Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The US Open at Congressional; Notes from last week, including The National and the 'cat' incident


A week ago it was so hot in Washington I was dreading the thought of spending a week at Congressional because just walking out the door when it is 100 degrees out is miserable. The thought of walking a hilly golf course in that kind of weather makes me want to become an editor.

Okay, that may be a bit radical but you get the point.

So, the weather thus far has been spectacular---cool, low humidity—everything you could possibly want. Of course by the weekend it will probably be awful again.

Right now though walking around here is a delight and, for once, I actually know my way around, which is a bonus.

Since I’m the local guy for this event, I’ve had more requests for radio and local TV interviews than normal. I bring that up only because it is so easy to tell the difference between those who follow golf regularly and those who don’t: The golf types want to know about the tournament. The non-golf types want to know about Tiger.

C’est la vie.

When I did my regular bit on Washington Post Live on Monday (from the golf course as opposed to the studio) Ivan Carter told me before we went on that his first question was going to be, “Why should I come out there if Tiger’s not there?”

Ivan and I joke about this all the time. I say he isn’t a golf fan because he only cares about Tiger. He insists that he is a golf fan because he likes Tiger.

So, I said, “My answer’s going to be that no one really cares if you come out here or not—they can hold the tournament without Tiger, they can certainly hold it without you.”

Ivan never asked the question.

Here’s my latest theory on Tiger: If he doesn’t play in his tournament in two weeks he won’t play the rest of the year. (It is worth remembering that I’m oh-for-Tiger this year predicting what he’s going to do: I thought for sure he would skip The Players Championship because the event means nothing to him and he’s never liked the golf course. So, he tries to play, shoots 42 for nine holes and withdraws. I thought for sure he would be healthy for the Open and he’s not here. So, take anything I say here with a grain of salt and, no, he hasn’t consulted with me on what to do next.)

The reason I believe Philadelphia will be the tipoff is this: Because of various injuries and off-course issues, Woods has missed events that he’s the ‘host,’ of on a couple of occasions since 2008. He missed that 18-man exhibition in California after his knee surgery in 2008 and missed it again after hydrant-gate in 2009.

Earlier in 2008 he couldn’t play in his tournament when it was played here at Congressional after his knee surgery. The sponsors—notably AT+T—understood that Woods couldn’t play but they very much hoped he would get on a private plane and fly in for a day to glad-hand with all their clients. Woods couldn’t make it.

Now, three years later, with the future venue of the tournament in question—it is supposed to come back to Congressional next year for the next three years but neither the club nor the Woods Foundation is thrilled with the idea—Woods’ absence this year would be a very big deal and not a good thing at all.

So, my theory is this: if there’s any way he can play he will. If he really can’t play, I think he’ll take the break a lot of people believe he should take and MAYBE play the PGA if he can get himself healthy to play at least once, maybe twice, before then.

Okay, enough Tiger. There is, after all, a major championship starting here on Thursday.

Congressional—my biases aside—is a very good venue for The Open. It isn’t Pebble Beach or Shinnecock but it is long and hard but not unfair. Rory McIlroy—who I would LOVE seeing with the trophy on Sunday—described it this morning as, ‘scoreable.’

I think that’s accurate and it is what the USGA, under Mike Davis, has wanted the last few years: play well, you score; play anything less than well and you have serious issues. A lot of players think the 16th hole might be pivotal. The area around the green—especially right and back—has been shaved to the point where if you miss the green at all you’re in big trouble. McIlroy told me his instinct after playing it a couple of times might be to lay-up rather than risk bringing six into play by hitting a long iron in. Keep an eye on how guys play the hole beginning on Thursday.

Oh, one other reason Congressional probably isn’t in the long term future for Woods’ event: The USGA has made it clear to the club that if it wants The Open back in the future, it can’t host a PGA Tour event. The USGA will look the other way on that issue for Pebble Beach but that’s because it’s Pebble Beach AND because the golf course in February is a lot different (especially with a USGA set-up) than in June.

Of course the question I’m asked most often is who I’m picking to win. That’s understandable since I’m the only media member who was smart enough to walk the first round last year with Graeme McDowell.

He was playing with Rocco Mediate and Shaun Micheel who were key figures in my last two books. I was out there to watch them. The thought that I might be walking with the winner of the championship never crossed my mind once all day.

Any of you who picked McDowell—or Louis Oosthuizen at St. Andrews or Charl Schwartzel at Augusta in April—please let me know. I’d love to get some stock tips from you.

Which of course is the beauty of golf.


Couple notes from last week: Final word on my friend Scott Van Pelt: First, thanks to Scott for naming me the ‘arbiter of all things.’ That’s just about as good as being the ‘czar of sports,’ as Tony Kornheiser used to call me. I’m flattered. Second, to the couple of posters who said I mis-quoted Scott by saying he met Jordan Williams when he spoke to the Maryland team before a Duke game two years ago (not that he had ‘crossed paths with him at a couple games,’ as Scott said. How did that happen since Scott doesn’t actually DO basketball games?) I was quoting JORDAN WILLIAMS who said he met Scott when he spoke to the team. Bad writing on my part if anyone misunderstood….

Oh, and then there was the question about the alleged, ‘cat,’ incident that supposedly sunk The National in 1991. If you read the story Frank Deford pretty much has it right. There were a number of reasons I wanted to come home and the cost of my coming home between The French open and Wimbledon was LESS than if I stayed. I did NOT fly home on The Concorde. The only time I flew on the Concorde was when I used USAIR points to fly on it to and from the British Open in 1994. The return flight left London at 3:30 and arrived in Washington at a little before 2 p.m.

That was cool.


Gunnar said...

Would love to see Rory, Stricker or Phil win this Open...all for different reasons. Rory could be the first of many, Stricker possibly his only major, and Phil his first Open and 5th major. I don't care that Eldrick is out of the tournament.

The cat story has had its nine lives, can it be buried?

Anonymous said...

British Airways never used either "The" or "the" before Concorde. It was simply referred to as Concorde.

Mr. X said...

That's because they go to hospital and we go to the hospital.

Ravioliman66 said...

Junior, I liked your column on Fay but what's with all the hippie/leftie worshiping?

Fay went to Woodstock (who cares) and the whole thing with the daughters silently protesting daddy playing golf with Bush.

I guess the girls silently approve of gas in NY/NJ at $5 per gallon.

pulmcrit1 said...

Would love to see Rory win the Open. He has talent and personality, and I hope he wins several majors. Couldn't care less where Woods plays or doesn't play. Question: If Adam Scott wins or has a strong finish at the Open, will Woods' caddy stay with him and leave Woods?

Mr. X said...

If Feherty can say the greens at Congressional are close to burning out, surely the Golf Channel can have you on camera for daily recap.

Mark Eglinton said...

Unless he implodes spectacularly, McIlroy wins this by a dozen shots. He looks like he's matured a lot since Augusta someone shoots a couple of 65s - he should win it.