, which begins Thursday at Bethpage Black (7,426 yards, par 70). Official odds were provided by William Hill of London:

Tiger Woods (2-1) - It has been several years since Woods has been such an overwhelming favorite at a major. And there are myriad reasons to expect Tiger’s 15th major title. A year after his triumph at Torrey Pines and subsequent season-ending surgery, Woods finally has a completely healthy left leg. He tortured the fairways at Memorial, belying his career-long weakness. And he’s returning to the Black Course bully he bested in 2002. Unless he impales himself on his putter this week, he should become just the third man to hoist the Open trophy in consecutive years since World War II.

Geoff Ogilvy (20-1) - The 32-year-old Aussie has been the most consistent player outside of Woods this season, making the cut in all 12 of his starts and claiming a pair of early- season victories (Mercedes and Match Play). But Ogilvy backed into his only major title at Winged Foot (2006 U.S. Open), and questions still linger about his mental toughness in the crucible; his final-round scoring average of 72.09 ranks 140th on tour.

Phil Mickelson (22-1) - With all apologies to Woods, Lefty is easily the best story on the property this week. Arguably the game’s most popular player before last month’s revelation that his wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer, Mickelson is the runaway fan favorite at Bethpage. His runner-up finish in 2002 is proof that his game is suited to the Black Course. But obvious distractions, rust and a recent rash of poor putting could keep him from contending… and capitalizing on an epic wave of sentimental support.

Paul Casey (25-1) - A perfect pick for Bethpage, Casey is long off the tee and a streaky putter, and he won’t be hampered by his heavy-handed short game around Bethpage’s rather bland green complexes. Though Casey has never seriously contended in a major, the 31-year-old is the only player on the planet with three worldwide wins this season (Abu Dhabi, Houston Open, BMW PGA Championship).

Jim Furyk (25-1) - Outside of Woods, the most likely player in the field to exit Bethpage with a top-10 finish. Outside of Steve Stricker, the least likely to walk off with the trophy. The game’s quintessential grinder was a perfect Open match under the USGA reign of short-and-tight Tom Meeks, not so much under long-and-forgiving setup man Mike Davis (2005-present).

Steve Stricker (25-1) - Golf’s version of Furyk Light, a steady, shortish, patient technician lacking only Furyk’s mettle. There’s a reason the 42-year-old doesn’t boast a major on his resume. Brutish Bethpage is the last place to expect a breakthrough.

Retief Goosen (40-1) - The South African returned from what seemed like semiretirement to record a victory at the Transitions Championship several months ago. To put it bluntly, he hasn’t been a major player since his final-round train wreck at Pinehurst in 2005 (81).

Sergio Garcia (40-1) - Garcia should have won the Open at Bethpage in 2002, when he outplayed the field from tee to green but missed a dozen short putts with the merciless New York galleries mocking his every miscue. His skin might be a bit thicker, but the slumping Spaniard still putts like he’s wielding a shovel instead of a scalpel.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide