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By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Who will you be rooting for at the U.S. Open?

Tiger Woods?

Phil Mickelson?

Rory McIlroy? The guy who a year ago at the Open at Congressional demolished the field in record fashion.

Bubba Watson? The only guy in the field with a shot at winning the Grand Slam this year.

Pick your player and watch the frustration grow as the Olympic Club, set up for sure by the USGA in nasty style, will bring groans from the players.

(Speaking of the course conditions, let's not forget, because the USGA won't, what McIlroy did in 2011. By finishing at a surreal 16-under par, he ensured an even tougher go for everyone this time around).

With that in mind, what will happen next week in California?

Those who know the game inside and out always says the Masters suites Woods more than any other major.

It seems like he's won a couple dozen green jackets already, but every missed opportunity at Augusta (like a year ago when he was in contention almost all the way) now hurts a little more.

Plus, for Woods, and most American players, winning the Masters trumps everything else.

Of course, at this point, if the Jerkwater Open was considered a major, Woods would take it and trim Jack Nicklaus' lead in majors won from four to three faster than you can say Stevie Williams.

But the U.S. Open is just nasty.

Deadly rough, huge length and baked greens lead to awkward shots and stances, things that Woods, and his growing injury report, don't need.

Can he contend? Sure, when Tiger gets it going, he still can be Tiger. His win at the Memorial was vintage Woods (plus, he won impressively at Bay Hill). But, will he contend at the Open? I just don't see it.

Can Phil? After pulling out of the Memorial last Thursday because of mental fatigue, one has to wonder.

He seems to have overtaken Tiger as the fan favorite, and galleries get Phil going. Plus, he's come so close at the Open in the past that he'd love to erase those memories.

Rory? His game has been way, way off and maybe all of the talk about him being the next big thing has taken a bite out of him.

Bubba's length will help at a U.S. Open because in the heavy San Francisco air, the course will play at about 10,000 yards. But that won't be enough.

My money is on Phil to provide a little of his magic and win the thing.

Another interesting aspect of this year's Open is that since it's being played on the West Coast, the final two rounds will be shown in prime time on the East Coast.

As a golf fan who can't even wait until late in the afternoon for the leaders to tee off in a normal week, having to wait another couple hours won't be fun. Ah, but money talks, and if the tournament gets Tiger and Phil in contention in the final round on Father's Day evening, the ratings will soar.

Naturally, like any true fan of the sport, I'd love to see a tie after the final round, forcing an 18-hole playoff Monday.

I love that the U.S. Open, the only tournament, and obviously the only major, to do so, does that and not what the others do, like one-hole, sudden death (The Masters), or three- (PGA Championship) or four-hole aggregates (British Open). These guys have been grinding away for four days to try and win the darn thing, at least give them another 18 holes to decide a winner.

In the other formats, one bad shot can do a player in. That's not fair. All the majors used to have 18-hole playoffs if need be and then switched formats for various reasons.

I ask, what's the rush? Yes, it's nice and tidy to wrap things up in the final round, but that's not a good enough reason.

If you have to come back the next day and play in front of a tiny gallery, than that's what you do.

The game is about the players. It's just that the fact gets lost most of the time.



Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several newspapers in the Philadelphia area for more than 25 years.

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