DUBLIN, Ohio – The U.S. Open has its 1-2 punch now that Phil Mickelson intends to play, although Lefty and Tiger Woods won’t see much of each other at Bethpage Black unless it’s on the weekend.
Mike Davis, the USGA official in charge of competition, says the top three players in the world ranking won’t be in the same group for the opening two rounds as they were last year at Torrey Pines.
“We probably did that … I won’t say it was a one-time basis, but the idea last year had so much to do with the fact we had an opportunity to get Phil and Tiger together, which had not happened at a U.S. Open before,” Davis said Tuesday. “We always have that traditional pairing of the defending champion, the British Open champion and the U.S. Amateur champion.”
That’s the plan this year, except that U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee has turned pro and has to qualify.
Davis said Woods and Padraig Harrington will be in the same group, although he has yet to figure out who will join them. One thought is to put Masters champion Angel Cabrera with them.
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MIX IT UP: Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade tried something new at their popular CVS Charity Classic by inviting women to play the last two years. It worked so well that now they’re really mixing things up.
The two-day tournament, which has raised over $12 million for New England charities over the last decade, will feature mixed teams for the first time.
Faxon will be playing with Juli Inkster, Andrade will pair with Helen Alfredsson, Peter Jacobsen will play with Natalie Gulbis and Davis Love III will play with Morgan Pressel.
“The response the last two years from the fans was spectacular,” Faxon said.
Laura Diaz and Nicole Castrale played last year from a forward set of tees, and they were in contention with five holes to go until a rain delay led to a modified playoff, and they didn’t make it.
But it was impressive enough for the tournament hosts to expand the idea.
The CVS Charity Classic, to be played June 22-23 at Rhode Island Country Club, will have six all-male teams that include the defending champions, Camilo Villegas and Bubba Watson.
On a smaller scale, it brings back the format from the former JC Penney Mixed Team Classic held in Florida each December. Faxon played that four times, his last appearance with a future Hall of Famer, Karrie Webb.
Is a full field of mixed teams far behind?
“That will be discussed seriously after this year,” Faxon said.
One of the issues to overcome are players that have supported the CVS Charity Classic from its inception – the tournament hosts, the defending champion and the longtime team of Dana and Brett Quigley accounts for six players, plus Jacobsen, whose TV company puts on the tournament. That would leave room for only three other men.
The format remains better ball, with the women playing from a forward set of tees.
“Now that I have a woman on my team, I’m hoping to push up the tees even closer,” Faxon said.
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RACE TO DUBAI: Ben Curtis is trying to get into a position for a big payoff at the end of the year.
Right now, that would be in Dubai, not Atlanta for the Tour Championship.
Curtis is the leading American in the Race to Dubai, the European Tour’s version of a FedEx Cup with far less math involved. The top 60 on the money list compete in the Dubai World Championship, which has a $10 million purse and a $10 million bonus pool for the top 15.
He is at No. 48 in Europe, while languishing at No. 92 in the FedEx Cup standings.
“I felt like, ‘Why not see what I can do on both tours as a challenge?’ just to see if I can get in the Tour Championship over here and also play in the Race to Dubai over in Europe,” Curtis said. “That would be an accomplishment for me that I would be very proud of doing. There’s more than just the money factor.”
Curtis is trying to get in.
Geoff Ogilvy, helped by his victory in the Accenture Match Play Championship that counts on both lists, is No. 2 in Europe and No. 3 in the United States. No one has ever led both tours in the same year.
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BETHPAGE DRIVE: One of the changes at Bethpage Black should bring relief to players who had trouble reaching the fairway at No. 10, which required a 265-yard carry in 2002 and played into a damp breeze.
The hole is even longer this year at 508 yards, but the fairway has been brought closer to the tee, requiring only a 230-yard carry.
Mike Davis, the senior director of rules and competition for the USGA who sets up the golf course, played the Black on Monday from the tips and had no trouble.
“If they can’t make this tee shot on 10, either the weather is so horrendous that we shouldn’t be playing, or somebody qualified that shouldn’t be there,” he said.
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OPEN AND SHUT: Brad Faxon has a lot of fans in Britain for his willingness to go to any length – usually a trip over the Atlantic for local qualifying – to play in the British Open.
So why didn’t he compete in the U.S. qualifier last week in Dallas?
Faxon, an eight-time PGA Tour winner who missed the 2008 regular season with an injury, wasn’t allowed.
“My world ranking is too low,” said Faxon, who currently resides at No. 1,058, which not only is behind Tadd Fujikawa, it’s lower than Bobby Clampett. He has made only two cuts this year.
He could always go over to the Ayrshire links for 36-hole qualifying, but the Royal & Ancient moved it up a week, meaning Faxon would have to miss two tournaments on the PGA Tour. His only hope is to be the highest finisher among those not already qualified at the AT&T National or John Deere Classic.
DIVOTS: Among the early commitments Tiger Woods received for the AT&T National at Congressional came from Ernie Els, who won the U.S. Open at Congressional in 1995 but did not play the last two years. … The top 13 players in the FedEx Cup standings all won on the PGA Tour this year. … Three weeks after awarding Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa an exemption to the PGA Championship, the PGA of America announced a deal with three Japanese broadcast companies to televise the PGA Championship and Senior PGA Championship for the next three years.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The Byron Nelson Championship was the only PGA Tour event on the Texas Swing that did not end in a playoff.
FINAL WORD: “There’s definitely more downs than there is ups in this job of mine. You very seldom win out here.” – Kenny Perry.