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Iain Carter's US Open Diary

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Iain Carter | 15:39 UK time, Wednesday, 17 June 2009

It was impossible to be anything other than impressed with the way Phil Mickelson dealt with the toughest news conference of his life.

Despite the early hour - it was 8am - it was virtually standing room only in the Bethpage interview room for Mickelson's appearance ahead of his 19th attempt to win the US Open.

Of course the backdrop to this year's championship is like no other for Lefty as his wife Amy prepares for treatment after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Inevitably these circumstances dictated the line of questioning. Mickelson knew it and treated every enquiry with respect and honesty. He didn't duck a question and didn't lose eye contact with any of his inquisitors. It was the performance of a genuine class act.

Occasionally his voice threatened to waver, but he retained control through out.

"I'm putting everything I have into this week because I don't anticipate being able to play for a little while," Mickelson said.

Phil Mickelson

He admitted it would be "most likely" that he would miss the Open at Turnberry and with Amy beginning treatment on 1 July he doesn't envisage returning to action after this week until August at the earliest.

Mickelson returned to action for the first time since his wife's diagnosis in Memphis last week. "It was important for two reasons," he explained.

"To get back into competition and also to see some of our friends, the fellow players' wives, caddies, tournament directors, people who have been supportive of us.

"It was important to do that last week so that I'm able to focus more on just playing golf this week."

But can he possibly win with all that is going on? Golf writer Ian O'Connor, author of the excellent "Arnie and Jack" believes it is highly unlikely and said as much with us on Five Live Golf.

But Mickelson is upbeat. "I've actually been hitting the ball better than I have in a long time. And possibly ever. I know it doesn't seem like it after my score at Memphis." He finished tied 59th.

The bigger question is how will his emotions handle what is sure to be raucous support from adoring New York fans? They could help or hinder. "I'm not sure," he admitted.

"I'm going to do the best that I can, I feel my game is ready. I feel like emotionally I'm better, but you just never know."

Players - whether they have queued all night in their cars to get a game on this public course or whether they are among the world's best here this week - are left in no uncertain terms about what they face when they step on to the first tee.

They tell it exactly as it is with a special sign that reads: WARNING: The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers.

"I've seen lots of rules written down on first tees but I've never seen warnings," commented the winner of the last US Open to be staged in New York, Geoff Ogilvy, the champion in 2006.

"The rough is tricky. The rough around the greens is a different grass than the rest of the fairways. It's not that long, but it's absurdly thick and wiry and gnarly," the Aussie added.

It'll be interesting to watch the progress of South African James Kamte this week. The 26-year-old graduate of the Ernie Els Foundation has been having the time of his golfing life and has the backing of some of the biggest names in golf.

James Kamte

Kamte, who was the first black South African to earn a European Tour card in more than 30 years, was invited by Jack Nicklaus to play at the recent Memorial tournament.

Despite missing the cut he took the chance to meet Tiger Woods. "He told me, 'Go out and play. Just work hard. It's all about playing,'" Kamte said. "I appreciated everything he said to me."

The South African this week makes his US Open debut and he managed a practice round with Woods.

Aside from the influence of Els' Foundation, Gary Player has also taken a great interest in Kamte's progress.

So that's Els, Woods, Nicklaus and Player all keen to follow his progress. No pressure then.

The opening diary discussed contenders and admittedly wasn't exactly adventurous in pointing up the likes of Woods, Furyk, Ogilvy, Westwood, Casey and the in-form Brian Gay as potential winners.

In response to requests to tip an outsider, how about John Merrick, who has just one Nationwide Tour victory to his name?

The 27-year-old Californian tied for sixth at last year's Torrey Pines US Open and finished the Masters in the same position - just outside an each-way payout.

Alas since Augusta he's failed to post a top 40 finish.

But fortune can swing quickly. Sergio Garcia was showing no form ahead of last year's Players' Championship victory and given the heavy premium on ball striking
and the flat greens here this week I've settled on the Spaniard as my INW (if not Woods) tip.

And I reckon that's on the adventurous side given his recent form.

You can follow my updates on BBC Five Live throughout the Championship and on Twitter.


  • Comment number 1.

    Sergio is a brave tip .... I am not sure if you could even pick a top 10 finishers for this ... other than Tiger.. it could be anyone on the leader board on Sunday morning ...

  • Comment number 2.

    i couldn't disagree more moon1971, i'll give you ten and i'll bet at least half of them are in the top 10 when it's over- other than tiger- stenson, furyk, cabrera, mickelson, ogilvie, poulter, ohair, cink, and my dark horse adam scott b/c he's got the game and the length fthat course if he can just stay away from the beautiful women for a few days and concentrate he could be right there...

  • Comment number 3.

    I have Woods down as my ING (if not Garcia)insurance! I also love suffixes.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm sorry but this is an awful blog. "Having the time of his golfing life" - what has Kamte done? Has he won a tournament, has he just turned pro - perhaps some actual details, rather than just some guff about how some people are interested in him. Tell us why!

  • Comment number 5.

    I cant see past Woods , it is a real grinders course and if you cant grind out then length and invention are next best and this is where Tiger is king .
    I am not a betting man but anyone who finishes under 280 will wim imo

  • Comment number 6.

    Lefty26 - perhaps people are intereste din him because he is a Black South African golfer. They are not dime a dozen.If you wanted Mr Carter to provide you with stats, perhaps go to Mr Google.

  • Comment number 7.

    Kamte has a win in South Africa and another in Asia; I too will be looking forward to his progress, it's a good story and it's nice to see Iain Carter taking an interest in those behind the headlines.

  • Comment number 8.

    Had a speculative punt on John Mallinger after his T3 in the players championship. Always an outsider in the mix in these events and think he might be there, you never know. At 175/1 it's worth a little bet.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm not saying that he is not worthy of interest, far from it - I completely agree that, coming from where he does, then it is a newsworthy story - but I'd like to actually hear some golfing reasons as to why he is interesting rather than "Tiger told me to practice lots" etc etc.

  • Comment number 10.

    ..." WARNING: The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers."

    "I've seen lots of rules written down on first tees but I've never seen warnings," commented the winner of the last US Open to be staged in New York, Geoff Ogilvy, the champion in 2006.

    Warnings on 1st tees, I wonder if anyone has any other examples of notices to give you confidence as you stand on a first tee. I remember this one from a while ago:
    Ganton, Yorkshire. 1970s:
    "Warning - ladders leading down into bunkers are immovable obstructions, relief should be taken under rule x.x" !

    It isnt there any more, but the ladders are still!

  • Comment number 11.

    ok- even in a strange week let's see how i did?? mickelsohn, woods, and stenson all made the top 10. (not exactly the half i predicted, but hey it was a weird week) followed by poulter(18th), ohair(23rd), cink (27th), scott (36th), furyk (33rd), ogilvie (47th) and cabrera (54th) and notice none of my picks missed the cut!!!!~ danke


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