Bone to pick with golf cheerleaders

IAN HUTCHINSON, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:04 PM ET

TORONTO - It just wouldn’t seem like the U.S. Open without some spectacular blow-ups and the first round at Congressional Thursday respected that tournament tradition.

Take, for example, Dustin Johnson. On his second hole, which took place on the par four 11th, Johnson put it in water twice and took a triple bogey reminiscent of the second hole that triggered his final round meltdown at Pebble Beach last year.

The television cheerleaders made note of this and pointed out that it’s good that Johnson got it out of his system early in the tournament. Sure, it’s better to miss the weekend altogether, which is a real possibility now with Johnson at four over, than it is to have the opportunity to blow up in the final round.

Then, there was Phil Mickelson. The popular question that follows Mickelson is “What will Phil do next?” when the more appropriate question over his career would be “What’s he thinking?”

There was no better time to ask that question than on the 72nd hole of the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot when Mickelson seemingly had it, but chose a driver that had failed him earlier. A wayward tee shot began a sequence of events in the spirit of Curly, Larry and Moe as Mickelson handed it to Geoff Ogilvy.

In contrast, Mickelson did have his head on right with his decision to use a driving iron Thursday at Congressional, the logic being to combat the fast running fairways that might have carried him into the rough, where he ended up anyway because of his inability to control the club he did use.

Mickelson is at three over, a number that is complimentary. If not for his scrambling, it could have been a lot worse.

Bubba Watson isn’t in bad shape at even par, but it could have been a lot better had he not finished his round with three consecutive bogeys after four straight birdies. Inexplicable? Yes, but you just want to believe it had something to do with those loud pants.

How nasty will the USGA get?

The most pressing question now is what nefarious means will the USGA use in setting up the course for Friday. That six-under leading score will not sit well with the brass, especially with the changing conditions that required players to adapt quickly in the first round … The theory that Rory McIlroy was devastated by his final round meltdown at the Masters has once again been shot down by a 22-year-old who is looking very likely to be a multiple major winner over the next decade. Besides his game, his most impressive characteristic is his ability to tune out the clowns who think it’s such a calamity that a guy so young can’t close the deal on Sunday at Augusta. Even if his current three-shot lead doesn’t hold up this week, it doesn’t indicate anything is seriously wrong … Something that McIlroy will definitely notice is Charl Schwartzel, the guy who did get it done at the Masters, is tied for second and within three shots.

The top is at the bottom

The top three players in the world rankings — Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer — were a combined 10-over yesterday … Chez Reavie must be thankful for his 2008 victory at the RBC Canadian Open, the lone PGA Tour victory of his career thus far. After starting this season on a medical exemption after reconstructive knee surgery last year, Reavie is now playing on past champion status despite his tie for fifth at last month’s Colonial. Reavie made it to Congressional through qualifying and held the lead briefly before finishing with a decent one-under yesterday.

The open minds of golf

NBC’s Dan Hicks is quoted as saying, “With Tiger out, it’s the Phil Mickelson show coming in.” It would be too if it was 2005 and McIlroy was still playing junior golf and Luke Donald wasn’t No. 1 in the world. You’ve got to love the open minds in golf where a guy who turned 41 yesterday is considered the big show over the younger guys ahead of him on the money list and the world rankings. It might be a good time for the network brass to take a look at the leaderboard … With all this discussion going on about Americans not winning the past four majors, the hand-wringers should take a deep breath and realize that this might not be an issue if Johnson hadn’t mistaken a bunker for a bare patch at last year’s PGA Championship, a faux pas that knocked him out of a playoff with Watson and Kaymer, the eventual champ. That’s not to complain about one of golf’s most embarrassing moments, but just to put it into perspective in what is a cyclical game. Remember the eight-year major drought for Europeans between Paul Lawrie winning the 1999 British Open and Paddy Harringon winning the same event in 2007? … RBC announced yesterday it has taken title sponsorship at the PGA Tour stop at Hilton Head for the next five years. The new event will be known as the RBC Heritage Classic. This news comes just a few days after RBC was announced as a presenting sponsor of the Canadian PGA player rankings, a deal that will see the top player from those rankings at a certain date earn an exemption into the RBC Canadian Open.


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