The Loop

Media: Tiger and why, possibly, 'nobody can beat him'

June 14, 2012

Stuart Franklin

(Photo by Getty Images)

Tiger Woods' stature in the game allows for few comparisons beyond those that compare him to himself. Such was the case during the telecast of the first round of the U.S. Open on Thursday.

"During the break, Andy North compared what he's seeing today to Hoylake when Tiger just picked that place apart," ESPN's Paul Azinger said.

Recall that Woods won the British Open at Hoylake in 2006 by rarely hitting driver, choosing instead clubs that ensured he kept his ball in play and out of Hoylake's bunkers.

At the Olympic Club, Woods hit few drivers, often choosing irons that kept his ball out of the rough en route to a one-under par 69 that has him tied for second.

"It was great to see Tiger play like that," Azinger said. "He seemed to be in complete control of his emotions. I've said this many times: When that convergence happens with that mental game and that physical game nobody can beat him."

Explaining Phil

Phil Mickelson shot a 79 in the opening round of the Memorial, then withdrew and two weeks later opened the U.S. Open with a 76.

Mickelson, of course, has always been prone to erraticism, but Azinger introduced his psoriatic arthritis as possibly a contributing factor.

"I think the arthritis thing is something he doesn't use an excuse," he said. "We've all seen the commercials. I just don't know that Phil feels the same day in and day out and he's going to be more inconsistent than the inconsistent Phil Mickelson."

A new C word

The C word in Johnny Miller's broadcasting vocabulary has always been choke. On Thursday, it changed.

"He's getting the big C word back, which is confidence," Miller said. "Boy, you get a confident Tiger Woods with his talent watch out."

Bubba's blunder?

Did Bubba Watson talk himself out of an opportunity to play well? Miller was suggesting as such.

"He made the comment that the course does not suit his eye," Miller said. "He came in with sort of a poor attitude."

'Greatest USGA history'

Here was Azinger's assessment of the Olympic Club and how it was set up for the U.S. Open:

"I think the way it's set up -- there's enough rough, it's tree lined, the greens are fast, every hole has a dogleg and a lot of the fairways are sloped opposite the way the dogleg goes --

I think it will be the greatest examination of a player's game in USGA history. I think it's that good a course. I think it will be difficult to get through this event without a double bogey."

Good stat

Amateur Andy Zhang from China is 14, the youngest in history to play in the U.S. Open, and "was not born when Woods won that '97 Masters," ESPN's Mike Tirico said. "He was born eight months later.

Let it go

On two occasions, ESPN's Mike Tirico asked Azinger whether U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III could play on his own team, should he qualify.

It's a moot point, in all likelihood. Love is not going to win the U.S. Open. He's 42nd in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings. He's 48 and seldom in contention any longer (one top 10 in nine starts in 2012 and three in 22 starts in 2011). Plus, more of his attention in the coming months will be on the Ryder Cup rather than his own game.

A Chris Berman-free zone

ESPN's Chris Berman, a fixture on U.S. Open telecasts, is too easy a target, so we'll refrain from criticism. However, we can't resist citing Tweets from these sports journalists:

Phil Rosenthal, Chicago Tribune columnist: "I tuned in golf. I got Chris Berman. I don't need golf that badly."

Dennis Dodd, "Chris. Berman. Doing. Golf. And Mickelson was worried about cell phones?"

On Twitter

Azinger: "Walking to our new location @miketirico and I passed 4 guys openly burning one. #legal?"

Comment: Well, it is San Francisco and Haight-Ashbury is nearby.

U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft: "Does Johnny Miller ever say anything positive? #annoying"

Comment: Does this qualify? "That was well done by Tiger. Made it look easy," Miller said following Woods' round.

-- John Strege