Wednesday, June 17, 2009

U.S. Open Preview

Hopefully Faldo will show up here to give his much more in depth and intelligent U.S. Open preview but in case he doesn't, and since I like to hear myself type, I figured I'd give you a little preview myself.

Here are your top ten contenders to take this one down (after Tiger, of course):

1. Jim Furyk - My pick to win this week (my super sleeper pick I referenced before was Davis Love, but it turns out he didn't qualify to play so there goes that idea). It makes me a bit nervous that he missed the cut the last time the Open was at Bethpage in 2002, but he was in the midst of one of his worst years, missing the cut in three of the four majors so I'm going to throw that out. Furyk has one U.S. Open win (2003) and four other top fives in his career, so you know he likes this kind of courses. He's also having a quietly awesome year - quiet because he has yet to win this season. Instead, he has six top tens in his twelve events, as well as finishing no worse than 11th in his past four. With a third place finish in a WGC event, a fifth at the Players, and a 2nd last week at the Memorial, he's in great shape to take home the trophy.

2. Paul Casey - Did you know Casey is the 3rd ranked player in the world? Me neither, but it's the truth. I suppose that will happen when you finish in the top 20 in six of your eights starts on the PGA Tour. He also picked up not only his first ever PGA victory this year at the Shell Houston Open, but has two wins across the pond on the Commie tour as well. Since coming into his own he's made the cut at the US Open the last three years, including a 10th and a 15th place finish.

3. Geoff Ogilvy - He's cooled off a bit since his hot start to the season and didn't play in the Open here in 2002, but Ogilvy might be peaking at the right time once again. The 2006 US Open Champion is coming in off a 10th place finish at the Memorial, and would have been better except for a single nightmare of a blow-up hole on Sunday - take that out and he played very well. And you can never count Ogilvy out of a high profile tournament; of his six career PGA Tour wins, four are high-profile events (US Open and three WGC events).

4. Steve Stricker - He's having one of his best years (a win and five other top tens) and he's a very good US Open player (6th, 13th, 29th last three years). In fact, he's actually a pretty phenomenal player overall, with five top tens in his last 11 majers, due to steady iron play and being one of the best putters on the tour year after year. His major issue is that he is kind of a headcase when it gets to the final round, having coughed up several leads on Sunday over the past few years. He did pick up a win at Colonial just three weeks ago, so maybe that part of his game is behind him.

5. Camilo Villegas - Everyone is still waiting for him to make that huge leap (his win in the Tour Championship in 2008 almost counts), and the timing might be right. Camilo plays well in the US Open, including a 9th place finish last year, and has improved his finish each year (CUT-59th-26th-9th). He's been steady this year, not spectacular, but seems to be zoning in and has made his last 8 cuts after a rough start, including three top 15s. He is thisclose to breaking all the way through.

6. David Toms
- Since I can't have my Davis Love pick, I'll take David Toms instead. Similar to Love, Toms was one of the better players on tour a while back, and then faded away only to roar out to a very, very good year this season. He has six top tens already this season (compared to just one all of last year), and finished in second place last week at TPC Southwind. He's not a big hitter, but he's very accurate and plays well in US Open conditions (3 top tens in 8 starts). Like Love, things just seem to be lining up perfectly.

7. Tim Clark - Interesting stat. Guess who leads the PGA Tour in Proximity to the hole? Yep, Tim Clark. He's also top 20 in putting. Those two things seem pretty important when it comes to the Majors, and especially the US Open. He also has two top tens in his last four starts and, although he hasn't been great in the majors, has made a couple of runs at it. Could be his year.

8. Phil Mickelson - The only guy who can take the spotlight off of Tiger, Mickelson will be the media darling this weekend if he's in contention thanks to his dealing with his wife's cancer. He's a stud when it comes to the US Open, with seven top tens in his career and a second place finish last time it was at Bethpage in 2002. Normally he'd be a no brainer pick for #2 contender, but for a guy who sometimes gets caught up in his own head the family issues, combined with the pressure he always seems to feel in the US Open, might be too much for his sensitive self. He's only played once since May 10th, but I can't count him out. Toughest guy to rank this week.

9. Lee Westwood - Westwood hasn't been heard from much over here, but that's because he's been spending most of his time playing across the pond, including putting up a couple of top tens. Westwood is one of those sneaky communist bastards who only shows up over here when he wants something, like a big tournament victory, and usually manages to get himself in the running. He has three top tens in the U.S. Open in his career, topped off by a third place finish last year when he just missed being included in the playoff with your boyfriend Tiger and Rocco.

10. Brian Gay - Normally I wouldn't pick someone who just qualified for the Open the weekend before and who hasn't played in a US Open since 2004 and has never made a cut in the US Open, but Gay is just so impressive sometimes (insert your own joke here). When he's playing well, he's not messing around and kicks some serious ass, as he did last week at the St. Jude. He got out to the first round lead, and unlike most slackers, never relinquished it, winning going away by five strokes. That wasn't even his biggest win, as earlier this year he won at the Verizon Heritage by 10 shots. Tough to bet against a guy who can be that dominant, especially when he's coming in hot.

A few notable names missing, but that's because they have no shot. Garcia and Harrington suck right now. Els and Goosen are too old. Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan have regressed. Kenny Perry looks like a cartoon character. O'Hair is dealing with an injury and is kind of a baby. Bubba Watson is a side show. Nick Watney and Rory McIlroy are too green. Stewart Cink is too gay. Ian Poulter is too Euro, and Vijay is awful at the US Open.

Two guys who didn't make my top ten do get honorable mentions, Zack Johnson and Henrik Stenson. If one of the twelve mentioned (thirteen with Tiger) I'll be shocked.