US Open Finale

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What will happen today…

Although the best story is Phil Mickelson winning his fourth major only days after his wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer; he may just have left himself too much to do today. With only 16 holes to play, he has to overcome both Ricky Barnes and Lucas Glover, who are both five shots ahead of him.

Barnes looked a beaten man on Sunday night after dropping four shots late in the day and falling back from being at one time 11-under-par. When the hooter sounded he had just hooked his drive at the 2nd into what looked like a terrible lie. The overnight break may improve his chances, but I see him falling backwards fast.

Another great story would be David Duval lifting the trophy, after years in the wilderness; but the fact that he has not felt major championship leaderboard pressure for nearly a decade means that his challenge will fall just short.

Tiger holed a great birdie putt on the very difficult 7th hole in the gloom on Sunday night, and punched the air as if he at least felt he still had a shout; but he has driven the ball too inconsistently all week, and I expect his challenge to blow up when one of his tee shots finds the thick hay on the back nine.

The winner of the 109th US Open is Lucas Glover. He is a solid competitor who knows what it feels like to win (at Disney in 2005) and he has spent most of the week in the shadow of Ricky Barnes. I see him winning reasonably comfortably after Barnes has a train-wreck; but I hope for the excitement of the tournament and the sake of the New York fans I am wrong.

 

The sentimental favourite…

Phil Mickelson is definitely the sentimental favourite. That’s who the loud New York crowd want to win today, not least because his wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 weeks ago. Phil has spent the whole week high-fiving fans and thanking them for their support during what are tough days for him and his family. And, by making a charge late Sunday, holing big putts on the 16th and 18th greens in his third round, there is a new, steely look in his eyes. Only two players are in front of him now, and he knows he has infinitely more experience in pressure situations than either of them.

After holing a bomb on his 54th hole he said “that was a big psychological birdie for me” and he must fancy his chances today. “I’ve been there before,” he said late on Sunday. “Strange things can happen when you try to protect a lead in major championships”.

 

A changed man…

Whatever happens today, many will remember the week for the return of David Duval. Part of the fascination of the game is the fact that you can be number one in the world and then wake up one morning and forget how to hit your hat. Duval experienced just this, and he hasn’t had a top-10 finish in a PGA Tour event for seven years.

He’s put on a bit of weight in that time, found happiness with his wife, Susie, and five children (three from Susie’s previous marriage) and is a bit more approachable. When he was at the top, he hid behind inscrutable sun-glasses; but at Bethpage he is interacting with the crowd and seems much more relaxed in press conferences.

“I have no less desire now than I did back then,” he says, “However, I feel like I don’t do it simply for myself anymore. And that’s a nice feeling.”

 

Fisher still fishing...

The second major of the year has been a tough testing ground for Europeans and Tony Jacklin (1970 at Hazeltine) is still the last player from this side of the pond to have wion the US Open. That could all change today if England’s Ross Fisher can find some form with his putter.

From tee to green, no one in the entire field has matched him, and he has been hitting his irons close all week. The problem has come with his short stick, however, and he hasn’t been able to buy a putt, missing handfuls from within 10 feet.

“If I had putted even half-decently,” the Wentworth based pro said on Sunday night, “I would be 14-under par by now”. Let’s hope he can  hole a few this afternoon.