8:50: Yes. It is Monday, but this is the final round. Let’s break down the contenders.
Lucas Glover: The odds-on favorite right now. Lucas hasn’t got a ton of attention this season, but was third at Torrey Pines and 2nd at Quail Hollow which are legit courses. Lucas has had much publicized Sunday struggles, but he is an actually good golfer that has proven to be a good ball striker on Tour this season. Pre-tournament, my numbers would have Lucas Glover as the 25th best player in the field coming into this week, so he is a good player.
Ricky Barnes: Is not good. There is nothing in Barnes history or play this year, or stats that prove he can keep up the level of play he is currently on. He is not a good ball striker, he is not a good putter, his short game is not good, but somehow he has managed to put everything together this week and played 54 holes really well. I don’t think it will continue.
Phil Mickelson: Phil’s birdies will make all the highlights, but its tough to distinguish between the good holes and bad holes which is more important for Phil. To expect him to go out and throw out a pristine round tomorrow with no bogeys is probably unrealistic. In all honesty, because of the weather Phil has probably played about the same as Tiger, but you’d never know by the media’s reaction and the idiot New York fans.
Hunter Mahan: Mahan has high finishes in a lot of the big tournaments this year and it looks like it will be no different here at Bethpage. After Phil, Mahan is the second best player seeking a comeback. Mahan has to be second behind Phil in terms of scoring a comeback win tomorrow.
Ross Fisher: Ross is dangerously close to becoming an overrated European which is pretty hard to do. At his young age, we could see him content in majors for years to come, but hes not quite as strong as Mahan or Mickleson today.
Graeme McDowell:Looking back at McDowell, I pretty much had him pegged before the tournament. He isn’t going to impress you with his length but hitting 73% of his fairways so far is going to give him a chance to score. Graeme should be the most upset player in the field right now, in that he would be right in this going to the final round if he didn’t have to play 11 holes on Thursday morning. Graeme probably won’t win at 7 back, but he is going to get a significant boost in my ratings for this.
David Duval: If David Duval could finish off with a 70 I think that counts as a victory for him. There is really nothing to suggest that he is capable of firing a 65, but it will be nice for him as my 398th ranked player to get a top-10 in a big event. At least for David, he has a history of being an elite golfer, although it occured 5+ years ago.
Tiger Woods: It’s amazing how breaks keep falling into Tiger’s lap. When he teed off one(his tenth yesterday) he was 14 back. Now with 11 holes left he is only 7 back. That’s a longshot, but there’s a chance. Before I get to what Tiger needs to do, I want to mention two things that hurt Tiger. One, he is worse at putting on slow greens. Always has been. Part of running putts over edges is just not having a good feel for the greens and when they were running 13+ at Memorial and were much slower this week Tiger is confused. Secondly, Tiger came to play a US Open and the Bob Hope Classic broke out. As I said, yesterday, when the course was soft(specifically the greens) there was a very small penalty for being short sided compared to the reward of stuffing it close. Tiger looked to be shooting for the middle of the greens.
So, what does Tiger need to do tomorrow. I think 5-under is the most realistic goal and that requires help from everybody above. Easy birdies out there on 11(tees up), 13(eagle possibility) and 14. Eight, 18, 17,16, 9 are all possibilities but not quite as easy as the first group. The brutal holes where he needs to just make par are 10, 12, 15. In short, Tiger needs to birdie all the automatic holes, play the 50/50’s well and make pars on the hard ones. Basically he needs to play perfect tomorrow AND get help. 1% chance at the most for Tiger.
9:05: Yes. Johnny Miller just said Tiger needs to shoot a “Johnny Miller round.”
9:22: Early movers: Peter Hanson and Hunter Mahan. Mickelson is in danger of making bogey on the course’s easiest hole.
9:28: Barnes just finds the edge on 3 and takes back a one stroke lead.
9:34: Ross Fisher has drained 5 footers on all three holes he has played today so far. He trails by four.
9:43: Hit the ball Ricky. He is the slowest player out here. I don’t know what he learns between the 14 and 19th practice swings.
9:47: Great decision moving up the tees on 6 USGA. Not one person has gone for the green. Instead they are teeing off with 5 irons.
9:57: Ricky Barnes is a trainbwreck waiting to happen and quite frankly I’m excited. As long as Lucas Glover wins.
10:03: It’s been a little over an hour and Mahan has cut a 5 shot deficit to 3.
10:16: It’s kind of amazing to think that Hunter Mahan and Ricky Barnes met in the US Amateur final as can’t miss college prospects. Now, Mahan is a top-15ish player in the world and Barnes has been largely irrelevant. Somehow, they have a chance to meet up again late on the back nine today.
10:20: The lead is down to -5. Could 3-under win this thing?
10:30: Tiger Woods hits his first pin high iron of the day and Johnny Miller is starting to make the case for his outside shot at making a playoff. I will give NBC credit, they are actually showing the leaders live and only cutting to Tiger when they get the chance unlike CBS did at the Masters.
10:40: If Tiger makes that those are a couple of NBC birdies. They get him back in “contention,” but in reality a lot of guys are going to go 4-2 through that stretch because the USGA made those holes so easy today.
10:45: Johnny Miller says Barnes is already “four over for no real reason.” I think the real reason is that he generally sucks.
10:47: Looks good on TV, Tiger but that won’t pick up any ground on the field. A birdie at 15 would, however probably pick up about 1.5 shots.
10:52: On my still in contention list right now:
If Tiger birdies 15 I may throw him back on.
10:58: That was the luckiest par I have ever seen from Phil Mickelson. If Tiger got half the breaks anyone else got this week he would be leading by 3. Unfortunately that is golf.
11:01: Who wants to win?
11:22: Just Ricky being Ricky.
11:26: Just looking at the holes left, 12 is a solid par. You have to play 13 and 14 in at least one under par, 15 is a beast, where 5 is okay. 16, 17 and 18 are all solid pars with a chance of birdie. I think right now realistically 4-under is a pretty solid estimate.
11:30: It’s Glover, Mahan, Mickelson and Fisher as the remaining people on my contenders list.
11:38: Phil is about to tie the lead, all because his atrocious second shot on 10 miraculously had a perfect lie. Unreal.
11:41: I honestly don’t think I can handle Phil winning. The amount of Media love that will come from that will be unbearable. There won’t even be a good opportunity to fade him down the road as he is probably going to take a bit of a break before returning to tour.
11:55: Nice double fist pump from Ross Fisher after he drops in an Eagle. Yes, At this point I am completely ignoring Phil.
12:05: Ross Fisher is the first guy to really get a good read on that putt above 14, at least that we have seen on TV. Glover leaves his birdie effort short on 13. If he can’t get one on 14, Mickelson is back as the favorite.
12:15: Phil misses a shortie on 15 that was actually a pretty tough putt. Bogey on 15 isn’t going to kill you, though.
12:16: Can’t tell if Lucas Glover is incredibly nervous or incredibly laid back.
12:17: If I could give Lucas Glover one piece of advice it would be to aim right on 15. Everyone was missed the fairway left in the last few groups.
12:22:David Duval makes birdie on 15, Johnny Miller has a hard-on. Birdie on 15 is worth at least 1.5 shots on the field.
12:26: I think the age old advice for amateurs applies to Ricky. If you’re going to suck at golf, do it quickly.
12:28: Terrible break from Mahan hitting the flagstick on 16. Glover is on the green in regulation at 15. If he can two putt, not a given, he is looking pretty good to win.
12:34: Glover misses, but a 5 at 15 isn’t really losing too much ground on the field. Looking back on it, I bet Tiger is angriest that he couldn’t make par on 15 and 10 from the middle of the fairways.
12:37: Duval and Fisher threatening for birdie on 16. Could we have a four way playoff. Mickelson is going to have a tough up and down on 17.
12:42: Who is this man and what has he done with David Duval? Hard to evaluate his chances right now. He is a former major champion and we are seeing glimpses of that, but his play over the last year just is not good at all. Like worse that Ricky Barnes bad. Still, incredible comeback from a few terrible breaks today.
12:45: What a shot by Lucas Glover. Mahan has killed himself on the greens today by three putting 6 greens. Mickelson makes a costly bogey on 17.
12:46: Duval can send a big message here on 17 as Glover is walking up the 16th fairway. Fisher needs to go hunting.
I have a Glover as a -175/175 favorite in a potential playoff with Duval. In a four way playoff I have aproximately Mickelson +190, Fisher +260, Glover +280, Duval +700.
12:55: Duval lips out. He’s basically done, Mickelson is basically done. If Lucas Glover hits one good shot here the Open is his.
1:07: Glover uses about a 7-iron off the last tee. Yup, that’s what the USGA wanted with that setup.
1:19: Lucas Glover taps in and is the United States Open Champion 2009.
1:21: This will definitely be a post later, but I am pretty sure that when I do my rankings for this week, Lucas Glover will have played the best even when taking into account the different conditions for different times. After that, Tiger will probably be second because he played in the harder conditions. Sorry Phil fans.