The Loop

US Open Contest: Atkinson on the Odds

____"As preparation goes, Woods and Mickelson have nothing on John Atkinson."

Nice story on the San Francisco Chronicle site this morning by Ron Kroichick on US Open Contest winner John Atkinson's preparation for tomorrow's Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge.

Atkinson traveled to a beastly, 7,600-yard course named Dismal River in Middle-of-Nowhere, Nebraska to ready himself for the longest layout in U.S. Open history. Some of Atkinson's friends put together a gallery of about 50 people for another practice round, including some with cameras, so he could get a sense of playing in front of a crowd. They cheered his good shots and stayed stone-cold silent after his bad shots.

"I'm sure conventional wisdom is there's no chance" of breaking 100, Atkinson said, "but that kind of ties into my story with the cancer. I'm facing those challenges and beating the odds. This is just another difficult challenge."

We saw John last night at the Lodge here, his little son Christopher draped over his shoulder, and he looks confident and ready. His caddy, sport psychologist Bob Rotella, was to arrive last night and they'll play a practice round today, as will the other four contest finalists, Phil Dembure, Ross Troike, Erik Norton and Matt Rice. Only Atkinson will play in tomorrow's "official" round with Tony Romo, Justin Timberlake and Matt Lauer.

As Kroichick says, "We're guessing even Tiger is pulling for Atkinson."

The show airs Sunday on NBC in the hour prior to Sunday's final-round coverage.

Go John!

--Bob Carney