World's best favoured at tough US Open

With just a few hours to go until the 110th US Open gets underway at Pebble Beach it is becoming increasingly clear that the event will more than likely be won by one of the game's current great players.

Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods are the world's number one and two and their records at Pebble Beach and in this event generally suggest they are well armed for an assault on their own national open championship. Lee Westwood has in recent months staked his claim to be mentioned in the same breath as far as chances this week are concerned.

This is a golf course where the skilled and experienced will prevail and all three very much fit the mould. All three are aware of the place Pebble Beach holds in their own hearts and in the psyche of American golf.

"As far as my game I'm very excited about how it's progressed, since before Memorial then obviously during Memorial and now here it's gotten better," said Woods referring to the progress in his game. "The more time I've been able to practice and play, the more it has started to solidify so I'm actually really excited to tee it up on Thursday."

"It's great to be back, I haven't been here in I believe about eight years now, so it's great to be back. It's interesting to see the golf course and how much it has changed with some of the redesigns that they have had. Different strategies, different shots, and obviously it's playing a lot firmer than it does here in February."

"So the greens are starting to get a little bit more springy, starting to come to life now, and it's only going to get probably going to get more springy as the days go on."

Mickelson spoke with passion about Pebble Beach and the memories it holds for him and his quest to win his first US Open after five runner-up finishes.

"I'm looking forward to playing this week, it's a special tournament for me," said Mickelson on Tuesday.

"This is where I played my first event as a professional in 1992. I had a great first round, shot 68, and then shot 82 to miss the cut. This course can really bite you. It was a difficult test. It was very difficult in '92, as it was in 2000, although one player in 2000 made it look easy, and I think it's going to be very hard this week, as well."

"Well, it would mean a lot to any player, myself included, given that I've come so close so many times," he added referring to what a win this week would mean to him. "My special tie to Pebble Beach and that, again, it was my first event as a professional. I've played so much here over the years, and had some success at AT&T and have a lot of fond memories here."

"The condition, I think it's the best U.S. Open setup that I've seen. I think the one area of concern I have is the greens, they're so small and they're so firm that, given that there's not any forecast for rain, I'm certainly concerned that we could have 14 potential 7th holes at Shinnecock, if we're not careful."

Lee Westwood has played his way into the number three position in world golf and has been in the best form of all three in the past year or so. Westwood won the European Tour's race to Dubai last year and just a week ago won the St Jude Classic in Memphis.

"Well, it's probably my favourite golf course in the world, I would say, he said referring to a course on which he has won the AT&T on three occasions. So I'm obviously delighted to be back and very excited about the week coming up."

"I've played here, like you say in the U.S. Open in 2000, played okay and okay for a couple practice rounds before Memphis last week and so I had a good look at the golf course. It was nice to come and play well. There was pretty much nobody else here. So I'm looking forward to going out there today (Tuesday). I don't think it will change too much. I think that I would I look forward to getting going next Thursday."

"When I first got here in 2000 it became my favorite golf course. I think. It's an amazing stretch of land. And a dramatic coastline and to have a golf course like this where no holes, no two holes are the same. And you got little holes like 7, I think I read somewhere where a couple of well known course designers said that hole probably they would never have designed that hole because they just wouldn't have seen it 110 yard, room for a 110 yard par-3 in there."

"So I think there's a lot of little special things about the place and I don't think it's a golf course you can ever tire of playing. You see something different out there all the time. And it has different challenges, the wind obviously affects the golf course and when you're aside the ocean and it's just such a spectacular place to play. If you have a bad day you can have a look around and it cheers you up a bit, I suppose."

The three are the game's best players at present and although Westwood is still yet to win a major championship if ever there was an opportunity to win one it is this week given his form and his love affair with Pebble Beach.

This is a tournament venue has already proven to be provide drama in its four previous stagings of the US Open. Nicklaus's 1 iron hitting to the 17th hitting the flag and stopping an inch from the hole on Sunday in 1972, Tom Watson's chip in from left of the green in 1982, Tom Kite overcoming the heroics of Gil Morgan in 1992 and perhaps the greatest moment in major championship golf when Tiger Woods won by an almost ridiculous 15 shots in 2000.

There is every reason to believe that there will be another dramatic moment that will define this year's event. There could be not more fitting finale to such a great championship at such a great venue than if the three players mentioned above were fighting it out for the title on Sunday.

Bruce Young
About The Author : Bruce Young

A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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