An Open filled with intrigue

As the calendar turned to June, the U.S. Open was a highly anticipated event. Any major championship in golf is.

But since that point, the events that transpired in the golf world have the 112th Open, which tees off today at the Olympic Club’s Lake Course, oozing with intrigue.

For starters, Tiger Woods rediscovered his roar at the Memorial on June 3, surging to victory on the final day, vintage fist-pump and all, to let the world know he’s ready to make a run at his fourth Open title.

“I’m excited about playing,” said Woods, who didn’t play in last year’s event because of injury. “Excited about this golf course.”

At the same event, Phil Mickelson withdrew after the first round, citing fatigue. But all it took to reinvigorate Lefty was a grouping today and Friday with Woods and Masters champ Bubba Watson.

“I’ve been able to enjoy the challenge of playing with [Tiger] and I’ve always enjoyed his company,” Mickelson said. “I’ve played some of my better golf these last five years with him.”

The American trio wasn’t the only powerhouse grouping announced by the USGA, as Europeans Rory McIlroy, the defending Open champ, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood will also play together the first
three days.

“When you’ve got a little bit of attention on your group, it focuses your mind a little bit and you feel like you want to be really prepared for the first hole,” McIlroy said.

The sectional qualifiers provided another flurry of drama, as they often do, as former Stanford golfer Casey Martin will be riding his cart around Olympic just as he had to fight to do 14 years ago, when the Open was last held here.

A number of other players with Bay Area ties punched their tickets to the U.S. Open through qualifying, including former Cal golfers James Hahn and Charlie Wi and San Mateo native and Champions Tour leading money winner Michael Allen.

“It’s probably going to be the first time I’m going to be extremely nervous teeing off,” the 53-year-old Allen said of playing at the course he has called home since he was 14.

And just this week, the Open saw another wrinkle when 14-year-old amateur Andy Zhang, who already stands 6 feet tall and weighs 180 pounds, was added to the field.

And that doesn’t even take into account the course itself, tricked-out to provide a diabolical test to the best golfers in the world. Sloping fairways, firm greens and a host of thick rough waits.

“This is really about shot-
making,” USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said. “And so it will be interesting to see how the players work themselves around the golf course.”

Indeed it will.

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