The Reuters global sports blog
Europe’s undistinguished record at the U.S. Open over the last 40 years has been puzzling to say the very least but several signs indicate it could change for the better at Pebble Beach this week.
Seven Europeans lie in the world’s top 14 for the year’s second major where the spectacular par-71 layout on California’s Monterey Peninsula is running fast and firm in the style of a British Open links course.
While American world number two Phil Mickelson was regarded by several leading bookmakers as the tournament favourite before struggling in the first round, third-ranked Briton Lee Westwood has attracted strong backing.
The Englishman is arguably the best player in the game from tee to green, has recorded top-three finishes in the last three majors and arrived at Pebble Beach fresh from a playoff victory at the PGA Tour’s St. Jude Classic on Sunday.
Friday’s announcement in Copenhagen that golf would be added to the Olympic schedule from the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro sparked joyous reaction from players past and present, along with a few dissenting voices.
World number one Tiger Woods declared it “a perfect fit” while fellow great Jack Nicklaus voiced his pride over golf’s united front on “a great day” for the sport.
After two successive years of tweaking the points structure for the lucrative FedExCup playoff events, the PGA Tour’s blockbuster finale appears to be close to finding the ideal recipe.
When the season-long series was first launched in 2007, the points system was too rigid, leaving players with far too much ground to make up on the leaders going into the final stretch.