By now, if you follow golf at all, you’ve heard about the somewhat high-profile opening grouping at next week’s U.S. Open. It’s only going to feature the top three players in the world, with 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott (No. 3), No. 2 Rory McIlroy and the once and again No. 1, Tiger Woods.
The storylines are seemingly endless. Of course, we’ve heard countless times how Woods’s former caddie, Stevie Williams, now works for Scott. McIlroy was supposed to be the “new Tiger Woods” when he took over as the world’s top player and signed a massive sponsorship deal with Nike. Woods is once again on top of the golf world and a realistic threat to win his 15th career major, inching ever closer to the record of 18 held by Jack Nicklaus.
If you listen to a lot of the opinion-makers in golf, the circus of the media and the massive galleries that will follow are going to make life difficult for these players. The questions are already flying — will they be able to focus fully on their games in such a high-profile group? Will the personal connections distract from the task at hand?
It would be ignorant of me to say that there won’t be any distractions here at all. That’s a given considering how rarely you will ever have the top three golfers in the world playing together. Then, of course, there’s the fact that Tiger still commands a huge following anywhere he goes — have you seen the pictures of Woods with Lindsey Vonn on their vacation recently? But do I think it will affect their play at all? Honestly, no.
For one thing, this won’t be the first time that either McIlroy or Scott have played with Woods, so it’s not like they haven’t been exposed to the bright lights. As long as nobody sticks a microphone in front of Stevie Williams’s face, I doubt we’ll have any bulletin board material to work with. None of the three are going to go out of their way to make this any more of a spectacle than it already is.
Finally, and what should be most obvious, it’s still the U.S. Open. All three of these golfers are consummate professionals with major titles on their resume already. They’ll have too much to focus on in their own games to be worried about anything else.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it won’t be a whole lot of fun for us to watch.