This weekend marks the toughest challenge in professional golf. The 109th United States Open Championship. The United States Golf Association is always known to set up the US Open venue brutally difficult, and this year is sure to be no exception.

Bethpage Black – located in Bethpage Park in New York will host the event for the second time since 2002. Tiger Woods was the winner that year and many feel this year will be no different.

Bethpage is a very difficult and very long course. It is among just a few recent courses that have hosted US Opens that are accessible to the public to play. By now you have all read countless stories of die hard golfers sleeping in their cars overnight to play this golf course.

I am one of the biggest fans of golf I know, but I can’t imagine sleeping in the FJ Cruiser overnight in order to play this place. It is long, somewhat scenic, but we aren’t talking Augusta, St Andrews, Sandhills, Merion, or a bunch of other courses that would be much more enjoyable to play….

but I digress….

This course is just flat out difficult. Which alone will probably eliminate about 80% of the field from a chance at winning. In order to win most U.S. Opens you have to hit fairways, have a great short game, and play conservative yet aggressive. Here at Bethpage you also have to hit it a country mile as the course will play much the same as it did seven years ago.

Here are my favorites to contend this week.

1) Eldrick Tont Woods – Any reason to not take Tiger? Hmmm…#1 in the world, just coming off a win at the Memorial with one of his best Fairways Hit rounds in forever, and the last time they played here he was the only golfer under par for the tournament. I’ll play with the house money in this shocking pick.

2) Phil Mickelson – Sentimental favorite for three reasons. First of all, he has been close in the Open a couple of times. Second, his Wife Amy will start cancer treatments soon, and a lot of people would love to see lefty pull this rabbit out of the hat. Third, New Yahkaas Love Lefty!. Will undoubtedly be the favorite of the crown and one of the few that has the game to do it.

3) Jim Furyk – Furyk has a game suited for all U.S. Open venues. Drives it well, plays smart, good short game..Length here may hurt him a bit. He is also playing very well this year, good enough to win.

4) Geoff Oglivy – Stole the Open a few years back at Winged foot when Montgomerie and Mickelson spewed oil and threw gears on the finishing holes. Has been hot or cold this year but has the type of game that should succeed here.

5) Sergio Garcia – It pains me to pick him however you cannot discredit his ball striking abilities. He has the length to contend at this track. Biggest question with Sergio is will the locals remember the antics of 2002 and bring the heat on Sergio again in 2009. I for one am betting they don not forget and the crowd might just be the reason he is NOT around on Sunday.

Now that only leaves about 151 golfers I am not picking, so sit back this weekend, and enjoy another great installment of our National Championship.
Happy Fathers Day this weekend to all you dads out there!

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Johnny Goodman writes a weekly sports column for The Soap Boxers. His articles can be found in The Goodman File.

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