SAN FRANCISCO – Your correspondent is paid to interpret the present rather than predict the future, the latter always risky business. But here goes anyway. One man’s dreams and thoughts about the U.S. Open final round:
JIM FURYK (Currently T-1)
• Fantasy: Golf’s blue-collar champion becomes even more of a hero to 42-year-old bald guys and factory workers everywhere by winning his second Open. Afterward, there’s a run on those large-logoed 5-Hour Energy caps he wears – you know, the kind that look like they should have mesh in the back and could be bought at fillin’ stations in rural Florida, on the shelf next to other trucker caps that read “There’s No Crying in Welding’” and “Don’t Press My Jerk Button.”
His victory also prompts golfers everywhere to adopt quirky mannerisms, stand closer to the ball, rest their hands on their thighs and then fly their right elbows as if they had just watched Miller Barber video for a month.
• Closer to reality: Furyk carves out a workmanlike 71, matches Lee Janzen’s even-par 280 of 14 years ago, wins the Open by a shot, becomes the sixth oldest Open champion, clinches a Hall of Fame berth and gives a most thoughtful post-victory interview.
GRAEME McDOWELL (T-1)
• Fantasy: G-Mac wins his second Open title in three years, parties again until the Ryder Cup and inspires Americans everywhere to speak with the fake accent of an Ulsterman. The USGA builds a satellite museum in Northern Ireland, which would hold the trophy for the third year in a row.
Seeing that trend, and noting that Darren Clarke won last year’s British Open, major-hunting freak Tiger Woods moves to Portrush to improve his mojo. As for McDowell, he petitions the USGA to have every Open in Northern California, starting next year at Half Moon Bay.
• Closer to reality: One of the game’s best clutch putters, McDowell wins or comes close. (Hey, if you know who’s going to win, take a red-eye to Las Vegas with a briefcase full of cash.) Chances are the winner will come out of the final twosome of Furyk-McDowell, but it’s hardly certain given the Olympic’s treacherous fast track. The Open winner has come out of the final twosome each of the past four years.
FREDRIK JACOBSON (Third, two shots back)
• Fantasy: The Junkman goes on another run, similar to his front-nine 32 of Saturday, and wins going away. He accomplishes this by getting up and down from everywhere – 7-inch rough, garbage cans, cypress trees. After living up to his nickname, he dedicates the victory to Sanford and Son. Then he’ll say he’s proud of becoming the second man with his surname to win an Open, citing Peter Jacobsen’s Open success in Tin Cup.
• Closer to reality: No reason he can’t win, but he’s chasing two past Open winners. He’ll need to come close to maxing out. He can do this, because he gets on straight-driving streaks and has that killer short game. Considering he has but one PGA Tour victory, he’s more likely to come close than win.
LEE WESTWOOD (T-4, three shots back)
• Fantasy: Westwood finally wins a major, tosses a stuffed monkey into Lake Merced and says, “My back is liberated, so don’t ask me any more questions about top-3 finishes.”
• Closer to reality: I’d be shocked if he’s not in the mix. He’s golf’s best driver of the ball, he’s used to contending in majors and he’s coming off of a 67, tied for Saturday’s best score. Smart money says Westwood finishes 1, 2 or 3.
ERNIE ELS (T-4, three shots back)
• Fantasy: Hall of Famer Els wins his third Open title and, at 42, becomes the fifth-oldest champion. He sends several dozen cases of Castle Beer to the press room and says, “Drink up fellas, even though many of you had written me off.”
• Closer to reality: He hasn’t won since the 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational and doesn’t putt as well as he used to. An Els victory would be one for the ages, and the aged. It also would be a bit surprising, given his blown chances earlier in the year.
BLAKE ADAMS (T-4, three shots back)
• Fantasy: Grizzly Adams wins and says in a Georgia drawl, “Listen up, all ya’ll, this ought to make people forget about Jack Fleck.”
• Closer to reality: An Adams victory would shock and, yes, perhaps make people forget about Jack Fleck. He’s a 36-year-old, third-year Tour player who has never won and hasn’t finished better than ninth this year.
NICOLAS COLSAERTS (T-4, three shots back)
• Fantasy: The Belgian Bomber makes a hole-in-one on the par-4 seventh, eagles the par-5 16th and 17th, hoists a trophy, asks people, “Who is this Fleck guy, anyway?” Then he sends Brussels sprouts to the press room. Afterward, he dispels two rumors: One, his name wasn’t a part of the 2011 National Spelling Bee. And, two, optometrists in Belgium don’t use his name as an eye chart.
• Closer to reality: Playing in only his third major, the long-hitting Colsaerts, 29, is in uncharted territory. His game is more suited to the Masters than an Open. He is loaded with talent and has won twice in Europe in 2011-12. But look for him to finish in the top 10 rather than win.
BEAU HOSSLER (T-8, four shots back)
• Fantasy: The ultra-talented 17-year-old becomes the youngest Open winner by a couple of years, decides to turn pro and immediately signs endorsement contracts with Clearasil and Ormco Orthodontics Appliances & Services. Afterward, USGA chief Mike Davis says, “Francis Ouimet has nothing on this kid.” A week later, Tiger Woods decides to get braces on his large teeth.
• Closer to reality: He’s in high school. He won’t win. He’d be thrilled with low-amateur honors.
Tiger Woods (T-14, five shots back)
• Fantasy: He shoots 63, wins his 15th major and says, “Take that, Johnny!” And “Look out, Jack!”
• Closer to reality: He makes a charge but comes up short. After all, he has never won a major when trailing after 54 holes. And that trend has to do with putting.
• Jason Dufner and Webb Simpson also are four shots back and capable of winning. Dufner would be leading now if he putted halfway decently Saturday.
As for everybody else, they would have to live out their far-fetched fantasies.