Cialis Western Open Preview

Tiger and Vijay will do battle once again this week at the Cog Hill Golf and Country Club.

western_open_logo.gifThe Western Open is the oldest non-major golf tournament on the PGA Tour. That being said, it’s always a special tournament when the top two players in the world are in the field, and that is the case this week at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club. Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh played in the same tournament just two weeks ago at Pinehurst for the U.S. Open, and both players finished in the top 10. Tiger was the runner-up to Michael Campbell, and Singh finished in a tie for sixth. Just last week at the Barclays Classic, Vijay followed up his strong U.S. Open finish with a tie for seventh at Westchester.

Both Tiger and Vijay have won three times on the PGA Tour in 2005, and each of them will be looking to pick up their fourth victory at Cog Hill this week. Vijay probably won’t overtake Tiger as the number one golfer in the world, but he will sure close the gap if he finds himself in the winner’s circle on Sunday. However, finishing better than Tiger at the Western Open will be a very tough task for Singh, as Mr. Woods has owned this tournament in the past. Tiger won this tournament in 1997, 1999, and 2003. He also finished in the top ten at Cog Hill last year.

While Tiger and Vijay will get the media attention this week, the talent in the field don’t stop there. Luke Donald is the highest-ranked golfer in the world outside of the big two this week. He comes in this week as the 13th ranked golfer in the world and finished in third place at this event in 2004. Jim Furyk, who was shocked on the 18th hole this past weekend, will also be in the field at the Western Open. Furyk and Padraig Harrington both teed off the 18th hole on Sunday at the Barclays Classic in a tie for first at -8. Harrington sunk a 65-foot eagle putt and edged out Furyk by one shot. The “silent assassin” Jim Furyk finished in a tie for seventh at Cog Hill one year ago.

Stephen Ames, the pride of Trinidad and Tobago, was the winner of the Cialis Western Open last year. The win was Ames’ first victory on the PGA Tour. He shot a sizzling-64 in the third round to put himself in contention for the win. Ames followed that with a nice final-round 70 to secure his first-ever PGA Tour victory. Ames finished the week at -10 overall, two shots clear of Steve Lowery and three shots clear of Luke Donald. Stuart Appleby is also worth mentioning this week. He has struggled with consistency as of late, but he is still ranked 18th in the world and finished in a tie for fifth in this tournament in 2004.

A few other notables worth mentioning are Scott Verplank, John Daly, and Ryan Moore. Verplank has played very solid in the first half of 2005, but he really struggled in his start at the U.S. Open two weeks ago. Daly is always among the most popular stars on the PGA Tour, and this week he will be sure to get a high percentage of the cheers from the Illinois crowd. Ryan Moore made his professional debut on the PGA Tour last week at the Barclays Classic. He did make the cut, but a lackluster weekend placed him in a tie for 51st when all was said and done. Moore will be looking to bounce back this week at the Western Open.

Cog Hill Golf and Country Club is definitely no walk in the park. As I stated earlier, the winning score last year was -10. So it will definitely challenge the golfers all week long. The par at Cog Hill is 71, and it measures 7,326 yards in length. That ranks it very high on the list as far as long par-71 courses are concerned. There are a couple difficult finishing holes, but there are a couple tough ones on the front side as well. The sixth hole is a 242 yard par-3 that is the most difficult three-shotter on the course. The green has two tiers and is surrounded by five bunkers. The sixth hole will require a very precise long-iron shot from the tee and could definitely be a pivotal hole all week long.

The ninth hole is a 600 yard par-5 that has been lengthened just this year. The hardest part about this hole is the extremely narrow fairways. The green slopes from back to front. Even though these two holes will be difficult, the finishing hole is still the hardest at Cog Hill. The 18th is a 480 yard par-4 and the tee shot will need to stay to the right. The fairway and green both slope towards a pond on the left side of the hole. Many approach shots have found the water on this tough par-4, and the tournament could definitely be decided here on Sunday.

Last week in my PGA Tour preview, I picked Jim Furyk to win the Barclays Classic. Furyk finished in second place, and my “sleeper” pick Tim Clark finished in a tie for 12th. I feel as though I’m on a roll with my picks, so I will just make it short and sweet this week. I’m picking Tiger Woods to win his fourth Western Open title since 1997. Woods has played great as of late, and I think Cog Hill fits his golf game perfectly. Besides that, he is still the number one golfer in the world. For my “sleeper” pick this week, I’m going with Australian Mark Hensby. He played very respectably at the U.S. Open two weeks ago, finishing in a tie for third at Pinehurst #2. Hensby also finished in a tie for third last year at the Western Open.

The weather for this week’s tournament should be just fine if things get started well on Thursday. There is a slight chance of thunderstorms for the opening round, but other than that, everything should be ok. The highs should be anywhere from the low-to-mid 80s this weekend. The golfers will be playing for a total purse of $5 million, with $900,000 going to the champion. The Western Open always seems to boast a strong field, and this year is no different. The top two players will be battling it out, and that will definitely be a good enough reason to watch. The action from Cog Hill Golf and Country Club can be seen this week on USA and ABC at the following times:

Thu    4-6pm ET    USA
Fri    4-6pm ET    USA
Sat    3-6pm ET    ABC
Sun    3-6pm ET    ABC

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