The USGA announces pairings for the 2013 U.S. Open

The 2013 U.S. Open will be contested starting Thursday at the famed Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. The second of this year’s four majors has a star-studded field along with some lesser known names. The United States Golf Association has announced the pairings for the first two rounds and that always creates some excitement.

Exactly how the USGA comes up with the groupings seems to be a mystery. They do have some traditional pairings, though others seem to happen on a whim. I studied some of the more notable threesomes and will give them to you in a bit. For now I would like to offer my services to the organization in case they would like some help choosing playing partners.

It has been determined that the first shot struck at this year’s Open will be struck by Cliff Kresge. He is paired with Roger Tambellini and a player to be determined. If the USGA is still looking for a player in that first group, I am available. Wait a minute. No, I’m not. While the best the tour has to offer are playing in Pennsylvania, I will be teeing it up with my buddies in Fort Wayne, Ind. We’ll get less TV coverage – make that no TV coverage – but I bet we will have more fun.

I think the initial group for the Open should be K.J. Choi, Y.E. Yang and D.A. Points. Do I have to expain this? The inital pairing.

If the USGA wanted to make it simple they could just send the groups out alphabetically. If this were the case, the first group would consist of Steven Alker, Aaron Baddeley and Sang-Moon Bae. In case you were wondering, the last pairing would consist of Casey Wittenberg, Tiger Woods and Y.E. Yang. I believe the latter two were paired together in the final round of the PGA Championship few years ago.

If they wanted to go by the (Good) Book, they could put Matthew (Goggin), Marc (Leishman), Luke (Donald) and John (Huh) together. Hold on. That would be a foursome. We’ll have to drop one of the guys. Let’s take out Leishman. His name is spelled wrong anyway. This pairing would be a testament to the committee’s religious beliefs. Oh, never mind.

While we are on the subject of first name pairings try this one out. How about Thorbjorn Olesen, Estanislao Goya and Thongchai Jaidee? Say those names fast five times. You could also use Bio (Kim), Boo (Weekley) and Bubba (Watson). That would be a cool one, don’t you think? Sorry, I forgot you’re still working on Thorbjorn, etc.

OK, that’s enough of my hair brained ideas. Let’s get to the actual pairings. I will give you ten of the top threesomes with a little information on each.

1 – Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott. This is the premier pairing as it includes the three top ranked players in the world. It also includes Tiger’s current and former caddy. That won’t be an issue, will it? Tiger is probably just glad he is not paired with Sergio Garcia. Then again, so is Sergio.

2 – Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker. If you are thinking that this is a pairing of rising young stars, you are correct. However, the grouping happens to include the fourth, fifth and sixth ranked players in the world respectively.

3 – Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley. Lefty has been very inconsistent. He may be great and he may miss the cut. Stricker is steady but is playing a limited schedule as he gets older. I love the way Bradley cocks his head to line up putts. Don’t know why, I just do.

4 – Sergio Garcia, Stewart Cink, Padraig Harrington. Everybody likes Cink. A nice guy that had the misfortune of beating Tom Watson at the British Open a few years ago, which had to be the only time nearly everyone in the gallery was rooting against him. The Irishman is also very likable, but Sergio will hear it from Tiger fans in the crowd. That’s too bad. Sergio really is a good guy.

5 – Boo Weekley, Jason Dufner, Ian Poulter. Which of these three guys will stand out? If one of them dozes off, it will be Jason “Dufnering.” If one pretends to ride a horse, it will be Boo. Poulter will stand out for one of two reasons. That would be his choice of clothes or his game. The man can play and dresses to the nines.

6 – David Toms, Darren Clarke, Jose Maria Olazabal. This is a blast from the past grouping. I would have no problem following them though. These three are all past major winners.

7 – Rickie Fowler, Matteo Manassero, Jason Day. This is another monster “youngster” pairing. All are potential number one players. My money is on Manassero to get there first.

8 – Jim Furyk, Graeme McDowell, Zach Johnson. A golfer in my league played a round with Furyk last week before the Memorial began. How cool is that? McDowell is a neat guy and great golfer. Zach Johnson may do more with his ability than anyone else on tour.

9 – Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Nicolas Colsaerts. You want to watch a long driving contest? Follow these guys. They will be the first group off the back nine on Thursday. The USGA had to send them off first or the group in front of them might be ducking all day.

10 – Ernie Els, Webb Simpson, Steven Fox. Don’t recognize the last name? Well we all know the Big Easy, a two time U.S. Open champion and last year’s British Open champion. Simpson won last year’s Open. Fox is the reigning U.S. Amateur champion and tradition calls for him to be paired with the defending champ. Welcome to stress city Mr. Fox.

So there you have it folks. If you are looking for some fun, find nine friends and pull a number from a hat. Throw in a buck and you get one of the listed pairings. The winner will be the guy whose threesome is the most under par for the first two rounds. Personally, I don’t think the first group would be a lock to win this competition.

The action begins Thursday. Tune in for some great golf even if the pairings do not include me.

Al Stephenson is The Advertiser-Tribune’s golf columnist.

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