LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
The U.S. Open Golf Tournament gets underway today Philadelphia. Heavy rains have left the course slightly soggy. These are the kinds of conditions that can make the course anyone's to win.
Here to tell us more is USA Today's sports columnist Christine Brennan. Good morning, Christine.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Good morning, Linda.
WERTHEIMER: So, how significant will the remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea be, do you think?
BRENNAN: It could be significant. There's been a deluge here the last few days. Most of the golfers haven't played this course at Merion, just because it's been 32 years since the U.S. Open has been held here. So that unfamiliarity might be a problem for them when they're playing, because they haven't had a chance to practice very much.
It's a shorter course. It's the shortest course the U.S. Open has had in nine yards, under 7,000 yards, which sounds long, but it's really quite short. And so it might make the course softer, which means that the players will be able to play more of a target golf - pinpoint shots - and find it easier.
WERTHEIMER: Could you talk a little bit more about this golf course? It's the Merion Golf Club, and it's - I've looked at pictures of it. It looks like a really beautiful course.
BRENNAN: This is great, Linda. This is sports at its best. It's a postage stamp of a golf course sandwiched between the beautiful homes of the Main Line in Philadelphia. And the charm of the place, people tuning in will see wicker baskets, not flags, on the pins. Merion's designer, the story goes, was in England. He saw shepherds with their flocks holding staffs with wicker baskets where they kept their lunch, so that no animals could get it. And he decided that that was what the flag sticks at Merion would look like - without flags, but with wicker baskets.
The interesting part about this is that if there are no flags, the players cannot tell which way the wind is going up at the green - another tricky and wonderful part of Merion.
WERTHEIMER: Now, the world's top ranked golfers - Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott - will be a threesome that starts out in the middle of the day. This, I guess, will be a dream time to tune in.
BRENNAN: Absolutely. Well, Tiger Woods is really the story here. It has been exactly five years, Linda, since he won a Major. That's the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, on a broken leg. It was a dramatic moment for him. But that's been five years. So here's a guy who won 14 Majors in his first 11 years on the tour, and none in the last five years.
Now, we know there's been a scandal, injury, et cetera. He certainly is the favorite. All the pressure is on Tiger Woods. He's had four victories already this year on the tour, but he played quite poorly in his last event. He's won three U.S. Opens, and there's nothing Tiger Woods would want more than to win his fourth here this week.
WERTHEIMER: But isn't he most famous for his long game, and here he is playing on a short course?
BRENNAN: He is. Although he's 37 years old now, so he's tailored his game in many ways to the changing times, and also to his changing body, and the fact that he isn't as strong as some of the other players now.
WERTHEIMER: Do you think that this back-and-forth with Sergio Garcia, another player, is going to affect anything?
BRENNAN: Let's hope it's over. Now, this is the spat that started about a month ago, and it escalated into an ugly situation several weeks ago, when Sergio Garcia said, jokingly, he said he would serve Tiger Woods fried chicken if they had dinner - obviously a racist comment. He's apologized profusely. He said he left a handwritten note at Tiger's locker on Tuesday.
Woods, to his great credit, says he is done with it. He says it's time to play the U.S. Open, that we've already gone through all of it. So he's done with it. Sergio Garcia has apologized, and I think we're all hoping it's over. And I know that these guys want to play golf and not think about apologies and ridiculous racist comments from last month.
WERTHEIMER: USA Today's Christine Brennan. Christine, thank you.
BRENNAN: Thank you, Linda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.