by Aaron "1-iron" Garry - 06/13/2005
Wait....Can you hear it? Listen real close.....that's the sound of thousands cashing in on "1-iron's" pick of Sergio Garcia at the Booz Allen Classic this week! You heard it here first. At 29-1, "1-iron" told you how Sergio gets geared up for big fields......how he loves the Eastern Seaboard.....how he was the No. 1 pick last week! Well, the man made a prophet out of the "1-iron." On Sunday, Sergio displayed the consistency and grace under pressure that the golf world has been waiting for out of this young phenom. With Sergio's confidence at an all-time high, "1-iron" would be remiss if he didn't make Sergio one of the favorites at Pinehurst this week.
One thing of note - shame on Rory Sabbatini AND Ben Crane. What an amateurish display this week on the 17th and 18th holes at Congressional on Sunday. For those who didn't see it, Crane and Sabbatini were threatened with a 1-stroke penalty for slow play if they didn't speed up their pace of play. Their slow play was 100 percent due to Crane's methodical nature, which Crane was more then happy to admit after the round. Well, this slow-play warning didn't go over so well with Stone Cold Sabbatini, as he just started to play several shots out of turn up ahead of Crane on the same hole! It was one of the most immature displays "1-iron" has seen out on the golf course. Yes, more immature then the time Coach Bob Cooley threw a Ohio University player's putter across a pond, as punishment for leaving it a few holes back. As Paul Azinger noted, Sabbatini should be fined for this display and suspended for no less then five tour events. This simply should not be tolerated. Crane, who came off looking like the good guy, should be suspended for no less then two tournaments for admitting that he's slower then erosion. It was an ugly situation, and not the kind of publicity the PGA Tour should be thankful for.
The 2005 US Open Championship returns to the beautiful Village of Pinehurst and the famed Pinehurst No. 2, for the first time since Payne Stewart's dramatic victory in 1999 over Phil Mickelson. If Scotland was where golf was born, then it was Bar Mitzvah'd in Pinehurst. This little bastion of a village is a golfer's dream. Forty courses within a 10-mile radius make the Sandhills of North Carolina a golfers Mecca, while No. 2 is the shrine to which all pay homage.
If you are headed to the Open this week, make sure to stop in at the Broad Street Bar and Grill. Between games of billiards, darts and heaven knows what else, you can always find a few locals to chat you up about the game, its designers or the current crop of Open contenders. Pinehurst eats, sleeps, drinks and lives the game of golf. It's a beautiful thing and it something every avid fan should get to experience. (**Note - If you run into LaSean, a caddy at Pinehurst No. 2, tell em "1-iron" sent ya and he may just tell you some of the more surly stories about the old place!)
As we look back on the 1999 Open, "1-iron" fondly remembers Payne Stewart. One of the most colorful figures in golf who was tragically killed in a plane crash four months after his 1999 Open triumph. Not many people remember, but Payne was still very much in his prime after he won that tournament, and "1-iron" saw a couple more major championship victories in his future, had it not been cut tragically short by his premature death in that South Dakota field. If you didn't catch the story about Lee Janzen and Payne's son Aaron on "Costas Now" on HBO, catch it before its too late. It's a great reminder of how important good friends are in this day and age.
When you talk about Pinehurst No. 2, you are talking about the hardest chipping greens in all the world. The coffee cup shape of the greens, combined with the Sadomasochism of the USGA during Open week, is a recipe for disaster for some of the lesser-skilled players in the field. Thus, we need to consider the guys that lead the tour in Greens in Regulation and in Scrambling. If you hit greens in regulation this week, you have a shot to win. Guys who hit it all over the yard are going to be in for a long two days, and probably no weekend. Without further delay, I want to take a close look at the 18 shots for the US Open Championship.
18 Shots for the 2005 US Open Championship
6 Who Will:
1. Ernie Els (6/1): Two words - "Big Easy" - Is there a better suited nickname for the US Open Championship than that? In a tournament that requires patience, deliberation and ice running through the veins, Ernie's relaxed attitude is exactly what the Doctor orders. He won in '94 and '97, and finished T7 at the Booze leading up to Pinehurst. He's my man to beat this week.
2. Sergio Garcia (15/1): El Nino in El Tar Heel state. He's the Marvin Williams of the US Open Championship. Loads of talent that has only scratched the surface. Plays even better against the bigger, International fields. Won last week at the Booz, and made a strong run at the Wachovia against a top-notch field. Has never won a major, just may break through this week.
3. Phil Mickelson (5/1): Finished second to Payne Stewart in 1999 at Pinehurst and has the model game for this track. Creative short game, able to flop it high and land it soft, and imagination amongst the pine straw. Phil hasn't been playing particularly well (T29 at Booze, T26 at Colonial), but he knows Tiger's lurking - and he wants a piece.
4. Tiger Woods (19/5): Playing much better after a T3 at Jack's Memorial two weeks ago, but I'm still having "Tiger Dysfunction" in this space. I have no idea whether the Byron Nelson version or the Masters version is going to show up week-to-week. If history is any indication, Tiger will be in contention all four days at No. 2 as he finished T3 in 1999, but let's just hope it's not recent history. I don't see him winning the Grand Slam, but he may order the Grand Slam breakfast at Denny's.
5. Luke Donald (18/1): It's hard to keep writing the same thing about Donald, how he's ready to step up to the big stage, and how he's got just as much talent as the Big 5. I can only write this down so many times, without him breaking through with a victory. This could be his week. He's not the type to go -24 in a golf tournament, but a winning score hovering around par should suit him just fine. He stepped up big on the international stage in the Ryder Cup, so why not Pinehurst No. 2?
6. Retief Goosen (9/1): The man just wins US Open Championships. He's the Andy North of our generation. Winner in 2001 and 2004, Retief has a similar personality to Ernie and he comes to each Open with a game suited to succeed there. The only issue with Retief is that he's playing poorly in the US right now. T59 at the Booze and a missed cut at the Nelson are his two last starts on US Soil. He's leading the Euro Order of Merit, so it may be a moot point, but it warrants mentioning.
6 Who Can:
7. Adam Scott (20/1): Picture this: he wins the US Open Championship and Hillary Duff plows into him on the 18th green with a celebratory hug. The guy is the Aussie Heartthrob and the ladies love him on Tour. The kid plays GREAT against world-class fields. T5 at the Mercedes, first at the Rain-Shortened Nissan, fifth at the Accenture Match Play, T8 at the Players Championship, and T2 at the Booz Allen. Don't worry about his other results, he wants to be mentioned in the same breath as the Big 5.
8. Colin Montgomerie (120/1): Well, some say he cheated to get in the field - but he's here. He's never won on US Soil, even though he's been close several times. The Scottish bear just might show us a thing or two this week about his insane desire to win a Major Championship. He's won 28 times in Europe, and led the Euro Order of Merit for seven-straight years between '93 and '99. The man is not a lightweight, finished T15 in 1999 at Pinehurst.
9. Chad Campbell (60/1): He's here for two reasons, his finish at the Booz (T13 with a 65 on Saturday) and because of his 2003 runner-up to Shaun Micheel at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill. He likes the big stage even though his game has been crappy for most of this year. He's a young lion, and it takes a bit to rattle his cage.
10. David Toms (17/1): Lord. What do you do with this maniac? One day he's picking his nose in Columbus.....errr......flipping the bird at a fan, the next he's stringing three top 10s in a row together at Colonial, St. Jude, and the Memorial. His last two US Open Championships have been T5 in 2003, and T20 in 2004. He did fire 72-84 in 1999 to miss the cut at Pinehurst. He's won a PGA Championship, and he's going to be there on Sunday. Just don't root for any of his playing partners or else......
11. Davis Love III (25/1): T2 at Booz Allen, 1997 PGA Champion, and playing near his birthplace in Charlotte. That's all I can give him because other then that, he's been borderline brutal. I still think he's got the game and personality to rise to the top in an Open. He finished T12 in 1999 at Pinehurst at +12.
12. Chris Dimarco (10/1): So close, yet so far at the Masters. He lost in that dramatic playoff to Tiger Woods in Augusta, and has played reasonably well since. His game isn't suited for the US Open Championship however. He's all over the lot sometimes, and if the claw fails on these greens - watch out. T13 at the Booz Allen, so that might be a good sign.
6 Who Won't:
13. Jim Furyk (14/1): Atrocious finish at the Booz. Starting three off the lead, Gumby finished with a 3-over 74 to finish T37. Nice work. T17 at Pinehurst in 1999 and winner in 2003 at Olympia Fields. Just hasn't proven he can win this year. He's getting beat AND beating himself. Forget about the six top 10s this year. It won't matter.
14. John Daly (130/1): This has "WD" written all over it. In 1999, Daly finished 81-83 to finish in last place at +29. Now, he's six years older, and seems to have his personal problems cleared up. That doesn't change the fact this course does not suit his game whatsoever. If he has to contend with the six-inch rough and deft crowned greens, it's going to be ugly. Bet your friends he finds the 80s somewhere along the way this week.
15. Nick Price (Field 7/1): When you hear the words "playing on a special exemption" - take cover. Missed Cut at the Booz, but has three Top 25s this year. Finished T23 in 1999 at Pinehurst, and has had some other good Open finishes (four Top 10s). However, it's time to let the younger players have their shot. This exemption will prove to be worthless in the hands of Price. I predict 78-80 Missed Cut. Ouch!
16. Steve Flesch (115/1): The man is struggling. His game is normally tailor-made for US Open Championship courses, but his performance lately has been anything but stellar. Seven of 15 missed cuts this year, and hasn't had a notable finish since February. This reeks of "two days and out" - could be sipping apple-tini's at Broad Street on Saturday or teeing it up at Longleaf when he's done.
17. Vijay Singh (15/2): T3 in 1999 at the 'Hurst, but absolutely struggling since his two week sabbatical to Fiji. Faldo was taking pages from "1-iron's" book yesterday when he was talking about Singh hitting 100,000 balls to prepare for the Open. Nicky babe, find your own one-liners. Vijay's Vijay. He'll make the cut, but he's hit some god-awful shots lately, and his putting has not been superb. PInehurst is too volatile for Vijay's inaccuracy right now.
18. Charles Howell III (70/1): Charles Duvall III? Wow, this guy is dropping like a rock with no end in sight. Since a great start to the season, he's missed two of his last three cuts and hasn't had a reasonable finish since his T8 in March at Bay Hill. T36 last year at Shinnecock.
Addendum - Many of my readers have demanded that I cater to their Fantasy Golf Salary Cap Leagues. Thus, my Salary Cap Value Pick of the Week: Tim Clark
**All odds are approximate. Please check Bodog for updated odds.
If you have questions or comments for Aaron "1-iron" Garry, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.