June 14, 2013

Initial #USOpen thoughts

Who will try to drive the tee on the high-risk, high-reward 10th hole?
Photo via US Open website
And, this is the golfing one; I'm not a tennis fan.

No, we won't get Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia together, at least not for the opening round.

But, TW, Rory McElroy and Adam Scott will tee it up together instead.

How nice will TW and Rory be to each other? How much gamesmanship will there be? It is the first time the two have played together in a major.

And, speaking of, I think this is the first time Woods and Scott have played together in a major since Tiger canned Steve Williams and he moved over to loop for Scott. How icy are their greetings going to be?

(And, contra Sergio, I don't think Williams' comments of a year ago about using golf clubs in a certain way were racist; I think the "black" was purely descriptive, though it was unnecessary. The rest of the comment not only was not unnecessary, but hilarious.)

I would go with the trend and say that Matt Kuchar is a good bet to become the 14th first-time winner of a major out of the last 17 played. A precision ball-striker like a Mike Weir has some sort of shot, but the last few hole are monsters. I'm not sure somebody of his short length will ever birdie 18 at US Open ruggedness.

And, I will venture that we see at least two eagles, and at least two double-bogeys or worse, on the high-risk, high-reward 10th hole.

Update, June 10: Now, about those scores? After the Andrea-related rains in the area? When the course won't be a normal level of dry until the first round?

The USGA is talking a great game about what a challenge this will be, etc., etc., and putting its best face and foot forward.

But, let's be honest.

There's likely to be a Murder at Merion, of Merion.

And, so, Robert Lusetich of Fox Sports is wrong, and not for the first time, when he says it's about more than distance.

Winning score, with chances of more showers Tuesday and Wednesday, and who knows after we start on Thursday, will be double digits below par.

Take that 10th hole. I can now, especially on Thursday and Friday, bomb it hard enough to clear the front bunker AND a bit left to make sure that, should I go long, it won't be in the far bunker. Why? Especially if I've got the distance to make that an easy 3-wood, I know the green's going to slow it a lot.

Also, if the fairways are slow, shorter hitters will get killed on that monster at 18. They could be hitting a looong second shot. And on that 621-yard par 5? For the shortest hitters, depending on wind and such, their third shot could be what, a 7 or 8 iron, not a wedge? That said, slow greens will still negate some of that disadvantage.

Flip side? Soggy rough on the first two days will be rougher rough. If, whether at 10 or elsewhere, you're going to gamble, the risk side will also be higher.

Actually, per the Lusetich piece, Cypress Point at Pebble Beach would make more sense as a short course. June in California is almost guaranteed to be rain-free, so you know in advance that you can toughen up the course and it will stay that way.

Update, June 13: Well, as of right now, I may be wrong on the scores issue. Phil Mickelson was 1 of just 2 people in the clubhouse under par, with about half the rounds complete on Thursday. Yeah, there's been two eagles on 10, but 18 is playing 3/4 of a stroke above par.

Update, June 14: Looking at players continue to back up, it looks like the cut line could easily be +6. What's happening? First, despite the rain, it looks like greens are still faster than expected. Second, the fairways are cut longer than typical at most majors, or indeed at a lot of courses in general. Merion's crew is spinning this as "sustainability," but the real spin is that a longer fairway means less bounce and roll, so shorter drives, and also means a bit less spin on second shots. In other words, the longer cuts on the fairway, half-inch rather than quarter-inch, are another element in length-proofing the place.

Beyond all the other stuff, we also appear to have a new Tiger Woods story. Injured wrist? If it's true, and he's far enough off the lead after the second round, will he do a WD?

And, speaking of second rounds, there's an outside chance, perhaps, that everybody gets through half the course today. It's going to be close, we know that. That means second round should be completed by 11 local time Saturday, allowing good time for pin placement changes and such, and yet, a relatively unrushed third round.

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