THE KNOCK ONWOODS
The British Openleft me with one obvious question: What's up with Tiger Woods? Here's what Ithink: The demands on his time while hosting his own tournament, plus thewonderful distraction of becoming a father, meant that for the first time inhis career he wasn't 100% prepared to tee it up in a major. Hitting a four-ironOB off the 1st tee was emblematic of his swing issues: His swing gets flat andhe gets "stuck." His old swing, with Butch Harmon, was better. Here'swhat I'm afraid to think: Tiger has fallen in love with bodybuilding, and allthat muscle is messing up his swing. When I look at what's different from lastyear, when he won the last two majors, my answer is that now he looks likePopeye the Sailor Man. Still, it would be a mistake to dismiss Tiger atSouthern Hills simply because he didn't play well there in the 2001 U.S. Open(12th). He was forced to lay up to the corners of many of the doglegged holesback then, and holstering the driver is a plus for him these days. Tiger willbe in the mix next week, but he's not my pick to win.
TESTING, TESTING .. .
Gary Player sayshe knows firsthand of players using performance-enhancing drugs. Unlesscommissioner Tim Finchem is willing to call Mr. Player a bold-faced liar andpronounce the case closed, we should have drug testing on Tour tomorrow. Iwouldn't be surprised to learn that a few guys are using, but we don't have atesting program or even a rule against using performance-enhancing drugs. Testus or get off the pot!
THE TROUBLE WITHTULSA
I'd like to thankthe PGA of America for sending us to Tulsa in August. I guess Death Valleywasn't available. I'm not a huge fan of Southern Hills. It was great in itsday--the 1970s--but doesn't hold up to today's power game. When we all lay upto the same spot on the corner of a dogleg, it seems like the staggered startof a 400-meter race. I hope they've fixed the 9th and 18th greens, which weresuch a joke in the '01 Open that they had to mow them to a different length tomake them semiplayable.
NO LOVE LOST
The Canadian Opendesperately needed some star power. (Apparently I didn't fill the bill.) DavisLove III took a big paycheck to tweak the Angus Glen course and make it morepalatable, then didn't even show up to see how his work played out. I read inthe Toronto paper how he didn't admit that he was skipping the event when someCanadian writers asked him about it on Friday at Carnoustie, a couple of hoursbefore the entry deadline. I bet Davis doesn't miss out on the free money atthis week's Bridgestone Invitational.
Three majors,three first-time major winners. I sense a trend. Here are four guys who couldmake it four-for-four at the PGA. Hunter Mahan got his first win last month, isa decent iron player, is used to Okie golf--he played at Oklahoma State--andhas been on a roll. This Anthony Kim kid is an amazing rookie. He's long, makesa lot of birdies and is way up there in the confidence category. In fact, he'salmost as abrasive as Rory Sabbatini. Kim would also probably be a popularwinner in Oklahoma since he played, briefly, for the Sooners. The media lovesthe feel-good story of Boo Weekley, a small-town guy who has the naive charm ofJed Clampett and is one hell of a ball striker. I know his putting is suspect,but he might shoot a 64 in the final round, finish early and wait for theleaders to melt down and hand it to him. I love J.J. Henry's iron game and theway he's quietly improving. Winning a PGA has to be less pressure than playingin the Ryder Cup (not that I'd know).
Here are my picksto be prime contenders. Scott Verplank drives it straight, hits precise ironswhen he's on and is a great scrambler. His game will bore you to death, justlike Southern Hills. They're a perfect match. He's already won a major, if youcount the U.S. Amateur. (I don't.) You may remember Stewart Cink from the '01Open, during which he rushed a short putt on the 72nd hole while trying to getout of the way and missed, costing him a spot in the Monday playoff. Stewart'sbeen working with a head doctor and had a chance to win at Carnoustie. He'splaying well again, and now that he's using the belly putter he's yip-free, sono more missed one-footers. Sergio García needs a fresh diaper. Did you hearhim crying about how he got lousy breaks and had to beat more than simply theother guys in the field? I guess God, Mother Nature and the Ghosts of ChristmasPast were triple-teaming him or something. Sergio, there's only one reason youdidn't win at Carnoustie--you shot 73 on an easy scoring day when everyone whocould play dead threw up a 67 or a 68. The belly putter is going to giveSergio's game a makeover and make him a realistic threat to finally win amajor. Maybe even this one. Before he can do that, though, he needs an attitudeadjustment. Or he needs to grow up. I'm glad Padraig Harrington won theBritish, even though he tried like hell to blow it. He's a nice man, a hardworker, and now that the monkey's off his back, he could win a few more majors,too, if Tiger continues to stay on the sidelines.
WINNER IS . ..
Yes, I know. Isound like a broken record, but I'm going with Canadian Open champ Jim Furyk,my pick for the U.S. and British Opens. Sorry for my lack of originality, butSouthern Hills is Mid-Iron Central. It's perfect for a medium-length hitter whoworks his irons and has a great short game. In other words it's perfect forFuryk. Look, Jim nearly won at Oakmont after his back-nine charge, was 13th atthe Masters--a course that should be too long for him--and 12th at Carnoustie.He's had eight top six finishes this year, and now he also has a W. This time,he pulls it off. Hey, maybe he'll drill Sergio in a playoff. That would besweet.
Southern HillsCountry Club, hole by hole, at GOLF.com
BILL KOSTROUN/AP (MUSCLE); ERICK W. RASCO (PACIFIER); JOHN BIEVER (WOODS, PLAYER); CHRIS CARLSON/AP (DEATH VALLEY); DAVID WALBERG; FRED VUICH (FLAG)
ANDREW REDINGTON/GETTY IMAGES (HENRY)
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (MAHAN)
SIMON BRUTY (CINK)
JOHN BIEVER (GARCIA)
ROBERT BECK (HARRINGTON)
AL TIELEMANS (VERPLANK)
HUNTER MARTIN/GETTY IMAGES (FURYK)
¬†EMPEROROF THE NORTH
Furyk became the first player in 56 years to win back-to-back Canadian Opentitles.