Who has three green jackets, a winning smile, and one big thumb? This guy. (Image: debby19/Flickr)

Let’s hop right to it. The 2010 Masters was unforgettable. Here are few thoughts about some of the bigger names:

Phil Mickelson: I like Phil. I’m not as big a Mickelson fan as most golfers, but I generally like him. With the struggles with breast cancer his wife, Amy, has faced in the last year, it was hard not to cheer for Mickelson down the stretch. It seems like just a few years ago when we were wondering if Phil could ever win the big one. On Sunday, he won his third green jacket and fourth major title. If he never does anything else (unlikely), the guy will go down as one of the greatest.

Tiger Woods: I say this in the loosest of terms: Tiger’s game reminded me a bit of anyone who has taken a bit of time off from playing. After a few months off, I’m just as likely to make a birdie as I am a double bogey. Did you see the pop up shots? Wow. After all that, though, he finishes in 4th place. Pretty amazing. I love his post-round answer to the question, “Did you expect to win?”–to which he replied, “Well, I entered the tournament.” It will be interesting to see when Woods plays next and if his extended time off will continue to affect his play. I think he’ll be back for The Players next month.

Fred Couples: What did I tell you? Okay. So I got my facts wrong—Couples is already on the Senior Tour (Thanks Mike). Does anyone really watch the Champions Tour? But watching Freddy play so well out there this week was like a blast from the past. It felt like 1995. If only he could’ve made a few of those short putts, Couples could have been right there at the end.

Lee Westwood: I’ve gone on and on about Lee Westwood on this blog. I love his game. I love his swing. Westwood is in his prime and has to win a major in the next two years or it’s a freaking shame.

Anthony Kim: I think Kim is ready to win a major now. Incredible 65 on Sunday. He definitely has the game, and I think he’s putting everything else together. He’s the kind of player that’s fun to watch.

Next major: U.S. Open on June 17-20 at Pebble Beach. Can Phil go back to back?

pga logoThe PGA Tour’s version of the crappy BCS will not be changing in 2010.

Awesome!

I always have  a blast getting out the calculator during the Tour Championship to find out how many decimal points a missed four-foot putt will cost Phil Mickelson.

This is the first time since 2006 that the Tour hasn’t changed the points system. Apparently, the decision-makers didn’t even discuss changing the system at their board meetings this week.

The point system actually worked in 2009, but it still sucks. It’s an uninteresting way to end the season during a time in which the Tour is competing against the NFL and the MLB for viewers.

I’ll say it for the 9,000th time. The Fed Ex Cup needs a match play format.

lucas

(Image: wendyu/Flickr)

You didn’t pick him. Admit it. No one picked Lucas Glover to win the U.S. Open.

Just three weeks ago, Glover didn’t even know if he would be playing in this major. But he made it through qualifying, and played relatively steady over the weekend to hold off Phil Mickelson, Ricky Barnes, and David Duval—who resurrected his game over the weekend, even bringing back the circa 1997 Oakley sunglasses.

I’ll remember this U.S. Open for the stories: the aforementioned Duval’s return from golfing obscurity, Phil Mickelson’s quest to win the tournament for his wife Amy—recently diagnosed with breast cancer—Ricky Barnes’ first true appearance on the national stage since his ‘02 U.S. Amateur title,  and, of course, the rain, the rain, the rain, the rain.

Mickelson worked his way into contention yet again, only to bogey two holes down the stretch. It’s all too familiar. Duval found himself within a shot of the lead late on Monday. Without a lipped-out par putt on 17, Duval would have needed a birdie on 18 to tie Glover. Barnes broke the U.S. Open scoring record over the first 36 holes, but disappeared late on Sunday and never found his game on Monday. This guy has to have one of the more unattractive swings on Tour.

For the second year in a row, we waited until Monday to determine the champion. With Glover as the winner—his first major and only second PGA Tour victory—it simply goes to show you can’t pick this stuff.

It’s easy to prognosticate the safe picks—Woods, Mickelson, Singh. But when it comes down to it, all these guys are capable of winning out there—even on a treacherous course like Bethpage Black. To borrow from a PGA Tour marketing slogan, these guys are just that good.

U.S. Open Week is here.

My favorite major, my favorite tournament to watch. Period.

Some people criticize the U.S. Open, saying it’s too hard, too tricked up, saying they don’t enjoy watching the world’s best golfers struggle. But not me.

I’d much rather watch a tournament in which even par wins over a tournament in which 20 under wins. I love watching those guys fight for pars. Maybe it reminds me of myself.  

One of my favorite traditions is lounging on the couch and watching all 8,000 hours of the final round coverage. Last year, I went into “blackout mode” while at work on Monday, somehow avoiding co-workers’ comments about the Mediate-Woods playoff. I watched the entire round on DVR that evening. I love the U.S. Open.

So what does the 2009 U.S. Open hold in store?

The Course

bethpage black

How bad will Bethpage beat down the pros? (Image: erova/Flickr)

Bethpage Black is one of the best—and most difficult—public courses in America. A legendary sign in front of the first tee warns golfers about the course’s difficulty. The Black will chew up your 2 handicap and spit it out.

Bethpage Black underwent a MAJOR renovation prior to the 2002 Open. Last year, I reviewed John Feinstein’s book, The Open, which explained the massive changes to the course, as well as the logistical nightmare of hosting this major.

The Black is a beast.  And this course is more ready than ever for a major championship. Read about some of the changes made to the course in preparation for this year’s tournament.

The Picks

Here’s your standard “favorite picks” segment. Every Open Preview has one of these sections. Take it for what it’s worth. No one ever picks the winner, excluding the given Tiger Woods pick.

Tiger Woods: This guy sucks.

Sergio Garcia: I keep picking him to win a major, and one time he’s actually going to do it. ESPN golf writer Gene Wojciechhowski points out that Garcia has never finished under par at an Open. No one is picking him, so why not?

geoff

Watch out for Jee Off. (Image: jackprominski/Flickr)

Paul Casey: Ranked #3 in the world. This is the type of stage Casey enjoys. I seriously think he could be in the final group with Woods on Sunday. It’s been 40 years since an Englishman has won the U.S. Open.

Geoff Ogilvy: Geoff  pronounced “jee-off,” has won twice this year—at the Match Play and the Mercedes Benz Championship. He’s a previous Open winner and legit contender to take the 2009 tournament.

Jim Furyk: Furyk always seems to hang around. He’s not long, but he’s a straight-hitter, which is going to be an asset on Bethpage Black. Maybe the 2003 Open winner will pick up his second major this year.

In Sum

Bethpage Black is the prototypical Open Course. Long, long, long and extremely difficult. The seventh hole alone is a 525 yard par four.

But the best thing about it? You and I could play on this track next week. It’s not a snooty private club; Bethpage Black is a course for everyone. We can watch Mickelson, Woods, and Garcia hit out of the same bunkers we have struggled to play from. That’s pretty cool, if you ask me.

The U.S. Open is here. Enjoy.

mickelson

Let's hope this man is back soon. (Image: scubaeddie32/Flickr)

Sad week for Phil Mickelson and family.

On Wednesday, the family announced that Amy Mickelson, Phil’s wife, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is expected to have major surgery within the next two weeks. Phil has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the Tour.

Cancer sucks, does it not? All this on the heels of Seve Ballesteros’ diagnosis last fall. And, on a personal note, my little cousin, Josiah Herring–who I wrote about last week–passed away on Wednesday morning. Please pray for the Herring family.

When I think about the Mickelson family, I recall the 1999 U.S. Open, Payne Stewart’s legendary win at Pinehurst. Amy was expecting the couple’s first child at any moment, and Phil was on the verge of winning his first major. But after Payne snagged the title, he hugged Phil and gave him a few encouraging words about fatherhood. Mickelson made it home in time for his first child’s birth.

At times like this, golf means very little. I wish the best for Amy Mickelson and family. The sooner Lefty is back on Tour, the better Amy’s recovery went. So let’s hope Phil is hitting his signature wicked recovery shots very soon.

Best to the Mickelsons.

kenny-perry1

Perry just missed becoming the oldest player to win a major. (Image: Fiveholer/Flickr)

Angel Cabrera played asleep during most of the final round on Sunday. At one point, he was the only player in the top 13 who was over par. But he showed up when it mattered most.

Cabrera was +2 after 10 holes, seemingly out of  the tournament, with Woods and Mickelson on fire and his playing partner Kenny Perry holding steady at even on the day.

But Cabrera birdied three holes down the stretch while Perry bogied 17 and 18 to allow Angel and Chad Campbell back into the tournament, all three pairing up for a sudden death playoff.

After Campbell missed a three footer on the first playoff hole, Perry and Cabrera moved on to the 7th hole–the second hole in the sudden death matchup. Perry missed his approach shot badly right and couldn’t get up and down. Cabrera made a solid two putt to win his second major.

There’s your brief recap. Congratulations to Angel Cabrera.

But, me, I’m a bit disappointed. Tiger and Phil were on fire through 16. This was setting up to be one of the most memorable final rounds in Masters history. Unfortunately, Woods faded on 17 and 18 and Mickelson lost confidence in his flat blade, missing a few short birdie putts.  When was the last time you saw Tiger hit dead center into a tree like he did on 18?

It’s been awhile since the golf world has seen a Tiger-Phil showdown like that one. With the television coverage and the crowd noise, you would’ve thought Woods and Mickelson were in the final group. The Perry and Cabrera pairing seemed to have the gallery energy of a Hooters event (no offense to Hooters players, of course.)

So the ending was a bit anticlimactic. But, still, you can’t complain about a sudden death playoff in a major. Golf at its finest.

The first major of 2009 was a good one. On to Bethpage Black in June.

For a little more information about Bethpage Black–and the last Open played there in 2002–read my post on the subject.

Augusta National Hole #1, Tea Olive (Image: Brerwolfe/Flickr)

Augusta National Hole #1, Tea Olive (Image: Brerwolfe/Flickr)

It’s Masters Week. One of the greatest annual sporting events is upon us again.

Tiger Woods will tee it up at 1:53 ET on Thursday, firing for his 15th major—just five away from Jack Nicklaus’ record. After his showing at Bay Hill, there is no reason to believe Woods isn’t as strong as ever. New knee. Same incredible swing. No one would be surprised if Tiger wins.

Here’s a few of Tiger’s stats for you to marinate on:

  • Woods has a 30.6% winning percentage in majors. That’s 14 wins in 46 starts. Thirty percent is a good batting average, but a golf tournament winning percentage? Incredible.
  • In the last four seasons, Tiger has played in 14 majors and won six. In that period, only twice did he finish outside the top four.
  • Tiger has won 66 tour events, 16 short of Sam Snead’s record.

Need we say more here?

Enough about Tiger though; of course he’s the favorite. Who else could give him a run?

  • Phil Mickelson: Standard answer here. But Mick has won twice already this season. Problem is, Phil fades when Tiger plays well. Coincidence?
  • Steve Stricker: One of Game Under Repair’s all time faves, Strick has three top 4 finishes this year. He’s rolling, but he needs to finish.
  • Sergio Garcia: A few months ago, I picked Sergio to win The Masters this year. So, though he’s sucking as of late, I’ll still include him here. Four more tries to win a major before he turns 30.
  • Camilo Villegas: He conquered the big stage at the Tour Championship last year. Let’s see how he does in the biggest tournament so far in 2009.
  • Rory McIlroy: He’s 19. He doesn’t know any better. Why not?
  • Lee Westwood: I just love his swing, and I want to see it on TV this weekend. That’s why he’s on this list.
  • Brandt Snedeker: Nashville guy. I’m biased.

Ian Woosnam, Chez Reavie, and Briny Baird kick off The 2009 Masters Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m. ET.

Check back for Game Under Repair’s cutting insight all week.