Locally, Tiger top dog

Who will win this year's U.S. Open trophy? Members of Lawrence's golf community make their picks

Defending U.S. Open champion Tiger Woods chips out of a bunker on the first hole during the first round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship at Bethpage Black on Thursday in Farmingdale, N.Y. Woods completed six holes before rain caused officials to call off play for the day.

Water floods the 18th green at the Bethpage State Park’s Black Course on Thursday in Farmingdale, N.Y. Play was halted during the first round of the U.S. Open and will resume today.

Lawrence golfers voiced mixed opinions when asked to predict a winner for the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y., but it’s no surprise which name drew the most votes.

Nearly 50 percent of people asked, answered defending champion Tiger Woods, who stood at 1-over par six holes into his first round Thursday, when rain halted play for the day.

“He is the most focused golfer there has ever been,” Alvamar public employee Steve Griffith said. “He won last year on one leg.”

Griffith is referring to the knee injury Woods played with during the 2008 U.S. Open. After winning the trophy, Woods took time off golfing to rehab his knee, but he is back to try to reclaim his title.

“I think Tiger will win,” Alvamar golfer Tony Rimando said. “He has a year of being rested. He has the mind-set. That is the most important thing.”

Greg Dannevik, assistant golf pro at Eagle Bend Golf Course, agrees.

“He is the defending champion, and he is healthy now,” Dannevik said.

Charlie Hoag, Lawrence resident and former Kansas University basketball and football standout, put his thoughts plain and simple: “Tiger, why not?”

That “why not” for many Lawrence golf experts is Phil Mickelson. Mickelson’s wife, Amy, recently was diagnosed with breast cancer, so his emotions are running high.

“I think with his wife, he wants to win it for her,” Lawrence Country Club assistant pro Bob Darkenwald said. “He has the emotional edge, and a good long game which you need out there at Bethpage.”

Mickelson may be struggling emotionally, but he is not lacking in support.

“His wife is not going to let him lose,” Alvamar golfer Adam Gabriel said. “And he has the crowd behind him.”

Aside from Woods and Mickelson, a handful of other names were thrown around, including Geoff Ogilvy, K.J. Choi and J.B. Holmes. Ogilvy received the third-highest number of votes in a recent informal poll, with many local golfers saying that, other than Woods, Ogilvy has the next best talent.

“Ogilvy is due,” Lawrence Country Club’s Tom Darnall said. “It has been a while since he has had a big one.”

One vote worth making note of came from Conrad Roberts, a former KU golfer who plays at Alvamar. He picked former KU standout Gary Woodland.

“I’m not sure if he necessarily will win,” Roberts said. “But everyone is rooting for him.”

Woodland had not yet teed off when rain washed halted play for the day Thursday. Woodland now is scheduled to open first-round play at 10:11 this morning. If the weather cooperates, he’ll begin his second round at 4:11 p.m.