Nothing can match Tiger Woods winning US Open at Torrey Pines with broken leg - or can it?
Talk about a hard act to follow. And in more than one respect after what Tiger Woods achieved 13 years ago then Phil Mickelson last month.
This week’s 121st US Open marks the event’s first visit to Torrey Pines since Woods won it in 2008 with a broken leg, an effort hailed as “Superman stuff” by Dottie Pepper, a two-time major winner and now a TV analyst.
Sorry, but nothing this week can match the sight of a grimacing Woods somehow manage to overcome excruciating pain to claim a 14th major title as he beat Rocco Mediate at the first extra hole after they’d tied in an 18-hole play-off. Or can it?
Mickelson, after all, might just prove otherwise if he can follow up his fantastic feat in becoming the game’s oldest major winner at 50 in the US PGA Championship by completing a career grand slam close to his home city of San Diego.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Lefty’s hopes of becoming just the sixth player after Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Woods to achieve that feat appeared to have become very slim indeed.
He’d been handed a special exemption by the USGA for the 2021 edition before turning back the clock in spectacular fashion to land his sixth major success last month at Kiawah Island.
Mickelson has a record six second-place finishes in this event, most recently in 2013. He then let himself and the game down in the 2018 staging at Shinnecock Hills when he hit a moving ball on the green.
His head is back in the right place now, though, and more Mickelson magic certainly can’t be ruled out in the season’s third major as those events come thick and fast.
There is no Woods, of course, this week, the three-time US Open champion is still being aided by crutches as he recovers from leg injuries sustained in a car crash in Los Angeles in February.
The last six US Opens have produced home winners, the most recent being Bryson DeChambeau who was a class apart as he tamed Winged Foot last September to land his first major by six strokes.
The build up to DeChambeau’s title defence on the California coast has been dominated by a spat with Brooks Koepka, the only player to win this event back-to-back in 30 years with his triumphs in 2017 and 2018.
Sensibly, USGA officials haven’t paired the squabbling duo in the opening two rounds to avoid the main event being turned into a sideshow, but it would certainly be box-office material if they found themselves going head-to-head on Sunday.
"I think it's fun," said DeChambeau of the pair’s public rivalry, which is causing concern for US Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker as he looks for team harmony at Whistling Straits in September. "I hope on the weekend we can play against each other and compete. I think it would be fun and would be great for the game.”
As would Jon Rahm breaking his major duck this weekend, having been in majestic form when he built up a six-shot lead after 54 holes in the Memorial Tournament a fortnight ago before having to withdraw due to a positive Covid test.
You know what, it just might be another US Open and major that matches those epic ones involving Woods and Mickelson.
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