In a sense this always has been and always will be, the players own test. The 5th, or even 6th, Major as other Championships come up to threaten the four “real” majors. Forgive my memory but this week has been about instinct going on inside my head. The reason I say this is because let’s say between 12 -15 years ago, four completely unheard of golfers quietly initiated themselves into potential Hall Of Fame Status by zipping in and nicking a major completely unexpectedly. First outside the four of course was Larry Mize at the Masters in ’87, with the miracle putt to destroy Greg Norman from about 200 feet, closely followed by the exploits of Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton, then the two really unknown faces of the likeable Rich Beem and the austere Shaun Micheel.
What I am trying to say is that as everybody has moved on in the skill department. Where in the past it was a whole shot (maybe even a hole shot) and a half over the whole season that covered the entire top 150, it’s now down as low as .58 of a shot and I simply can’t get away from the fact that some obscure golfer, who I have failed to mention all season long, is going to creep in there somewhere. It really is nagging at me.
Oak Hill, Pittsford, New York. Oak Hill is good, Pittsford is not bad but New York…it send chills and fear, maybe even some tears, creeping through your entire body, particularly in the spine region…and gut. Let’s get this out in the open. There are no stats here that can compete with the crowd. They are huge, and I mean huge, in number. They are volatile, loud, rowdy and can reduce even the strong hearted to almost to tears, by turning on a player in an instance.
At the Pheonix Open in Jan/Feb, the par 3 16th is like a baying bear pit of 20,000 (yes, 20,000), committed “fans” fuelled by alcohol, who will line the entire hole and make it like the Gladiators of olden Rome. At least the players, many of which play up to the gallery, only have to put up with it for four holes during the entire tournament. Here, in New York, its incessant for 72 holes. Having said that the atmosphere is exciting. Mind you, duff one, top it, or a famous shank and they will let you know years after. I have even known that when really important putts get missed you will see perhaps some 500 people fall to the ground in “mock” sympathy, not unlike our more sedate “Mexican Wave”, to the ringing sounds of laughter from the rest of the spectators .
New York on any course is not for the faint hearted
Now to the course.
Like most of anything in New York it’s power, power, power all the way and you need to be long off the tee keep it on the fairways, certainly away from any tree line and dropping into a bunker can be particularly galling.
As Ernie Els said it is the truest, toughest, yet fairest Championship course in the world and the same can be said about the spectators.
This par 70 is up there with the best and if you can’t putt on these immaculate greens you shouldn’t bear wearing the badge. If you’re even close to being a choker you won’t win here but, getting the gallery on your side is as hard a task as a simple putt. If this was the UK and you were in Ian Poulters shoes, then you would be winning most weeks. Trouble is, this is the USA, Poulter isn’t American, as most of them are and he doesn’t stand a chance.
That’s why I come back to my nagging doubt….and that’s why its time to “ante up”.
I’m advising five I feel will be main players, and five I believe have the game to win this one.
My five based on form, which do no include Tiger on value, or course synergy
1 – Phil Mickelson – Phil loves New York and they love him – why ruin a partnership 14/1
2 – Keegan Bradley – currently the straightest driver on tour and ranked in top 10 G-I-R 33/1
3 – Hunter Mahan – not the best of planners with his first child arriving mid season and his hurried departure from a commanding lead in the tournament (wow! $1.000,000 up for the grabbing! If it had been my missus she would have said you stay there at get the college fund sorted and I will do what I have to do here, but then I suppose I am a 70/80`s bloke), anyway if diaper changing hasn’t put him off his stroke, then watch out guys – 30/1
4 – Matt Kuchar – steady eddie around these parts playing well. Pick – 35/1
5 – Steve Stricker – faded a little last week but that’s because of the pressure of not playing. Might be a quiet man but can act it up with the patrons. Also, nice to know he can handle Tiger in a little personal set of matters. Could be hot for this – 50/1
Now my “five” to surprise!
1 – Henrik Stenson – no journeyman this fellow. Playing well over a stretch of weeks not done yet – 22/1
2 – Jordan Spieth – just watch, say no more, nuff said – 90/1
3 – Bill Haas – Class from head to toe (and from Grandfather and Dad), also what he “has” is definitely arriving at the right time – 55/1
4 – Harris English – quaintly named, clear headed player. Proper little birdie acquirer as opposed to streaky and don’t let the name fool you! As American as they come – 100/1
5 – Ryan Moore – no not the jockeY, silly! A player, chances – 110/1
Well, I hope you have all had fun these last four weeks and that it carries on!
Talk to you when your older
Michel-Jean Caule de Marolan