KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Certainly he’s the favorite.
You can’t pooh-pooh a guy with 14 majors who shares the Friday lead at 4 under on the toughest golf course in America.
But those who are ready to carve Tiger Woods’ name in the Wanamaker Trophy need to jiggle their memory banks. It was just a few short weeks ago that Tiger was leading and seemingly in command of the U.S. Open. Then, he shot 75-73 on the weekend and finished tied for 21st.
Sure, you can look at the players at the top with him – Vijay Singh and Carl Pettersson – and say, “Tiger’s got it.” But who knew Y.E. Yang before he stared down Tiger and won? And who would have thought that Webb Simpson would leave Tiger in the dust at Olympic Club?
Singh certainly should not be discounted. He does have a bust in the Hall of Fame with three majors to his credit and the best work ethic in the game.
On a day when the wind blew between 15 and 30 miles an hour and the Ocean Course made the best in the game look like amateurs, Singh shot 69. To put that in perspective, the field averaged 78.01 and more players shot in the 90s than in the 60s.
“I just kept adding it up each hole and trying to make my pars on every hole,” Singh said. “That was the key. And I just tried to make my pars, miss it in the correct spot if I was out of position, and be very strong with the longer putts.”
On the downside, Singh is 49. If he were to win, he’d be the oldest major champion in history.
The other guy at the top is Pettersson, which he pronounces “Peterson,” because, as he told me several years ago, “Even though I was born in Sweden I consider myself to be from North Carolina.”
He is definitely more Salisbury than Stockholm. Pettersson looks like the guy at your club who gets reprimanded for playing in a Ben Roethlisberger jersey. “I haven’t seen a gym in years,” he said.
But he is long and straight and has a win this year in South Carolina, capturing the Heritage Classic on Hilton Head in April.
“My game is pretty good when it’s good,” he said.
And it’s not just a three-man race. Ian Poulter is one shot back, Rory McIlroy is two. Adam Scott and Trevor Immelman are three back, and Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell are only four off the pace.
Sure it’s Tiger’s tournament to lose at this point. But as Pettersson said, “If (the wind) continues to blow like it did today, anything could happen.”