I want Tiger Woods to win the 115th U.S. Open. Woods’ returning to relevance at Chambers Bay would give the course a permanent association with one of the most iconic figures in American sports history.
But if Chambers Bay proves too rugged for the fragile state of Woods’ game — he’s working with his fourth different swing coach — I want Phil Mickelson to prevail. Mickelson has won 42 Tour events, but never a U.S. Open. Orville Moody won the 1969 Open at Cypress Creek in Houston, but achieved no Tour victories before or after Cypress Creek. There is something unfair about Mickelson’s drought.
If Woods or Mickelson fail to finish first at Chambers Bay, I want, oh, take a pick: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth. The field is rich with possibilities, and I am not particular.
Sometimes I’m asked if sportswriters have a rooting interest in the games we cover. The stock answer is no, writers don’t root for teams or players. Writers root for stories.
As with all stock answers, the truth is more nuanced than that. Because the Mariners, for instance, are more interesting when they play well, I want them to play well. Do I root for them? Put it this way: Moving furniture up a narrow spiral staircase is more fun for me than watching Fernando Rodney attempt to protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning.
But shifting to neutral in golf is easy. The only golfer I can imaging rooting for was Tony Lema, who was killed in a plane crash two years after winning the 1964 British Open. Lema used to stock the media tent with complimentary Champagne after his victories.
My rooting interests next week will dwell on the composition of the Sunday afternoon leaderboard. I am hoping for a mix of household names and fresh faces, former champions and aspiring stars, a 10-player convergence toward a fantastic finish.
The ideal leaderboard a week from Sunday will contain these players, in alphabetical order:
A random act of coolness.
Did I mention I am rooting for stories?
Think about this: You’ve got a grandfather so famous he’s synonomous with a popular soft drink, you’re anxious to impress a girl you’re dating, and yet you don’t mention the fact you’re the grandson of famous person whose name is snynomous with a popular soft drink.
I would have bragged to her if my grandfather had lived across the street from the best friend of Arnold Palmer’s second cousin. I would have bragged that five minutes into our first date.
I mean, how long has been since a thoroughbread won the Triple Crown?
Woods likely won’t generate a buzz by occupying a spot on the Sunday-afternoon leaderboard, but what a story it’ll be if he does.
That you were there at Chambers Bay to see Tiger revive his legend qualifies as something to brag about on a second date, assuming you remain modest on the first one.