June 14, 2006

Rough will be tough, but greens the key at US Open

By Larry Fine

MAMARONECK, New York (Reuters) - Everyone agrees the rough
will be tough at the U.S. Open starting on Thursday, but many
players believe the championship will be won or lost on the
small, contoured greens of Winged Foot.

"I think everyone is so wound up thinking about the rough,
they do forget about the greens a little bit," said
up-and-coming Briton Luke Donald.

"You really do have to think about where you want to
position your second shot into the green because the greens are
that slopey, usually back to front, which makes it tough. You
can't be too aggressive out there."

Double U.S. Open winner Ernie Els of South Africa compared
the challenge of Winged Foot's greens to Augusta National, home
of the U.S. Masters.

"If you're talking about Augusta's greens, these greens,
some of them are smaller. They're much more undulating," said
the big South African, winner of the 1994 and 1997 U.S. Opens
as well as the 2002 British Open.

Learning the character of the greens has been a priority
for world number two Phil Mickelson, who has paid some 10
visits to Winged Foot in meticulous preparation for an assault
on his third successive major championship victory.

Speaking of his hours spent at Winged Foot, Mickelson said
"most of them are around the greens, trying to figure out how I
want to attack certain holes and trying to get where the USGA
might put pins. I'm just trying to get a certain feel for the
course and most of it has to do with on and around the greens."

"I had to come out and really learn the nuances here
because this course has more subtleties than just about any
course I've every played -- little rolls in the greens, little
rolls in the fairway, little falloffs on the edge of the

Players agreed that Winged Foot would offer a fair test.

"The course is probably the most fair set-up we've seen at
the U.S. Open," said Australian Stuart Appleby, a twice winner
this year on the U.S. tour. "It requires a high quality of
shot-making, but nothing unfair. The skill of players will be
the deciding factor."

Said Els: "I think all in all, the way it's set up right
now is as fair as I've seen in a long time. It's obviously a
great layout. The best player will win this week."

Lee Janzen, another two times U.S. Open winner with
victories in 1993 and 1998, also praised the course.

"The set up is great for this Open. It will challenge every
part of your game. It will bring in course management and
adversity," Janzen said. "It's a great test for every style of
play and will challenge every facet of every player's game."