By Ann Liguori
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What a threesome! Tiger, Phil and Bubba — three VERY different personalities — will gather on the 9th tee box at The Olympic Club in San Francisco on Thursday morning at 7:33 a.m. PST (10:33 a.m. EST) to begin the 112th U.S. Open.
The marquee triumvirate will play the first two rounds together. But beyond the commotion and attention the game’s biggest stars will create, the similarities end.
And true to form, when asked about the extraordinary pairing, each golfer’s response matched their personalities.
“I don’t think we’re going to talk about a lot,” said Tiger, when asked what he and Phil will talk about while they play together. Tiger’s smiles on the course only come when he’s playing up to his own standards. And the only chatter you’ll hear is usually between him and his caddie or the occasional profanity.
“This is a Major championship. We’ve got work to do,” Tiger said. “I’m just trying to get out there and position myself for Sunday. This is a long grind… It’s such a test playing in this championship. I think this is one of those championships that I think the guys talk the least to one another because it’s so difficult. Every shot is there’s no shot you can take off, so to speak. Sometimes say you’re playing St. Andrews, and you go ahead and wail away, no big deal. But here there’s such a premium on positioning the golf ball. This is the tournament that I think the guys least converse.”
Phil Mickelson, true to the affable personality he brings to each press conference, had a much different response than Tiger when asked about the pairing. Plus, Phil has beaten Tiger seven of the last ten times they’ve been paired together, including the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am this year when Phil shot a 64 in the final round to win.
“It’s fabulous,” said Mickelson. “I’ll tell you why. First of all, I get excited to play with Tiger, I love it. I think we all do. He gets the best out of me. I think when it’s time to tee off on Thursday I’ll be ready to play. One of the issues I’ve had this year, I’ve been a little mentally lethargic on Thursday and Friday. I won’t be this week.
“Second is, the one player I’m most concerned about if I play my best golf that may have a chance to beat me is Tiger. And the fact that we are on the same wavelength, I’m always am in favor of. Sometimes we’ll get a huge advantage in tee times, based on weather conditions or whatnot, if we’re in the same wavelength, neither of us will have a distinct advantage.”
Masters Champion Bubba Watson, respectful of Tiger and Phil, but always committed to being his own guy, said, “It’s going to be like Sunday at the Masters, huge galleries. We’ve all played with each other before. They’re not going to be focused on what I’m doing, hopefully I’m not going to be focused on what they’re doing. We’re all going to try to be hitting these little fairways and these little greens and somehow ‘two’ putt. We need to be on top of our game for 18 holes. But it will be fun, though, it’s two legends! So you’re going to learn a lot from them, seeing how they go about their business.”
Should be great theater! Let the games begin!
Which golfer — Tiger, Phil or Bubba — has the best shot at winning the US Open? Be heard in the comments below!