Fathers Day week means time for the U.S. Open and the best test in golf for the best in the world. This year the USGA heads to Olympic Club outside of San Francisco for a return to the course that last held the Open in 1998.
Tiger Woods heads in as the favorite, most odds makers have Woods as to win at 5/1 or 6/1, with the likes of Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, and Phil Mickelson as the next group of players likely to win.
Woods enters playing his best tournament of the year at the Memorial, where in his win, he was extremely accurate off the tee and made many more putts than any other tournament this year. With Olympic not as along as most U.S. Open venues, I would guess the urgency to hit driver for Tiger will be low; meaning his high 3-wood off the tee game gives him a great chance to win. Olympic will be setup as a 7,170 yard, par-70. The buzz surrounding Woods is still very high, ratings for last week’s tournament at the Memorial was up 138 percent from last year. I’ll state the obvious: Tiger in contention = big ratings.
I try to watch as much golf as I can and do like the sport much more that most beyond what Tiger does. However, I will be the first to admit, I am so much more consumed with any tournament that he is involved, especially when he has a chance to win. Rooting for Woods seems like something I don’t want to publicize, as I feel that people question why I would root for such a rotten person. I root to see his “A-game” skill on display. I want to watch him hit shots that I can only dream of. I want to watch sports to see feats like what Bubba Watson did out of the straw and trees to win the Masters on the playoff hole. With Woods, not only do you get the skill but the extra flare and emotion that make sports worth watching.
Things to watch for: -Big galleries: Talk about star power in some groupings this week with expected monster galleries: Tiger, Phil and Bubba will play together. The #1, #2, and #3 players in the world in Luke Donald, Rory Mcllroy and Lee Westwood will also play together.
-Casey Martin returns with his cart: Martin qualified winning a 37-player sectional qualifier in Oregon last week. Martin is now 40 years old and is the golf coach at the University of Oregon. Martin played in the last Open held at Olympic in 1998.
-Rory McIlroy defends his title: The defending champion comes in struggling up until this past week at the St. Jude Classic this past week where he stood on the 72nd tee tied for the lead before his tee shot found the water. We know he can handle the pressure and he dominated at Congressional last year but I’m not sure if his all-around game is at that level heading into this week.
-Brutal Start: The first six holes are extremely challenging. Tiger Woods said it’s the toughest start in golf. The 1st hole is a 520-yard, par-4, in the previous four Opens it had been played as a par-4. The 3rd hole is 247-yard, par-3 in which just hitting the green will be a challenge. Trees have been added to the 5th and 6th, which play tight and long at 498 and 490 yards; both par-4’s.
-14 in 14: In the last 14 majors, there have been 14 different winners and 12 of the 14 are first-time major winners. If the trend continues, who could be the 15th different winner? Rickie Fowler, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Jason Dufner, Luke Donald, Hunter Mahan, Lee Westwood, even Tiger Woods? None of these players have won a major or won one within the last 14 contested.
-Olympic feats: This is the 5th time that that the U.S. Open is held at Olympic Club. Previous winners are Jack Fleck(’55), Billy Casper(’66), Scott Simpson(’87), Lee Janzen(’98).
Players I like to contend:
-Justin Rose: The Englishman has 5 top 10’s this year plus his accuracy off the tee and great shot making ability gives him a great chance to win his first major.
-Zach Johnson: He’s in the top 15 in driving accuracy, putting(#1) and scoring. Sounds like a great combination to win the U.S. Open. He’s playing well this year, including a win at the Colonial and runner-up at two other tournaments.
-Bo Van Pelt: Van Pelt has 5 top 10’s in 13 events and finished 7th at the Players and 13th at the Memorial, which have the strongest fields since the Masters. Van Pelt is steady and may be in running come the weekend.
-Steve Stricker: He finished 5th the last time the Open was at Olympic and with his magical putter and great iron play I would guess he’s due to win a major sooner than later. He’s not super long off the tee but this U.S. Open is shorter than others which will allow him to not have to worry about being too aggressive off the tee.
Prediction: Zach Johnson
For those of you who like local golf history or are familiar with the current Grover Cleveland Golf Course, check out this link. It has a course map from the 1912 U.S. Open when it was played in Buffalo. The Buffalo U.S. Open had a unique spot in U.S. Open history. It was the only Open where a hole played as a par-6.
For a full hour of golf talk including full discussion of the U.S. Open, tune into to the WGR 550 Golf Show Saturday morning with Brian Koziol and Jeff Mietus, PGA Pro from 7-8am. WGR 550 will also carry Round 3 and 4 coverage of the U.S. Open LIVE from Olympic Club on Saturday and Sunday from 4pm-10pm.