Tiger Time: The US Open Returns

Scott McGrathCorrespondent IJune 14, 2009

SAN DIEGO - JUNE 16:  Rocco Mediate (R) and Tiger Woods walk off the tee on the first hole during the playoff round of the 108th U.S. Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course) on June 16, 2008 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The US Open returns for the 109th running this Thursday. It will be tough to follow the epic ending from last year's Open, as Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate went to a 19 hole playoff in a fifth round. Woods ended up winning the Open by one stroke, in breathtaking fashion.

Now, all the hype and excitement returns, and, who knows, maybe it will be better than last year's. But, there are whole new twists and turns the PGA tour has taken since then.

The defending champion Tiger Woods immediately had surgery on his leg following last year's Open. Looks like that was a little detail I forgot to mention, he was practically playing on one leg.

Woods returned to the tour only a couple months ago, and has played in a small number of tournaments. However, he won the Memorial Tournament just a week ago.

But coming into this, he is clearly the favorite to recapture Bethpage State Park golf course. Oh, did I mention that prior to last year, the last time Woods won the US Open was in 2002, at Bethpage. Really no shocker as to why he is the favorite.

Phil Mickelson also enters the tournament with a great amount of media attention, but not as much for his game. He left the tour for over a month after his wife was diagnosed with cancer.

"Lefty" returned to the tour only a week ago, and looked to be in shape for the Open. He appeared calm and collected, and even said after one round that playing forces him to get his mind off things.

Other players like Kenny Perry, Padraig Harrington, Angel Cabrera, and Chad Campbell enter the Open with hype surrounding them after gaining much of the national spotlight of late.

Harrington took advantage of the time when Woods was injured and became one of the best on the tour.

Campbell, Perry, and Cabrera were all part of the amazing three-player playoff at the Masters this year. Cabrera also won the US Open in 2007, beating Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk by a mere one stroke.

Even Rocco Mediate has been drawing a huge amount of press to himself just from the round he played last year. While there really is no expectation of anything similar from Mediate this year, there was no expectation last year either, so the unexpected will be expected in this tournament.

The US Open will be something to watch and starts and this Thursday, and barring a playoff, it will end on Sunday. It will be a great tournament to see top golfers duke it out with one another, and possibly another "Cinderella" story playing beyond the top of their game.

Be sure to tune in.


This article was first featured on http://thesportsage.blogspot.com/ .