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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, June 18, 2001

Predicting playoff easier than predicting how it would happen

Longtime Maui resident Mark Rolfing, an NBC golf analyst at the U.S. Open, chronicles his observations of the tournament for The Advertiser.

By Mark Rolfing
Special to The Advertiser

TULSA, Okla. — Well, I was right yesterday. I will be in Tulsa today for a playoff. I will be the first to admit that I haven't predicted very well this week . . . but no one could have ever forecast the end to this U.S. Open.

This was the strangest and most shocking end to a golf tournament that I have ever witnessed . . . including Jean Van de Velde blowing a three-stroke lead at the British Open in 1999. It was stranger than any finish of a junior tournament that I played in.

Today, so many playing will lament what happened. So many players will say to themselves, "I should have won the U.S. Open." Only two players now have a chance to win . . . Mark Brooks and Retief Goosen. When Tiger Woods failed to make a significant charge yesterday, as many as 10 players had a chance to win. I have never seen a meltdown by more great players in this situation. Like I said earlier this week, U.S. Open pressure is unbelievable.

My day started with Tiger for nine holes. He played well but simply was too far behind. His streak of four straight major championships is now over. His quest for the 2001 Grand Slam is now over. I'll bet he's feeling a little relieved. He handled this whole week of adversity very well. I now have even more respect for Tiger than I did a year ago at Pebble Beach.

Sergio Garcia disappointed me today. I thought he could win but when things started going bad . . . so did he. He's only 21 and sometimes he plays like it. He's got a lot of talent but needs to mature.

Looking toward the playoff, I first felt Stewart Cink must be incredibly upset that he's not in it. I thought he made a huge mistake by not marking his ball and waiting to hit his second putt on the 18th until Goosen putted. I'm sure he wanted to give Retief the stage . . . but as we saw, Goosen had not won the U.S. Open yet.

Cink's miss was somewhat understandable . . . he had an emotional letdown. Goosen's was not. He had two putts from 12 feet, up the hill, to win the U.S. Open. He couldn't do it. I think it was the biggest choke in the history of a major golf championship.

Who will win the 2001 U.S. Open? Everyone now likes Mark Brooks. He's tough, he's played well, he got a reprieve. I think the player who needs to win the most will have the most pressure. That would be Brooks. That will make it more difficult for him to win. It's Mark's national championship; I don't get the sense that Goosen feels it's that important at this stage of his career.

Having said that, I think there's more pressure on Brooks and that Goosen will win. I just hope I'm still not here tomorrow.