It’s the middle of June the days are long, the weather has become HOT, the NBA Finals are taking way too long, the Stanley Cup Finals just wrapped up and all of this must mean one thing.
It’s US Open time.
Many consider the US Open the toughest four days in golf and this year will be no different. Oakmont Country Club — outside of Pittsburgh PA — is hosting this year’s tourney and this place has been an integral part of golf’s modern history.
We saw a young blonde haired Ohio native take on the King in an 18-hole playoff in 1962 when Jack won his first of 18 major titles. In 1973 Johnny Miller shot a 63 –a record that still holds today– in the final round to win his first major. The 1994 US Open was Arnold’s last walk up 18 as we said goodbye. If that wasn’t enough we then had a three-person 18-hole playoff on Monday that went to sudden death seeing a 24-year old Ernie Els won his first of four major titles on the 20th hole of the day. The 2007 US Open had Angel Cabrera hold off local hero Jim Furyk and some guy named Tiger to win by one shot.
What does this year have in store? Well we can’t be too sure but I expect drama to fill my Father’s Day afternoon… and possibly Monday.
Many experts and golf analysts have already begun to talk about the course conditions. Oakmont is no Chambers Bay (2015 host), it is a beautiful old golf course where we will see green grass, a lot of thick green grass. If you are not in the fairway good luck finding your ball. Check out this picture from Keegan Bradley the other day. He swears there is a ball in there and if you look real close you may see it. Go ahead I’ll wait until you find it. Look towards the middle of the picture and you kind of see it.
Well that is what the field is going to deal with this year. Add on the dry weather that they are expecting and the greens will be rock hard and lightning fast. Monday night on Golf Channel they were saying that players were hitting wedges into greens and they didn’t have to repair divots. That was Monday. People, they water the greens Monday-Wednesday in preparation for the weekend. Needless to say we are in for a treat this weekend. Oh did I mention there is a 288 yard Par 3? Yes you read that right. They will be hitting 3-woods to a green that will receive golf balls as well as a cart path. Have fun with that!
So who walks away with a victory? Well first let me tell you that I think the winning score is going to be exactly what the USGA hopes for. I see even par or even 1-over winning this week, especially if the hot, dry, windy conditions they are expecting come to fruition. Those greens will be the difference maker as far as I am concerned.
Jason Day-I would be an idiot not to mention Jason Day as one of my favorites. The guy hits the ball a mile and is one of the best big moment putters in golf today. If not for his vertigo spell last year he probably wins his first major in June rather than August.
Adam Scott-They took away his belly putter this year and it didn’t have the major impact people were expecting. Adam has had seven top 25 finishes in 12 starts this year, he is currently second in Fed Ex Cup points and I think this week could be one where we see him back on top at a major.
The course sets up nice for Adam, he is ranked 14th in driving distance and ranked first in approach shots. The number one ranking in approach shots is what stands out to me coming into this week. It is going to be extremely important in picking a spot on the green and hitting that spot to set up the putt you want. This is where Adam needs to make his mark. His putting is suspect this year but if he is hitting his spots and making pars he has a good chance to win this one. Remember par may be the winning score.
Hideki Matsuyama – Yes, I am going a little out on a limb here but Hideki is constantly buzzing around the top of leaderboards. He is currently ranked 10th in Shots gained off the tee and third in approach to the green. Of course, like many others, his putting is where he usually gets in trouble and drops a few spots down the leaderboard. Like Adam Scott, if he can hit a few early ones it may bode well for Hideki and we could see him with his first major.
Dustin Johnson – He has been knocking on the major door for a few years now. We all know the story of his 2010 82 in the final round of the US Open when he entered as the leader. Then we had the horrible putting display last year on 18 when he 3-putted the par 5 (An eagle would have won the US Open, a birdie would have forced a playoff).
So where does this lead us. It leads us to Oakmont and Dustin has to break out at some point. So why not here? The course requires long hitters and precise iron shots. Can DJ handle both of those? Yes. Again it comes down to putting and I’m worried that DJ will crack when he misses a 5-footer. It could go sideways from there.
So who is my winner? I’m going to play it safe and go with Jason Day. He lives in Ohio, not very far from where the US Open is being played. He has the full package: long and accurate driver of the ball, great approach shots, solid around the greens, and strong putter. Let’s hope the vertigo stays away because if it does it will be a happy Father’s Day late Sunday afternoon for Dash and Lucy’s favorite golfer.