PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- If slow play on tour was the talking point in last week's players meeting in Charlotte, then ADD sufferers will have a hard time watching the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Phil Mickelson recently played a practice round there, and made it sound like six-hour rounds will be the norm.
"It was funny watching some of the amateurs play," Mickelson said at his Players Championship news conference Tuesday. "I was getting ready to tee off, and this group in front of us, probably an 8-handicap player, hit a nice drive out there, 230, he hits it in the first cut of rough, not even the thick stuff but the first cut. They could not find it and he takes a hack at it with an iron, and it dribbles a foot. He hacks again and it dribbles a foot, until he finally picks up and puts it in the fairway."
Asked how long it took to play behind that group, Mickelson never gave a definitive answer. "Fortunately he kept dropping it in the fairway," Mickelson said. "He looked like Hogan hitting it from the middle of the fairway. We kept stepping on balls in the rough, and it wasn't anything nearly like what it will be. It wasn't overgrown like last year where they overgrew it and then cut it back. But that kikuya grabs the club so much that it's going to be an interesting test."
In those conditions, how does Phil Mickelson think Matt Lauer, Justin Timberlake, Tony Romo and contest winner John Atkinson, an 8-handicapper, will do in the Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge that will be played on the Friday before U.S. Open week begins? Armed with information from short-game coach Dave Pelz, Mickelson had devised an answer:
"The biggest area of difference is off the fairway," Mickelson said. "But it will be very interesting and comical to watch that challenge of trying to break 100. There's just no way that statistically (it will happen). You know, Pelz brought the ShotLink out to the World Amateur and had thousands of players and did all the statistical analysis on it. And a 10-handicap when they get moved back to tour-caliber-distance golf courses, just yardage alone, not counting greens or the rough, shoots 92, on average. It is what it is; that's the numbers.
"When you throw them on a 7,600-yard golf course, you don't even need rough; it's going to be in the 90s. You throw rough in there, you don't have the pin placements and the greens, it'll be 90 or 100. And when you throw in the pin placements and the greens, it's not even a fair challenge."