Great field says goodbye to Western Open
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2006 Cialis Western Open | Preview | 04 Jul 2006
With just two weeks to the third major of the year on the other side of the Atlantic, several of the world’s leading players are stepping out at this week’s Cialis Western Open for the last time in competitive golf before the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
The Cialis Western Open is one of the most historic events in US golf both at the professional and amateur level. It was first played back in 1899 when Willie Smith beat Laurie Auchterlonie at the nearby Glen View Golf Club. It was not played the following year but in 1901 Auchterlonie got his revenge and the event, apart from three occasions during World War II, has been played every year since. This will be the 103rd staging of the event. Back all those 107 years ago the tournament was worth a total purse of US$150. This year, that figure is US$5 million.
Perhaps disappointingly, for those who prefer tradition over the endless pursuit of cash, the event will not be played under this name in 2007 but rather it will become the BMW Championship and come under the umbrella of the Fed Ex Series. Sad but true.
The Dubsdread layout forms one of the four courses at the multi golf course, public access, Cog Hill Golf and Country Club, just south of Chicago. The course was opened in 1964 and designed by Dick Wilson and Joe Lee. Wilson also received recognition for such courses as the Blue Monster at Doral, Laurel Valley, La Costa and Bay Hill. He died just a year after the opening of this, the fourth course at Cog Hill.
The course measures 7320 yards and features bent greens and as you would expect with a course of this age, fairways lined by tall mature vegetation. It is heavily bunkered and possesses large undulating greens and tight landing areas.
As a consequence of the event’s standing, the quality of the course and perhaps its place in the schedule of events leading into the British Open in two weeks time, a field befitting such an event has assembled for this week’s tournament.
The course will undergo significant changes following the tournament in order that it might be considered for US Open duties in the years ahead. Rees Jones has been commissioned to do such work.
Last year Jim Furyk won this event and in doing so secured his first victory in nearly two years. In 2006 he arrives having won just a few weeks ago at the Wachovia Championship and was part of that three way tie for second at the US Open. Furyk has a simply stunning record around a layout that obviously fits his eye. He has won and been five times inside the top ten in his last seven starts at Cog Hill.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson arrive at Cog Hill under a cloud of sorts. Woods has played just the one event since Augusta and that was when missing his only cut as a professional in majors at the US Open. It is perhaps difficult to imagine him challenging the more tournament hardened players, even allowing for his great record at this venue. He has won this event on three occasions and has nearly always been in the firing line when he hasn’t but he has a big hurdle to overcome.
Mickelson returns to tournament golf having had the last two weeks to contemplate the closing ten minutes of the US Open where he had a brain snap. This has never been a venue where Mickelson has played well and it might be that he uses the event to ease his way back into tournament golf. It will be intriguing to witness the residue, if any, of the last hole demise at Winged Foot.
Vijay Singh has not won at Cog Hill but he has done everything besides. He returned to form with his victory at the Barclays event and then played well at the US Open. He will not be as scarred as Mickelson from his near miss at the US Open and is likely to do well.
Luke Donald is a Chicago resident and will no doubt enjoy playing what is effectively a ’home game’. He has played very well in recent weeks and could well feature at a golf course he obviously knows well.
Mike Weir has not exactly been in contention in recent months but he has been getting better. He was 6th at the US Open and does have a good record at this event having finished runner up and third in previous years.
Ben Curtis has played well in this event and with his runaway win at the Booz Allen event and a good solid showing last week in Hartford, he stands a chance. He challenged Furyk early in the final round last year before finishing 3rd and is a much more confident player as a result of his recent success. Steve Stricker is another who has played well at Cog Hill including a win in 1996 before the wheels fell off his career. He is well and truly back in 2006 and it would not surprise to see him win for the second time.
The Australasians are headed by Adam Scott but it is Robert Allenby who has the best record amongst those from down under. Allenby won the event in a playoff over Nick Price in 2000 and has played well in other years also. His recent form has been encouraging enough to consider him as some sort of chance.
Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley, Greg Chalmers, Nathan Green, Mathew Goggin, Mark Hensby, Stephen Leaney, Peter Lonard, John Senden and Phil Tataurangi make up the balance of the Australasians.