Singh quiet, happy -- and lurking
|Pairings To Watch|
David Duval-Philip Price-Scott Hoch (7:40 a.m. -- No. 1)
No offense to Price and Hoch, but they're window dressing here. Duval hasn't played competitively since leaving Las Vegas last year and nobody knows what to expect -- a heroic return to the form that won him the British Open in 2001, or a train wreck on golf's biggest stage.
Tiger Woods-Shigeki Maruyama-Chad Campbell (8 a.m. -- No. 1)
Woods will be surrounded with fans -- as he always is. But the throng will get a chance to see Campbell, who's a legitimate longshot pick to win. The Texan won at Bay Hill and was second at Colonial and is one of the young guns who could win their first major here.
Ernie Els, Robert Allenby, Chris DiMarco (8:20 a.m. -- No. 10)
Els missed the cut nine years ago, shooting 74-73 as the defending champion. He isn't defending, but the sting of his Masters loss still resonates, despite claims to the contrary. His playing partners should help -- Allenby was tied for 12th two years ago at Bethpage Black; Di Marco has never really contended at the Open (he was tied for fifth after one round in 2001), but he's only shot higher than 74 once.
Phil Mickelson-Paul Lawrie-Kirk Triplett (1 p.m. -- No. 10)
Mickelson is giddy Phil this week, basking in the glow of his Masters win. He needs to start strong -- he's shot 70 in the first round of the last three Opens to keep himself in contention. He shot 68 in the opening round in 1995. He likely won't have a draft to follow -- Lawrie has been awful this year (he hasn't been in the top 30 in either Europe or the U.S.) and Triplett shot 78-78 in 1986 at Shinnecock to miss the cut. He didn't play in '95.
You remember Singh. Couple of majors, including The Masters in 2000. Three wins and $4.6 million on the PGA Tour this year. Four top-10s in the U.S. Open.
But this week at Shinnecock Hills, the guy is about as stealth as a 6-foot-2, 200-pound Fijian can be. The spotlight has been on Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia -- even Jim Furyk and David Duval, who have about as much chance of winning the Open as Singh has of winning Miss Congeniality at the media barbecue.
Not that he minds. In fact, he says he's downright content with his life.
"I think your whole life should be consistent," said Singh. "I'm very happy with what I've been doing on and off the golf course. I have a great family. I'm happy with what I've been doing."
Singh won this year at Pebble Beach, and followed it up with wins at Houston and New Orleans. He was fourth last week at Westchester. And he tied for 10th here nine years ago.
"I've been playing better golf than I did last year," Singh said of a year in which he won the money title, but lost out to Tiger Woods for player of the year. "I'm dealing with pressure a little bit better this year than I did last year, and I think it's giving me a chance coming down the stretch. I can deal with it better this year."
He'll start dealing Thursday at 1:10 p.m. on the first tee, with Stewart Cink and Canadian Stephen Ames.
Everybody's talking about the par-3 7th, 189 yards to a Redan green that tiles from front-to-back, right-to-left. Birdies will be rare. Long and left is nasty; right and short are jail.
"You can't stop the ball on the green," said Singh. And remember, he's just being polite.
The USGA is taking care to try and make the hole playable. Nobody wants a repeat of the 18th green at The Olympic Club, where players putted off the front edge because there wasn't enough grass to hold the ball.
Course workers were seen watering the green extensively on Wednesday in an effort to get the ball to stop.
The seventh wasn't the most punishing hole nine years ago. That honor went to the hole before it, the 471-yard par-4 sixth, which had a 4.41 average.
The par-5 fifth was the easiest hole (an average of 4.72). Ironically, the par-5 16th, short by today's standards at only 540 yards, played over par in both 1986 (5.022) and 1995 (5.125).
Wednesday's final practice round was hot and humid, with highs in the mid-80s. Perfect for drying out the course and getting a little extra in the rough. Thursday should be cooler -- mid-70s -- with possible thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening.
Corey Pavin won at even par (and took home $350,000 -- which is nearly $1 million less than this year's winner will receive).
A total of 31 players in the 2004 U.S. Open were in the 1995 field. Nine played in both 1986 and 1995. Aside from Pavin, Davis Love III, Jeff Maggert, Phil Mickelson and Jay Haas all tied for fourth, while Lee Janzen, Bob Tway and Singh tied for 10th.
Tiger Woods, still an amateur, withdrew after injuring his wrist.
The spot on the 18th fairway where Pavin hit his famous 4-wood to the green when he won the '95 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills? The place where Shinnecock groundskeepers find divot after divot as players drop ball after ball trying to repeat the feat?
It's now in the rough.