Allow me to begin by noting the pure beauty the Olympic Club exhibited on the 18th tee shots Saturday afternoon. The final groupings were treated to a glowing sunset through the towering cypress trees – I tried to soak it in as much as I could on my 27 inch “HD” TV. It further confirmed my belief that this year’s 112th US Open is brewing up to be one of the more special Opens we’ve seen in a while. Sunday holds promise, but let’s first review what we saw on Saturday.
Saturday was a fantastic day of golf. The course played as well as a US Open course can play. It was rewarding good golf shots and rightfully penalizing bad ones. It gave players options who played smartly and managed their games and because of this, surrendered birdies at times throughout the day. The only thing interesting from a course standpoint was the fact so many players left the course slightly confused as to what the greens really were doing, speed-wise. The course went in reverse as it played easier (“easier” used generously) Saturday. Players were posting runs of birdies and occasional eagles and despite all of this action, major tournament grinding came at a premium once again. It wasn’t an overwhelming birdie fest we see week in week out on Tour, but it was a classic US Open – one that I, along with the entire country, enjoyed immensely.
Champions Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell took control of the 54 hole lead and an advantage heading into Sunday. They both are fearless grinders of the game, built to compete in US Open golf. They find a way to grit their teeth and give themselves opportunities, despite not being the physically gifted specimens we see on a regular basis in professional golf. Furyk dug his giant nose into the turf and plowed his way to a solid round of 70 again today, further building the lore of Furyk major golf. Graeme did the same, gritting is way around the course, making putts and staring down every single iron shot he hits – talking to it the whole way. It was impressive to watch these two perform at what they do best. It’s not necessarily miraculous golf, but it is impressive for golf purists to watch such surgical and methodical play take place on such a difficult golf course.
Tiger Woods. I am not the only person in America who was wrong and I am definitely not the only person in America now surprised at what happened to him on Saturday. As I stated before the 3rd round, I felt Tiger was in control of this golf tournament. He was able to control his golf ball and hit fairways. He was in typical Tiger mode, just wearing down the golf course. I was looking for Tiger to shoot weekend rounds of 69-69 and take home the US Open trophy. What happened Saturday was stunning. The best par putter in the history of golf was missing par putts. He was missing all putts. He honestly, wasn’t even close with the flat stick. If the hole was 5 inches wide, I am convinced Tiger would have shot the same score Saturday. He was fanning tee shots with his 3 wood and 3 iron and hitting from the rough all day. His distance control with the irons was off all day too, admitting after the round he had half distances all day long. The Tiger we saw on Saturday was interesting. The world declares Tiger is back, but he didn’t seem back. To put it simply, it was very odd to watch. He will need a good round Sunday to give himself a chance. Good – like, 66 good.
Beau Hossler held the spotlight again Saturday. He plodded around Olympic to the tune of even par 70, breaking conventional wisdom in the realm of amateur (frankly, junior) golf. He is in contention in the biggest tournament in the world as a high schooler, with more high school left to attend. His game is bafflingly good, but even more baffling is the level of composure this kid holds. He is a man, trapped in an awkward teenage body. As much as it seems logical for him to shoot a high score Sunday, I don’t think it will happen. Beau wants to win the tournament, but I think a 72 is in the cards for Beau. 5 over par for the event, probably good enough to earn a top ten place. Even if he doesn’t fully contend tomorrow, I am still super excited to watch him hit shots and yell at my TV, “Come on Beau!!”
Other notes Saturday:
– Former NCAA champion John Peterson made an electric splash on Saturday with a late hole-in-one on the par 3 13th hole. His celebration was pure elation – body bumping his caddy, losing his hat and appearing almost completely out of character for the following 30 seconds. It was an understandable reaction for any person who makes a hole-in-one at all, let alone the US Open
– Nicolas Colsaerts exploded (literally exploded, he absolutely kills the golf ball) onto the world golf stage Saturday with an impressive round again Saturday. The Belgian is in contention and although he is widely unknown in the states, he is ranked in the top 50 in the world and is quite the solid stick. Gutsy to rule a guy out, but although I do not see him winning tomorrow, I see contention in the future again for Colsaerts. He’s reminiscent of Frenchman Gregory Havret in 2010 at Pebble Beach, a random European who finds himself hunting in the US Open.
– Along with Tiger’s 75, the second biggest surprise to me on the day was David Toms. A reliable grinder and putter, I penciled in David Toms in for another 70 or 71 on Saturday. His 76 left me scratching my head and scratching my eraser.
– The Junkman, Freddie Jacobson is right there after a Saturday 68. He made 3 straight birdies in the middle of his round, with potential for 5 straight, and played solidly all day. He drives it straight, wedges it well and putts really well. He will be right there, a few shots (or even shot, singular) back all day Sunday. He may have a chance.
– My hunch of Lee Westwood shooting a low round Saturday came to fruition after the 3rd ranked player in the world fired a round of 67. I knew he’d play well, but I also said he would post just another top 5 finish. I want Lee to win, he’s a class act, but I don’t see it being in 2012.
– Ernie Els made an awesome run on the back nine and its fun to see him play so well in a major championship after being snubbed (self-snubbed, I guess) at this year’s Masters. He played his last 12 in 5 under par. The Big Easy, baby!
– The winner will come from the final pairing of Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell. One of those two guys will grind it out and get it done Sunday, becoming a two time champion of the US Open. They are comfortable playing together and they will put themselves into a bubble all day long, just grinding, grinding and grinding away. Turn the TV volume all the way up on Sunday, you may even hear the sound of teeth just rubbing together profusely.
– You’re forcing me to choose??? Ughh….Okay, I’ll say Graeme makes it 2 in 3 years.