Well, our old friend and golf analyst found himself quite busy the past few months. He had field trips, was in New York, went to Disney, and had this #WayniacWedding to attend. He somehow felt that this was an acceptable excuse as to why he missed The Masters, his first Major he missed since joining The Nation as our golf expert. That’s why he came back strong with his US Open projections. So Wayniacs, welcome back Dunton…
Okay so I missed the Masters. Well actually didn’t miss it, just missed a deadline for the piece I was supposed to write. Ok, fine, I forgot, you happy now? Anyway, have no fear. Ol’ Dunton is here with the Nation’s golf guru’s predictions for the US Open.
First things first — we need to take a look at the course that is the setting for this year’s grind.
What we know: The Pacific Northwest has never hosted a major until now and this course is going to be quite interesting to say the least.
Ian Poulter is quoted as saying, “This course is a complete farse”. What that means is that the fans will probably love it (no offense Ian) and the golfers will have some issues with it. Chambers Bay is going to be all the field can handle.
Right now I, nor the USGA, can tell you what par is on the first and 18th holes. That’s right we don’t know what the scorecard is going to have on it. We do know that the combined score for the the two holes is 9 but that they will change each day based on their set-up each morning. It’s part of the ribbon tee system they are going to explore, where yardages can change from 60-100 yards per hole over the weekend. So, on Thursday hole 1 can be a par 5 and Friday it may be a par 4. Six of the par 4s could possibly be driveable based on the setup. While at the same time 7 of the holes are longer than 490 yards. The 14th hole has the chance to be the longest par 4 in US Open history at 546 yards where players have over 250 yards of carry to just make it to a fairway bunker.
Get all that? Okay USGA, you have peeked my interest.
Once players have hit their tee shots and made the long walk to their balls they are still looking a daunting task square in the face. This is not pick a spot and hit it golf. The real fun (again, for the fans) begins when they hit an iron (more than likely on some of these holes a long iron) and that ball gets on the ground. The slope of these greens is not going to be for the faint of heart and if you need an illustration here’s Bubba Watson’s putt in a practice round earlier this week.
— SB Nation (@SBNation) June 12, 2015
Getting it close to the hole is no guarantee either. Golf Channel’s Steve Sands said on Tuesday morning of 4-6 foot putts, “They will be like putting on a Plinko Board.” Earlier this week I watched Golf’ Channel’s Frank Nobilo roll balls at flag sticks on one of the holes. He called them “Roller Coasters” and “Nascar Races”. Balls that were fired at flag sticks were lost in bunkers or back down into fairways whereas balls that were hit way left or right of the hole wound up resting 3-4 feet from the hole. Talk about relying on your caddy as you stand over an iron shot.
So who do I expect to hoist the US Open Championship Trophy around 10pm eastern time on Father’s Day? Well, there are your choice of usual suspects. Rory, Jordan, Dustin, Rickie, Phil, Adam, Tiger, Justin, Jim, Bubba, the list goes on for a while, Jason, Henrik, you get the picture. Here is who I have my sights set on:
Rory McIlroy– This is an easy player to see hoisting the US Open Trophy Sunday night simply based on the fact he is currently the best player in the world. Rory’s game is right for any course he plays and his length off the tee will be a major asset at Chambers Bay. Where do I see Rory having some trouble? It’s on the greens. Rory is currently ranked 59th in overall putting. This is the one aspect of his game that could be his kryptonite this weekend.
Jordan Spieth -Jordan comes into the US Open with quite possibly the best advantage of anyone else in the field: Michael Greller, his caddy. Greller was a summer caddy at Chambers Bay while he was still a math teacher. It also probably helps that Spieth played the 2010 US Amateur Open at Chambers Bay. All of this adds up to understanding some of nuances and ins and outs of this course that may stump many others. Spieth also has a really good short game which is going to be a necessity here. The one downside to Jordan’s game is his inconsistency off the tee which could hurt his chances of back to back majors.
Jim Furyk– The 2003 US Open Champ has what it takes between the ears to win this tournament again, especially at this course. The US Open is as much a mental test as a physical one. Jim is one of the most mentally tough guys on the tour and his four top 10 finishes this year, including a win at the Heritage, will be a huge asset in the bag. Jim’s accuracy off the tee is a huge plus to carry with him as he walks through the former quarry that is Chambers Bay. What lurks out there as a detriment to Jim is his putting. Much like McIlroy Jim is known to lose his short game at the most inopportune times and a few missed putts early could send Jim’s game down the wrong tracks that border this course.
Justin Rose-The 2013 winner at Merion has all the tools in place to take home his second US Open. His game has shown signs of the brilliance that we saw in 2013 with his tie for second at the Masters, win at the Zurich Classic, and second place finish at the Memorial. Justin is a solid ball striker and one that many other players will begin to scoreboard watch if he is making a move on Saturday and Sunday. This course has been compared to many of the famous links courses that Justin is used to playing back home across the pond so it may be a perfect fit for his game. I do question Justin’ accuracy off the tee as he is currently ranked 69th in driving accuracy and if that goes bad we can kiss his chances goodbye as they head out on the Puget Sound.
And my winner is?
I’m going with Rickie Fowler. I just think Rickie is primed to finally win his first major. After the display he put on during the Players Championship his confidence in his game is at an all time high. Yes, he missed the cut at the Memorial but he also shot back-to-back 72s for even par in missing said cut.
Well take a guess where the USGA likes to keep the US Open score. Right around even, so if this course is setup like many project it will be, even par may in fact win it this year. Rickie’s performance at the Players Championship is something that he can fall back on when he gets in trouble. He hit 3 great shots to 17 on Sunday.There are players on tour who wish for one birdie on 17. That hole is not a simple approach and under that pressure is even more difficult.
Rickie is primed to win a major and this one may finally be his time. Plus didn’t Martin Kaymer become the first player to win the Player’s and US Open in the same year last year? And didn’t Martin have to win the Player’s with a dramatic putt on 17 on Sunday. The story is starting to write itself. Here’s hoping to see a whole lot of orange as I finish celebrating Father’s Day Sunday night.