Tuesday, June 16, 2009

U.S. Open

Thursday marks the opening round of the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in New York, arguably one of the most demanding golf courses in the country. It hosted the Open in 2002, making it the first municipal golf course to host an Open.

The last time this Long Island muni was the site for one of golf's four majors, Tiger Woods beat Phil Mickelson by three strokes. Woods was the only player to post a below-par tournament score.

This weekend, Woods and Mickelson, ranked No. 1 and 2 in the world, respectively, again will be in the spotlight at the Open.

Woods, the defending champion, will be trying to become the first golfer to win back-to-back U.S. Opens in 20 years. Curtis Strange did it in 1988 and 1989. Before that, you have to go back to the 1950s when Ben Hogan won two straight.

Woods won last year in dramatic fashion - on a bum knee, gutting out a 19-hole playoff victory over Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines. One year and knee surgery later, Woods, coming off an incredible Memorial Tournament win, is poised to take home another U.S. Open trophy.

But Mickelson is my sentimental favorite. His wife, Amy, was diagnosed with cancer, and Mickelson took some time off the Tour to be with her. After doctors assured the Mickelsons that the cancer was caught early enough, Lefty returned to play.

It will be hard to top last year's dramatics, and there are plenty of contenders. Zach Johnson, Geoff Ogilvy, Steve Stricker and Brian Gay all are ahead of Woods in the FedExCup race. Of course, Woods has played in about half the events than those ahead of him.

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