Golf's U.S. Open Returns to Oakmont

Historic Oakmont Country Club, outside Pittsburgh, once again hosts golf's U.S. Open. Australian Geoff Ogilvy is the defending champion, but many fans are focused on a potential battle between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The U.S. Open, generally considered golf's most difficult test for players, begins this morning at Oakmont Country Club outside Pittsburg. The defending champion is Geoff Ogilvy, but everyone will - big surprise - be watching Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Commentator John Feinstein joins us now. Good morning, John

JOHN FEINSTEIN: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Let's start with those two top players in the world. What's their mindset coming into this week?

FEINSTEIN: Well, a little bit more fragile than usual, believe it or not. Tiger Woods has not played especially well in his last couple of tournaments. That doesn't mean he's not going to get on a roll today and win his third U.S. Open. He hasn't won one since 2002, which for him is a long drought at a major championship.

Phil Mickelson played superbly, winning the Players Championship with a new coach a few weeks ago, but went to Oakmont to practice and injured his wrist trying to swing out of the deep rough there, which will be a major factor all week, and had to have a cortisone shot last week. He took an MRI. He says he's going to play, that he feels fine. But once he gets back in that deep rough today, who knows what will happen? So there are question marks around both guys.

MONTAGNE: And are we now at a point where Woods versus Mickelson can be considered a great rivalry?

FEINSTEIN: Not yet. They need to go head-to-head down the stretch in a few major championships, and that really hasn't happened. For a rivalry to be great, it can't just be off-course sniping at one another or things like that. They have to be head-to-head coming down the stretch on a Sunday afternoon in a major, and that just hasn't happened yet.

MONTAGNE: And there's not much talk about defending champion Geoff Ogilvy. Why is that?

FEINSTEIN: Well, partly because Geoff Ogilvy was not a big name before he won the Open last year. He was known as a very solid player from Australia. He won because of Phil Mickelson's collapse on the last hole at Wingfoot. So it wasn't as if there was a dramatic finish. And to be honest, he's had a very quiet year thus far. But once he gets out there today, he'll be playing with Tiger Woods. He will be in the limelight for sure and we'll see how he does back in that limelight that he really hasn't seen for a while.

MONTAGNE: Let's talk about the golf course itself. Oakmont has a distinguished history, including perhaps the greatest final round ever.

FEINSTEIN: Right. Johnny Miller in 1973, when he shot 63 in the last round at Oakmont to win the Open. And then there was Larry Nelson's historic putt in 1983 that led to his victory there. Oakmont has been part of the U.S. Open rotation for many, many years. They have changed the golf course considerably. They've taken out a lot of trees. That means there'll be more wind. The greens are infamous for their speed. And everybody is saying that the winning score will be over par.

MONTAGNE: And John, very quickly, let's switch topics to the women's game, just for a moment here. Michelle Wie finished 84th at the LPGA championship last week. What's going on there?

FEINSTEIN: This girl, she's still only 17, has the ability, I think, to be the Tiger Woods of women's golf. She's that good. But her parents, her agents, everybody handling her has pushed her too hard, too fast, making her play in all these men's events when she's not ready to do that. She still hasn't won a women's tournament yet. Her golf game has gone backward. She came back too soon from an injury. They need to let her slow down and be a teenager for a while, and then be a superstar. You don't want to see this go in the direction that it's going right now.

MONTAGNE: John, thanks very much.

FEINSTEIN: Thanks, Renee.

MONTAGNE: The comments of John Feinstein. His new book is "Tales from Q School: Inside Golf's Fifth Major."

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