Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; a guy with arthritis, a conservative southerner and a former phenom looking to get back on top all walk to the first tee of the U.S. Open together…. If you haven’t heard it, you will be in for a treat Thursday and Friday when the PGA Tour stops at the Olympic Club for the US Open. Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Tiger Woods have been grouped together for the first two rounds in what is surely going to be one of the most anticipated groupings in recent memory.
ESPN has hit ratings gold with this grouping, considering all the drama surrounding its members. When you factor in the fact that the U.S. Open is one of the most anticipated tournaments of the year, this has the potential to be something talked about for quite some time. The contentious relationship between Mickelson and Woods has, according to their peers on tour, been blown up to be bigger than what it really is; but it provides fodder for the media, nonetheless. Bubba and Tiger had a very close relationship before Woods’ scandal a few years ago, but their relationship has fallen by the wayside since then. One can only assume because the conservative Watson has attempted to distance himself from the philandering, scandal-plagued Woods.
Setting all of the daytime soap opera storylines aside, there is sure to be some incredible golf to come out of this featured grouping. Bubba has an opportunity win all 4 major championships this year, considering the fact that he won the Masters at the beginning of April. He should also be rejuvenated, considering he has taken quite some time off after the Masters to spend time with his wife and newly adopted son. Woods has been playing much better as of late, pulling out the victory at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament after making birdies on 3 of the last 4 holes and winning by 2 strokes. Woods’ win at the Memorial catapulted him into 3rd place in the FedEx Cup point standings, while playing in considerably fewer tournaments than those ranked above him. Mickelson has been quietly (or at least as quietly as Phil can) putting together a solid season for himself. In 13 events, he has made 11 cuts, has 7 top 25 finishes, 5 top 10’s, 1 3rd, 1 2nd and 1 win. All of that equates to $2,838,778 in winnings…not bad for a few months work.
This featured grouping consists of the 3rd, 5th and 7th ranked players in the FedEx Cup standings (Woods, Watson and Mickelson, respectively). If anyone will feel like the odd man out, it will likely be Watson, but I don’t anticipate that having much impact on his game. The only thing that these three have to be cognizant of is that they are playing against the golf course, and not each other. If they are able to keep their heads down and focus on their own games, this grouping definitely will not disappoint. Even if the product on the course isn’t up to what we are expecting (which is highly unlikely), there will still be plenty to talk about coming out of this grouping.