IRELAND VERSUS SPAIN will be the focus of all our minds on Thursday evening, and fingers crossed the Boys in Green can get the required result.
But as Keane, Dunne, Given and the rest of Trap’s army do battle against the world champions, a little corner of the Bay Area, just outside San Francisco, will host the second of golf’s Major Championships for 2012.
Olympic Club is the venue for the 112th US Open. It’s set to be a monster.
In fact, the course is meant to be so tough that Tiger Woods told course superintendent Pat Finlen that the course contains the toughest six holes of any event that Woods has ever played in.
That’s a fairly ominous statement. Something tells me we’re in for a bit of a slog and that we aren’t going to see too many rounds under par. The scoring is never great at the US Open anyway because of the way the course is generally set up, but that has become a feature of the tournament over the years and we have come to expect it from US Opens.
The USGA also have a habit of making things even more difficult the year after the scoring has been good, so Rory McIlroy making a mockery of Congressional last year and shooting 16 under will have done the rest of the field no favours when it comes to the course setup.
The strategy of testing every single facet of the players’ games and making it extremely difficult offers a welcome change to what we see on Tour week in week out. Sometimes having guys finish at 12 or 15 under par week after week can become a bit monotonous.
One of the pleasures for golf fans is that the US Open often makes the best players in the game look like mere humans. Commentators often argue that there’s no fun in seeing guys like Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy or Phil Mickelson stuggle aroud a monster of a golf course, but let’s be honest, there is.
Woods during a practice round on Monday. Credit: Morry Gash/AP/Press Association Images
Even though these guys work extremely hard and devote their lives to the game, on our TV screens they make it look so easy. They play courses around the world that we all dream of playing and shoot under par at will.
It’s not that we resent them for being so good, but I think everyone has a bit of a Nelson Muntz “Ha-Ha” moment when players have to work there butts off just to get their score near par. You have to laugh at Ian Poulter at Pebble Beach in 2010, for example.
But on Sunday evening, as the nation will hopefully be waiting with anticpation for the Ireland v Italy game on Monday with a win being enough to take us through, the 2012 US Open winner will be crowned. The big question is who that winner will be.
As well as being known for being a tough golf course, Olympic Club is known for being a graveyard for the game’s best players, as this piece explains.
If we are to believe the history and the superstition, then we won’t be seeing Woods or McIlroy or Mickelson pick up the trophy on Sunday evening.
Maybe it could be the venue where Luke Donald or Lee Westwood or Sergio Garcia pick up their first Major victories. Maybe Jason Dufner can atone for last year’s PGA Championship, he certainly has the recent form required.
The last time the US Open was held at Olympic Club, the winner was Lee Janzen. He shot even par over four rounds. Obviously 14 years on we are looking at an entirely new crop of player, but take note of this: Tied for 7th in that tournament was none other than Lee Westwood. Phil Mickelson finished in the top 10, as did Stewart Cink, as did Stuart Appleby.
Okay, it was 14 years ago, and the course as well as the players have changed a huge amout over that period, but there must be something about knowing you can play well around a particular course and remembering playing well around a particular course that gives you a slight advantage on the field.
Here’s another interesting one. The low amateur at the 1998 tournament was Matt Kuchar – he finished just outside the top 10. Maybe this year’s Player’s Champion can go one better and pick up his first Major.