Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What is with the pairings for the U.S. Open?

It looks like the boys at the USGA may have gotten a little too deep into their tonics and gin just before they made the pairings for this week’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego.

On the surface, the pairing of the top three ranked players in the world, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott for the first two rounds seems inspired. A little deeper look into it and you have to wonder what they were thinking about.

First, these guys are as serious competitors as you can find. In addition, there’s also the personal rub between Phil and Tiger that just won’t go away. Over 36 holes they just might be so focused on beating the other that the Championship becomes secondary. Given Scott’s ineptitude in Majors, he’ll be little more than an observer and the residual effect won’t be as harsh.

However the fall out on the group ahead, Mark Calcavecchia, Oliver Nelson and Joe Ogilvie and the group behind of Lee Janzen, Steve Flesch and Rich Beem could be catastrophic, given that 80 percent of the people on the course will be crowding into watch the group between them. You can bet the overflow will be uncontrollable. Count those six out of the tournament.

Back in the days when Frank Hennigan was the executive director and P.J. Boatwright and Tom Meeks were his henchmen. Great care was given to the pairings at the U.S. Open. Nicklaus, Palmer, Player and Watson had to earn the right to be paired with each other and it was on the weekend when the title was on the line.

This wasn’t to say that they didn’t have some fun doing the pairings. If Lee Chill a journeyman tour player at the time qualified for the US Open, you could count on him being paired with South African David Frost. Hennigan also had a “Mystery Pairing” every year. He would find some obscure commonality two or three players had and paired them together. Then he would challenge the media to find the commonality. Sometimes, even the players weren’t aware of it.

This year, the pairings are as subtle as a brick wall. Miguel Ángel Jiménez is paired with Boo Weekley and Shingo Katayama. I figure that Boo doesn’t speak a lot of Spanish or Japanese and they might not be versed in Red Neck. Boo will probably have a few stories to tell about the conversations during lulls in the action.

The pairing of Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson and Mike Weir contains the last three Masters champions not named Tiger or Phil. The Craig Parry, Tim Clark, Robert Karlsson trio contains the tallest player in the field, Karlsson with the two shortest.

The scoring might not be great, but the fireworks generated by Bubba Watson, JB Holmes and Brett Wetterich, three of the longest hitters in professional golf should be interesting even if their best ball score each day is 76.

Mild mannered Frenchman Thomas Levet could be headed for a nervous breakdown should playing partners Woody Austin and Pat Perez go into meltdown. The same could be said for David Toms. If he keeps the peace between Rory Sabbatini and Colin Montgomerie, there’s a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in his future.

Of course the all-England grouping of Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Luke Donald could back up the course should they stop at four o’clock for a spot of tea. This also is possible if Swedes Carl Peterson and Daniel Chopra along with Dane Soren Hansen representing Scandinavia break for a sauna.

In closing, I can honestly say I don’t have the foggiest idea who will win the U.S. Open. But I can say it won’t be Tiger, Phil or Adam. They’ll punch themselves out before Saturday morning. Of course, I could be wrong. I know that’s hard to believe, but they are the three best players in the world and well…. All I know is, I wish I was at this pairing party. I wondered if they had a giggle the next morning when the hangover cleared.

Bartender, set me up a Harvey Wallbanger, a Rob Roy and a Tom Collins and you have to tell me what those three have in common.

See you on the first tee,


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