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See-saws and carousels

Updated: 2012-06-10 07:58
By Tym Glaser ( China Daily)

See-saws and carousels

Luke Donald of England hits a tee shot on the first hole during the second round of the Memorial tournament in Dublin, Ohio. Donald goes into this week's US Open ranked No 1 in the world, [Photo/Agencies]

See-saws and carousels

World's best have major points to prove at the US Open, writes Tym Glaser.

The US Open, which tees off on Thursday at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, will be about see-saws and carousels for four of its premier players.

On the former, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods will play, while Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald go 'round and 'round round after round for four days on the US's left coast.

Tiger is very much in the ascendant position over "Lefty" Phil for bragging rights as the best United States golfer after a surging victory at the Memorial tournament in Ohio - a key lead-up event to the Open.

Meanwhile, Mickelson's backside scraped the dirt at Muirfield Village and he pulled out after a deteriorating first round of 79 on the par-72 course.

It's not great form nor etiquette to withdraw from a tournament after 18 holes (unless injured), but Mickelson said he was basically psychologically shot.

"I think mentally I'm a little bit fatigued," he said after hitting just four fairways and five greens in the opening round.

Then, citing what's on the horizon, namely the US Open, he said he had to be "more big-picture oriented".

"I think the US Open is such a mental and physical grind, you need to be sharp going in there," Mickelson said.

"I have to think about the Open and what's best to get my best golf out there. I need the next few days to rest up a bit."

That's hardly the talk of a golfer in fine fettle and in distinct contrast to his US arch-rival, Tiger, who tied Jack Nicklaus for second all-time with 73 PGA Tour wins at, fittingly, the Golden Bear's tournament.

Also, appropriately, Tiger and Phil have been placed together with Bubba Watson for the first two rounds at the Open.

Meanwhile, on the carousel, McIlroy and Donald, Britain's finest, will continue their game of tag for the world's No 1 ranking. England's Donald currently has that honor but as the title of the world's premier golfer has switched between the two half a dozen times over the past year.

The pair shares all of one major title between them - the Northern Irishman's otherworldly Open victory at Congressional last year when he shot a 16-under 268, eight strokes better than the runner-up.

However, that overall tally wilts against Tiger and Phil's 18 major crowns.

Not too slow on the uptake, the event's organizing committee has placed McIlroy and Donald together for the first two days of the event along with another former world No 1, Lee Westwood (now No 3) - and also from that side of the big pond.

Spectators at the par-70 course' which will be hosting its fifth Open, will have a tough time working out which group to follow on Thursday and Friday

Tiger, Phil, Rory and Luke won't be the only shows in San Francisco town, but the games they play - at least for the first two days - will be the most compelling.

See-saws and carousels

Martin prepares again

Fourteen years after Casey Martin made history as the first golfer to use a cart at the US Open, he's returning to the hallowed Olympic Club to play in the same tournament - and he couldn't be more surprised.

Born with a condition that makes it painful to walk long distances, Martin has focused in recent years on his job as men's golf coach at Oregon. But after his unexpected victory in a local qualifier, he finds himself scrambling to prepare for one of the game's most celebrated tournaments.

"I don't quite know what my mindset should be," he said. "I played well in the qualifier by really not caring too much. So I kind of want to have that idea of being pretty laid back while I'm there and enjoying it, rather than being overly intense about it."

Martin, who won a landmark Supreme Court decision that allowed him to compete on the PGA Tour with his able-bodied counterparts, earned a coveted spot in the US Open field when he made a five-foot par putt on the final hole as the sun set on Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell, Oregon, on Monday.

Although he hadn't played much in recent weeks because of the Oregon Ducks' postseason run, Martin made an off-the-cuff decision to play in the qualifier because it was close and he didn't have anything to lose.

"I do stay close to the game, and even though I don't compete anymore. I decided that because it was a qualifier - it is the US Open, and it's true that it's open to anyone who can qualify - I would go for it," he said. "And lo and behold I made it."

Tiger Woods jumped on Martin's victory, posting to Twitter: "Simply incredible. Ability, attitude and guts. See you at Olympic Casey."

Others also praised Martin's accomplishment.

"It's incredible that he's still playing golf," two-time US Open champion Curtis Strange said. "We overuse the word courage, but he has more courage than anyone else in the field. Good for him."

Associated Press