Tiger Woods came into Sunday's round at Firestone Country Club in Akron three shots behind leader Padraig Harrington. Woods was on a mission, and regardless of the time controversy surrounding a "rushed" Harrington, would've won the tournament anyway. He hit a patently-Tiger shot on 16 while Harrington hit the ball across the fairway twice, then into the rough, then into the water, then back into the rough before settling for a crowd-deflating eight. You could hear a pin drop at Firestone. Scratch that. You could actually hear Harrington's heart sink into his stomach as he blew the tournament like so many have done head-to-head against Tiger in the past.
While putting the final group on the clock does seem a little ridiculous and was, here's an idea for Padraig. Hit it straight and you don't have to pine for ten minutes over every shot and no one has to make excuses for you. Watching Harrington in person, Paddy ought to pay the fans for having to wait for him. He's slower than John Daly on his way to the fitness trailer. Still, I found myself hoping for a photo finish between the two. But as composed and unafraid of Tiger everyone seemed to say Harrington was, a rules official was all it took for the wheels to fall off.
That all being said and behind us now, I'm going to go out on a major limb here -Tiger will win the year's final major.
I know, what a stretch, huh?
I don't ever pick Tiger to win, ever. Simply because it's the easy thing to do. He's expected to win every time. Well, I'm expecting it this week, too. And so should you. I know all about the stat that says he won't win because he doesn't win majors when he wins in his tournament before. That's a fluke stat that will fall Sunday. As well as he's hitting the ball now, and as ridiculous as he is putting, unless a rules official assaults him with a stop watch during one of his rounds, he'll win. Even if that happens, I still say he finishes top 10.
Other contenders include:
1. Miguel Angel Jiminez -The Spaniard is going to win a major sooner or later. Rarely do things come unraveled for Jiminez who has four top 10s in 2009, and finished just outside of the top 10 (T-13) at the British Open.
2. Sergio Garcia - If, and this is always the biggest of ifs, if Sergio can putt well he'll contend. I've never seen a player hit the ball so well and putt like a Sunday hacker ever. If he stays away from three, and sometimes four-putts (no, that's not fictional, he's done it a handful of times in his career), he'll be on the leaderboard Sunday.
3. Steve Stricker - Stricker has two wins this year and eight total top 10s. He's as steady as the come and other than Tiger about one of the safest picks anyone can make.
4. Phil Mickelson - Mickelson was rusty last week at Firestone. He was also rusty when he first came back at the St. Jude Classic and then the following week finished second at the U.S. Open. Look for a similar result here.
5. Bubba Watson - Watson is on this list for one reason -he can hit the ball a mile and Hazeltine is a monster. It gives him an advantage over at least half the field, and if he can get his wedge game in check, and loosen up a little (come on, Bubba, quit strangling yourself in those polo shirts! No one buttons the top button!), he'll be in the mix.
Random acts of senseless picking: Hunter Mahan, Sean O'Hair, Henrik Stenson, Boo Weekley, Padraig Harrington (yes, even with the collapse last week, he's playing much better golf), David Toms and Martin Kaymer.
E-mail B.J. Lisko at email@example.com