Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Mulligan: Back to Bethpage

Back in 2002 The US Open was played on a course that many players called the toughest course they have ever played. The course was long, the greens were fast, and the smallest of errors resulted in terrible consequences. That course was Bethpage Black. Bethpage is a public course in Southampton, New York, the first public course to ever host the US Open. Before teeing off on the Black Course, players are greeted by a warning sign, explaining that the course is recommended only for "highly skilled golfers."

The US Open is once again set to be played at Bethpage, but tournament officials have attempted to make the course a little more manageable for the players. The fairways will be a little wider, and some bunkers have been leveled off. Also, there are some new teeing grounds that may or may not help the players out. The forecast shows rain all weekend, so the greens may play softer and slower than usual. Even so, this course will likely be one of the toughest the Tour sees all year and the course is actually 200 yards longer this year than it was in 2002 when Tiger Woods was the only player to shoot under par for the Tournament. He shot 3 under, good enough for a 3 shot win over Phil Mickelson. and the field .
Tiger Woods looks to become the first player to win back to back US Opens since Curtis Strange did it back in 1988 at Brookline and 1989 at Oak Hill. We all remember Tiger's one legged defeat of Rocco Mediate in a Monday playoff last year at Torrey Pines. I watched it all day at work, making for a productive day.

Tiger will have some stiff competition. The field at the US Open is always loaded. Good players who know how to handle adversity should play well this week. Also, players who can hit the ball a long way should fare better than the short, accurate hitters. You can't play well at any US Open without a short game either, and mastery of the greens is a necessity this week. Players who have the combination of distance off the tee and a strong short game will play well at this years US Open.

First of all, I want to mention that I think Tiger Woods will win this week. He is playing great right now, and he is the greatest player to ever live. I will assume that you will all put him in your fantasy golf lineups without me saying anything else about it.

Next, Paul Casey is the perfect pick for this week. He his ranked in the Top-25 on Tour in driving distance, and 19th in greens in regulation. This is the perfect combination for Bethpage. Casey will be able to handle the slick putting surfaces, while still managing the 7,426 yard distance. Casey is also playing great golf this year. He is currently ranked 3rd in the world and has consistently competed in tournaments this year. In fact, Casey has finished in the Top-20 in six of his eight PGA Tour starts this season.

I like Geoff Ogilvy's chances this week as well. He played well 2 weeks ago at The Memorial (with the exception of hole number 14 on Sunday) and he already has 2 wins on Tour this year. Geoff has proven that he can win the big one under pressure against a tough field. He fended off Mickelson at the US Open at Winged Foot in 2006 to win his first major. His game fits this course perfectly as well, and he should play well this week.

Dustin Johnson has the game to compete this week. He is 3rd in driving distance and 26th in putting. He has a win this year and has found himself on many leaderboards in 2009. He has no strong finishes in majors, and really doesnt have a lot of big game experience. Some may find it suprising to pick him here, but he has the game for Bethpage and momentum is on his side.

SLEEPER PICK: There are so many big names in the field for the US Open that I really shouldn't pick a sleeper this week. But it is just too much fun. Besides, the US Open always has at least one no name at the top of the leaderboard at some point. I think the no name might come from the Nationwide Tour this year. Mike Sim has been tearing up the Nationwide Tour with two wins and six Top-10 finishes in nine starts. He is also first in putting average and total driving on the Nationwide Tour. He could turn some heads at Bethpage.

Good luck this week and lets keep moving to the top of the fantasy golf rankings!

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