2009 US Open | Tiger Woods Latest News

After seeing Tiger Woods limp around the press area following his amazing (at least as far as the adoring press was concerned) victory at the U.S. Open last year and then hearing his subsequent announcement that he would be going on the shelf for six months, many wondered when the worlds greatest golfer would return to form.

Certainly he would need time to find his swing again, to get back in tournament shape, while his peers took the opportunity to make up even the slightest distance on the man with 14 major championship trophies.

Maybe the second half of 2008 and all of 2009 would give Phil Mickelson and his fellow top-10 players a chance to make up some ground. Woods couldnt really bounce back in a year and be ready to compete in the years second major. Right? Wrong.

Woods returned to Arnold Palmers Bay Hill tournament and won the thing again with another amazing putt. It was obvious in just his first stroke playing outing that the master was back. He then put up a top-10 finish by closing strong (well, at least the first 14 holes on Sunday) at Augusta. Woods has finished in the top 10 in six of his seven starts this season. And now he comes to a course that is suited perfectly for him, Bethpage Black, where he won the Open in 2002.

With Woods firing on all cylinders, the rest of the crowd must be more than a tad unsure about their chances. For obvious reasons, Woods is the prohibitive favorite. But Bethpage, unlike some other Open tracks, does offer a bit of a chance to a larger portion of the field than normal. So, wehave to at least give a look at some other guys.

The repeat home of the Open actually has a very average set of greens for championship golf standards. It is a muni after all, so they didn’t design the greens with Augusta, Oakmont, Oakland Hills, Winged Foot, etc. undulations or slope. Plus, the greens are going to be soft and slower with the expected rain.This means that somebody who is a weak putter by tour standards might do better here than otherwise (see: Sergio Garcia, Kenny Perry, Angel Cabrera, etc.

But with each of these players, there are considerable hurdles to clear. You cannot underestimate the crowd impact.It’s not like other golf events.Players whom the crowd likes, such as Mickelson, are going to be flying high on every hole, and people they don’t like (Brit Paul Casey, Garcia — unless he wears a Mets cap — will be at a huge disadvantage.

Garcia has a notorious history at Bethpage, having given the gallery a one-finger salute the last time he played there. New Yorkers have long memories, so they will probably be all over Garcia, who is allegedly reeling emotionally after being dumped by Greg Normans daughter.

Kenny Perry has been playing some of the best golf of his career. Hes missed only two cuts the past two years, with four wins and top ten finished in one out of three tournaments that he has entered. But there can be no denying that Perry is damaged goods after his loss at Augusta. The look on his face, not to mention his comments following the loss, said it all. The Masters was his best chance to ever win a major. I dont see him bouncing back under the spotlight, though the crowd should love the Southern boy and his self-effacing charm.

Cabrera was as cool as it gets at Augusta, even after ending up in the trees in a playoff. But El Pato is notorious for disappearing after big wins. He won the Open in 2007, and then did not have another top-10 finish in a stroke play event before winning at Augusta. Thats El Pato: win big, celebrate big, find your stride two years later. Gotta love him.

As for the young cats, Luke Scott has been enjoying his newfound fame and cash, and seems unable to live up to his potential while he jet-sets and woos the ladies, including Garcias ex by many accounts. Big-hitting Boo Weekly is suffering from an injury that will hinder is driving and Sean OHair is battling both a forearm injury and is reportedly ready to skip the Open if his expecting wife goes into labor.

That leaves us with only a handful of guys that seem to have a strong shot: Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy, Singh and Jim Furyk.

Furyk has six top-5 finishes at the Open and won in 2003. He has the steely intensity that New Yorkers love and will probably be a crowd favorite. He may not have won this year, but he has finished in the top 10 in half of the 12 events in which he has played in 2009.

Singh can hit the ball a mile, and has been known to fall victim to his faulty putting. But, as mentioned, with the rain and soft greens, putting wont be as big a factor in this Open. As for pressure, this man pounds balls for hours a day on the range. Nobody puts more pressure on Singh than Singh himself.

The player with possibly the best chance to take down Woods is Ogilvy. The whole Tiger mystique thing has never rattled Ogilvy, who already has an Open win after stealing one from Mickelson in 2006, along with a handful of other big tourney wins. His consistency can be problematic. We could Ogilvy shoot three rounds in the 60s and one in the high 70s. If the bad round comes first and he can straighten himself out for the weekend, he could big factor on Sunday, especially with his high ball flight giving him a great opportunity to attack pins.

The most interesting case will be Mickelson. He has made it clear that this will probably be his last major for the foreseeable future while his wife Amy undergoes treatment for breast cancer. The crowd in New York, as evidenced in 2002, loves Phil. He may be a spoiled and entitled kid from the West with seemingly nothing in common with New Yorkers. What they love is Leftys fearlessness, his fallibility and his refusal to take the easy shot, even when it makes the most sense. For a foppish guy with a huge smile, he has pretty big stones, even when his brain fails him. If he can dig deep, focus for four days and ride the massive wave of crowd support, he may be able to move the golf world (the fans, anyway) and win one for Amy. It is possible, but seems unlikely.

That brings us back to Woods. Its his to lose. And while there to appear to be a few guys willing to mount an attack at the king, Tiger simply seems ready to continue his dogged pursuit to greatness. And if you think he likes playing to adoring crowds, remember he also likes proving people wrong and shoving one in their faces. He may not be the most loved player at Bethpage this weekend, but by Sunday, he will likely be the most respected. Again.

About the Author

Based out of Phoenix, Arizona, Patrick Adams is a former freelance sportswriter that has been a part of the sports reporting industry for over twenty years. Pat has combined his love and indepth knowledge of sports into a lucrative career providing sports picks for his members.