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June 16, 2008
The countdown begins
We're less than two hours before the start of today's 188-hole playoff between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate to decide the U.S. Open. Among the questions that will soon be answered:
How much does Tiger have left playing on a very bad knee?
Will Rocco still have the magic?
Can Rocco handle the pressure of going head to head with golf's best player?
Most "expert" feel Tiger will walk off with the prize and it'd hard to agrue otherwise. But if he's going to do that, he will need to win it with solid play because Rocco will not hand it to him.
I picked Tiger before the start and I will stick by it, but either way it's going to be a great story
Posted by bbuttitta at 7:15 AM
June 15, 2008
The rest of the field is playing into Tiger's hands. Woods played a less than spectacular front nine at 2 over, yet he is one off the lead held by Lee Westwood. Westwood could be up by several more strokes had he been able to make a putt. If you let Tiger hang, like Saturday, he usually makes something happen.
Sometimes you have to wonder about people. As Westwood and Tiger reached the fourth green, an older lady in the stands started feeling feint, so people called for a doctor. As people were screaming to try and get her help, a guy in the front row of the stands was screaming -- for people to sit down so he could see Tiger putt. It was one of the most insensitive things I have ever seen at a golf tournament. I made me sick.
Posted by bbuttitta at 3:36 PM
Some low scores early
Not sure if it''s the pin placements, weather of a combination of both, but there have been some low scores posted from the players who went out early. Heath Slocum finished with a tournament low 6-under 65, while Hunter Mahan fired a 2-under 69. There have also been a lot of players right around par.
We will see soon if any of the leader can fire a really low score and distance themselves from the pack. But even if they do that on the front side, there is potential for very low scores on the back with three eagle holes at 13, 14, and 18.
The U.S. Open has not been won with a biridie on 18 since the late 20s, but with the 18th being reachable in two, this could be the year.
Posted by bbuttitta at 1:15 PM
The final day begins
Play in the final round got started at 7 a.m. but Tiger and Lee Westwood are still more than an hour away from their starting time. The big question is how will Tiger's knee react today and how much will it affect the way he plays. If he can get off to a quick start, he could put enough pressure on the rest of the field to close them out. If he struggles like he did yesterday, he will give guys like Westwood, Rocco Mediate and Geoff Ogilvy some momentum, assuming they play okay.
One interesting note is that they are playing a forward tee on the par-4, 14th. It;'s just 266 yards to the green, but the pin is tucked four paces off the edge, right near the greenside bunker. But for someone down by a few late in the round, it might be worth the gamble to go for it.
The first nine holes that Woods and Westwood play should tell us a lot. Then again, after nine yesterday Tiger looked liked he had nothing and we all know what happened.
Posted by bbuttitta at 11:57 AM
June 14, 2008
Just another routine Tiger round
He opens with a double bogey, struggles with both his driver and his knee all day, but somehow, some way, Tiger Woods leads after three rounds of the 2008 U.S. Open. Two eagles on the back nine, including an improbable 80-foot, double breaker putt on 13, propelled Woods to 3 under for the tournament, leaving him 18 holes from his 14th major t itle. Standing in his way are Lee Westwood, who has struggled for several years but is now on the comeback trail, and Rocco Mediate, who at 45 is the sentimental choice but probably lacks to fire power to stay with the two young guns.
Posted by bbuttitta at 7:18 PM
A quad for Phil
Mickelson and his four wedges just took a 9 on the par-5, 13th hole after seeing his first three wedge shots from just below the green hit on the hill short of the green and roll back to his feet. His fourth attempt stayed on but he then three-putted. Ironically, it's the same hole that Mickelson complained about a new tee box that the USGA put in. However, Phil's 9 came after he hit from the old tee box that Phil reportedly likes.
Posted by bbuttitta at 2:46 PM
Low scores ahead?
According to Anthony Kim, the USGA decided to "do the players a favor" by moving up several tee boxes and using some much easier pin locations. Kim and Ryuji Imadad both finished under par, at 1 under, and several other early starters are having good rounds. Brandt Snedeker is 4 under through 13, including an eagle on No. 13. Heath Slocum is 3 under, Phil Mickelson teed off about 40 minutes ago and is 1 over after two thanks to a bogey on No. 2.
The marine layer that has been around for much of the week is back again, keeping temperatures cooler and making the golf course a little softer and receptive to scoring. It will be interesting to see who, if any of the leaders, make a big move today.
Posted by bbuttitta at 12:21 PM
Anthony Kim and Ryuji Imada teed off first this morning at 8:30 and are on pace to finish their round in just over three hours (they finished in 3 hours, 15 minutes). Their round of speed golf i a good indicator that neither player believes they can win or even contend, so they are simply trying to get done as quick as possible. Perhaps they want to enjoy a day at Sea World or the San Diego Zoo and so by finishing quickly they will have more time to enjoy the activities. The quick pace did not hurt either golfer, both finished at 1 under for the day.
It's a good bet that Jesper Parnevik is also trying to get the round over as quickly as possible. The Swede bogeyed five of his first seven holes and since he was already 10 off the lead, it doesn't look like this will be the year that Parnevik wins his first major.
Only 3 1/3 hours until Tiger gets on the course.
Posted by bbuttitta at 11:06 AM
June 13, 2008
Phil Mickelson just made a typical Phil par on the par-3 third hole. Off the tee, Mickelson hits his tee shot so long that it rolls over the back edge of the green, into the brush. His chip coming back rolls past the cup and rolls about 40-feet past the cup, and suddenlly Phil is looking at double bogey. But just as quickly, he rolls the long putt for an amazing three, giving him some much needed momentum and keeping him from dropping further behind. It's just Phil being Phil.
Tiger had a very poor front nine, hitting only two good shots, but luckily they were back to back on the par 5, 13th, leading to an eagle. It helped him erase two bogeys he made earlier in the round. He has started hot on the back nine with birdies on his first two holes and he just missed a third straight one on No.3
After a bland first round, the leaderboard is starting to look a little more like a major, with guys like Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy, Davis Love all near the top.
And Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia also bounced back with nice rounds today. It's shaping up tp be a strong final two days.
Posted by bbuttitta at 4:52 PM
Charles Howell's start to his second round of the US Open is one that most every weekend golfer can relate to. Howell opened his round with six straight bogeys, before making par on the final three holes on the front side. He has added two more bogeys on the back, pretty much ensuring that he will be heading home to Florida after today.
First round co-leader Kevin Streelman didn't have quite that poor a start but he did make a triple bogey on the third hole and a double bogey on the sixth, leaving him 5 over after six holes.
Generally scoring conditions are better in the morning than in the afternoon, but no one in the morning group is doing much, leading me to believe that the course is playing much more difficult and that the USGA must have put out some much tougher pins for today's round. it will be interesting to see what the afternoon groups do, especially when you throw in bumpier greens. It could be that par could be the leading score by the end of today.
Posted by bbuttitta at 12:03 PM
An early start
Phil Mickelson tees off at 1:47 today, but more than three hours before his scheduled start, Mickelson was already on the practice putting green trying to find his stroke. While Mickelson rallied in the first round with three birdies on the back nine to shoot even par, he admitted that he only made one putt of significance. He knows he wants to win his first U.S. Open that he will need his putter to be firing on all cylinders, so that's probably the reason he was out so early today. Amazingly, in a field of 156 players, Mickelson had the putting green to himself, aside from short game guru Dave Pelz and his caddie Jim "Bones" MacKay.
Anyone who watched yesterday's duel between Mickelson, Tiger and Adam Scott may have noticed that Phil seemed to have an extra tight shirt on, which also had the sleeves cut in order to show off his new biceps that he has developed through his new workout routine. He's not ripped like Tiger, but it's obvious that Phil is in better shape than in the past.
Posted by bbuttitta at 11:17 AM
June 12, 2008
Day one in the books
Play is done for the day and Kevin Streelman and Justin Hicks hold the lead by a shot over four players, including 2006 champion Geoff Ogilvy. While Streelman and Hicks surprised with strong play, there were some players who posted some shockingly bad scores. Padriag Harrington, Ian Poulter and Michael Campbell all shot 7-over 78s. Defending champion Angel Cabrera leads a group at 8 over that includes Justin Rose, Paul Casey and Colin Montgomerie. Retief Goosen fired a 76, as did Sergio Garcia and Brandt Snedeker and Zach Johnson.
With Tiger and Phil teeing off late tomorrow, they will have a better idea what most of the field has done and where they need to be heading into the weekend.
Posted by bbuttitta at 7:48 PM
Ernie on the move
Two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els is making a strong afternoon run. Els, who started has round on the back nine, was 2 under on his first nine and has picked up another stroke, leaving him at 3 under with five holes to play.
Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, is also at 3 under. Both players are currently 1 stroke behind journeyman Kevin Streelman, who is 4 under par with three holes left to play. Streelman had good success at Torrey Pines earlier this year, leading after the first round and playing in the final group on Saturday with Tiger Woods.
Another notable playing well this afternoon is Luke Donald who is at 2 under.
The afternoon winds that sometime hit the golf course at this time of day have not materialized, giving players a chance to score.
Among the faces in the crowd today were former Minnesota Vikings head coach Dennis Green and Newbury Park High girls' basketball and golf coach Norrie Parvin.
Posted by bbuttitta at 5:00 PM
A day with Tiger and Phil
The much anticipated Tiger and Phil pairing is now in the books for day 1. I walked 18 holes with the group and to be honest it was less exciting than I thought. Yes, all three of the players hit their share of good, great and poor shots, but the energy and interaction I was hoping would be there just was not.
I think we learned a few things about Tiger. The knee is still bothering him, he grimaced several times during the round and seemed to walk with a slight limp at times. Despite that, we learned he can play with it and at times play well. Those who said he could not possibly be sharp enough to win after taking two months off should reconsider that position. He's 1 over, but take away two doubles and he is two shots out of the lead.
As usual, Phil provided us with plenty of stuff to talk about. He did not carry a driver (saying he did not want to hit a shot over 300 yards and with fairways hard, he felt he could get enough distance to achieve that. He did reach most par 5s in two, but he also sprayed some tee shots which defeated the purpose of using a smaller club. Phil showed strong mental toughness, bouncing back from three straight bogeys on the front to finish at even par.
The fans seem to enjoy the pairing, but they were not pleased with all of us media following (more on that in tomorrow's postcard).
As we followed the two superstars, Nationwide player Justin Hicks was shooting 3 under to lead the tournament at 2 p.m. I doubt he will be there after tomorrow, or even later today, but he can say he did lead the Open for some time.
Posted by bbuttitta at 1:56 PM
The day has arrived
I arrived at the media hotel (I'm staying up the road) at 6:25 a.m. so I could try to beat the expected horde of people who are going to follow Tiger and Phil this morning. As I walked past the putting green I spotted Tiger, dressed in blue shirt/black pants, chatting with Hank Haney in between canning 3-foot putts. Phil Mickelson, wearing black shirt/gray pants, was working at the chipping area. I expect both of them to play well, just not sure how well. Tiger is traditionally a slow starter at majors, usually doesn't go real low on the first day, so I expect him to be no more than 1 or 2 under. Phil could top that, but my guess is that he will be around that mark as well. Twenty five minutes into the tournament, our leader is D.A. Points, a PGA pro from Illinois, whose top finish is a tie for 14th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am. Points made birdie on No. 1 and is the only one of the nine players on the leaderboard who is under par. I plan to walk at least the first nine with "The Group" and will see where things are at when we reach the back nine. I feel like a kid waiting for a candy store to open. It's going to be great.
Posted by bbuttitta at 7:17 AM
June 11, 2008
We're getting close
The practice rounds are done and we're about 14 hours from the start of the 108th U.S. Open. There has been a lot of talk about how Tiger can't possibly win after being off two months and not being 100 percent. Apparently they have not been watching the same Tiger Woods I have over the last 12 years. He thrives on doing the impossible and he would love nothing more than to prove the so-called experts wrong. I think he will play well and I still think he will win.
I think the grouping with Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott will not affect Tiger or Mickelson, but it will be tough for Scott. I think he may press to keep up with both of them.
While both Tiger and Phil deny it, most people do not think they like each other. A tour player told me today he would love to watch the pairing because Phil and Tiger are "not the friendliest of folks. That dynamic means Scott may have to be the neutral pal for both players. A few years ago, Phil and Tiger played in the same group at the Buick Invitational here. Brad Faxon was the third, and he called himself Switzerland. Since Scott lives in Switzerland, he's the perfect player to fill that role this week.
Posted by bbuttitta at 5:24 PM
Out and about
It's only Wednesday but walking around Torrey Pines is already getting tough because of all the fans who are turning out for the 108th U.S. Open. I walked over to the driving range, chipping area and putting green in search of former Pepperdine standout Jason Gore. He is a great guy, who has had his ups and downs over the last few years but I'm hoping he plays well this week and gets some positive momentum going for himself. It's interesting to see how different players handle fans. Aaron Baddeley stood and signed autographs for 10 minutes. Rich Beem was walking past and someone asked and he responded he needed to go find a "hot meal and a cold beer." Gore was still signing autographs as his group was ready to tee off for their 2:30 practice round. As Jason signed, his buddy Pat Perez yelled, "Hey Hollywood, you're on the tee."
I opted to go over to the merchandise tent to see if I could find matching golf shirts for me and my 2-year-old son Shaun. The tent covers three football fields, but they failed to have an exact match in both the kids and men's shirts. It's a bummer.
The weather continues to be cool but it's sunny, so the course should be firmer by tomorrow. The USGA officials had their press conference today and said the course is right where they want it. As Johnny Miller mentioned at the putting green this morning, it's going to be a heck of a test.
Posted by bbuttitta at 1:37 PM
The sun has arrived
After a day of total June gloom on Tuesday, the sun has peaked its head out a bit here, giving newcomers to Torrey Pines a chance to see just how beautiful this golf course is. Players are taking their last practice hacks here today as we are less than 24 hours from the start of the tournament. With Tiger going off so early, 8:06 a.m., we will get a good indication of how much or little the knee will bother him this week.
It's amazing how little talk there is about the defending champion Angel Cabara. I think some of that has to do with his limited English, but mostly it's about Tiger and Phil and how they just dominate the sport.
I'm excited because I have some time to get out on the course today, so I'll report on what it looks like and what I see
Posted by bbuttitta at 10:11 AM
June 10, 2008
Good Phil/Bad Phil
When asked what he thought of the new tee box that will be used on the par-5, 13th hole at Torrey Pines, San Diego-native Phil Mickelson didn't hide his displeasure. Mickelson said the new tee box is terrible and called it the biggest waste of money he had ever seen. Mickelson's complaint stems from the fact he believes the USGA and golf architect Rees Jones have taken a par-5 that was a exciting risk/reward type hole and turned it into a par 5 that every player in the field will have to play in three shots. We in the media like to say there is "Good Phil" and "Bad Phil." When he's Good Phil, he is an extremely likeable guy. He was like that today in his press conference, giving us some great quotes. His best came when asked about his relationship with the U.S. Open, where he has finished second four times. "I love it. i just haven't gotten the love back."
I also enjoyed speaking with Masters champion Trevor Immelman. When reminded he is the only player who can win the Grand Slam this year, the South African native guaranteed that would not be happening.
"We can safely say if I do it this year, I will retire. There's no chance of that," Immelman said.
Immelman said it took him a long time to adjust to his new found fame after winning the Masters, but he feels like over the last few weeks he's got his life back under control. I think he can contend this week.
Posted by bbuttitta at 5:10 PM
Tiger at Torrey
It's player interview day here at the 2008 U.S. Open. So far we've seen Padraig Harrington and some guy named Woods.
Tiger seems in good spirits as he attempts to win his third U.S. Open title since 2000. A few topics he touched on:
He said the condition of the course is the best he's ever seen and that the greens are rolling as smooth as he can remember.
He likes the pairing with Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott, saying it's exciting for the fans because we seldom get to see the top players grouped together.
Tiger said the knee feels good but he has yet to walk 18 holes.
He's excited about getting back into competition
You can get a more complete run down on what Tiger talked about in tomorrow's Star.
Posted by bbuttitta at 11:55 AM