Could the 2009 U.S. Open Field Come Back to Tiger Woods?

Scott EisenlohrAnalyst IJune 21, 2009

FARMINGDALE, NY - JUNE 19:  Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the tenth hole during the continuation of the first round of the 109th U.S. Open on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park on June 19, 2009 in Farmingdale, New York.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Play finished at 8 p.m. EST Sunday with no winner declared in the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y.

Ricky Barnes and Lucas Glover remained atop the field at 7 under par after one hole played in the final round of the tournament. During the past three days, television cameras cut between the leaders and one man who hovered around 3 or 4 shots over par. The leader at the time was at 10 under.

Why all this attention for a man trailing the leaders so distantly? Well, as long as Tiger Woods makes the cut, there is a chance he can win the golf tournament. With three rounds and change in the book, Woods sits at even par through seven holes.

That's seven shots back. Perhaps it's too much for even Tiger to pull off. And without a full 18 holes to work with, it's a seven-shot deficit with 11 holes to play. Too much? Not if Barnes and Glover fall apart.

Will one of them choke? It's likely. Barnes is perhaps best known for contending in the early going of the 2003 Masters, eventually won by Mike Weir

But two must fall—not to mention the five other players currently ahead of Woods. Possible? Yes. Likely? No.

I am not saying Woods will fade. He will make it close at some point tomorrow. The way he has been playing this week, too, might preclude him from winning. But if he gets within three with four holes to play, I would not put it past him to force a playoff or win outright.

He made up five strokes on the last day of the Arnold Palmer Invitational this year.

Here are the factors that could stop him:

1) He does not have a full 18 to catch up. Eleven holes to make up seven is virtually insurmountable, even for Tiger.

2)  Lucas Glover. Glover, who is 26th in the Fed Ex points standings, finished second in the Quail Hollow Championship and third in the Buick Invitational.

His playing mate, Barnes, reached 11 under at one point in the tournament, then bogeyed the last five holes. He is likely to drop like a rock. However, Glover was strong and steady off the tee as play was called.

3) Phil Mickelson. A crowd favorite, Phil is 2 under with 16 holes remaining in his final round. Think of the guys Tiger has dispatched in the past year, starting with the PGA playoff he won before leaving the tour with an injury: Rocco Mediate, Sean O'Hair, and Jim Furyk. Good golfers, but none of them is Phil Mickelson, a man with 34 career tournaments won and three majors to his credit.

4) His opening-round 74 put him behind the eight-ball. He has to shoot somewhere in the neighborhood of 64 to win, as he is 1 under for the final 18.

Why Tiger will win:

1) There is only one Tiger Woods.

2) All are likely to fade, with the exception of Mickelson. Tiger has 14 majors to Mickelson's three.

3) It is possible he could shoot a 64.

Though it's possible both leaders at 7 under could fade, it's not likely. If they do, the field is wide open. Imagine the leader on the final day at 3 under. Tiger would smell blood.

So would Phil.

It is not likely to happen. I am saying here, Tiger Woods will not win the 2009 U.S. Open.

But he could.

After all, we are talking about Tiger Woods, who's just four more major wins shy of becoming the greatest golfer to ever play the game.