MR S RIPE FOR US OPEN PICKING
ALL the usual suspects will be there.
They will arrive, some in red-hot form – others not.
The punters, too, will line up and attempt to pick out one.
The usual suspects are the US Open pretournament favourites at Chambers Bay Golf Club on the shoreline of Washington’s lower Puget Sound from June 18-21.
There will be Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, defending
champion Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose, Patrick Reed, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els and Tiger Woods.
Without doubt, McIlroy and Spieth will be at the top of everyone’s win list.
Both are in form with Spieth, the Masters champion, picking up seven top-10s in 11 starts while McIlroy has wins at the Dubai Desert Classic, the Wells Fargo Championship and the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship, as well as a number of runnerup finishes.
Mickelson, who turns 45 two days before the tournament starts, is desperate to win his first US Open to add to the Masters, Open Championship and US PGA. And Tiger, well, who knows with him. Scott, Day, Watson and Rose, who won in 2013, are difficult to judge and could be there or thereabouts when the final putt drops.
Els and Furyk are playing well and both have won the US Open, but father-time is almost against them. Both are 45 years old.
Still, Hale Irwin was 45 years and 15 days old when he won in 1990 so they have reason to dream.
The odds of reigning champion Kaymer winning back-to-back are slim.
Only six players have achieved this in the tournament’s 120-year history – Willie Anderson (1903-05), John McDermott (191112), Bobby Jones (1929-30), Ralph Guldahl (1937-38), Ben Hogan (1950-51) and Curtis Strange (1988-89).
Dustin Johnson is a solid choice. At the time of writing, he had played eight tournaments for five top-10s including a win at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship in March. Impressive.
He is yet to win a major and it will be interesting to see how the game’s longest-hitter tackles this links-style layout.
If he comes up 30 metres short of the green, will he throw his lob wedge high in the air from a tight lie, putt or play a bump-and-run shot using his three-metal. Chambers Bay head pro Brent Zepp favours the bump-and-run from tight lies.
Sergio Garcia is desperate to get the aging monkey off his back and win his first major, but as each one comes and goes, the pressure mounts.
Jimmy Walker, who already has two wins this season, could pose a threat along with Fowler.
Young Rickie was the best performer in the four majors last year finishing top-five in all.
Fowler’s form (12th at the Masters) is solid, with three top-10s and a win from 11 starts this season. Don’t leave him out of the equation.
Any of the above players could win the US Open, but so could of a lot of others.
Why? Because the favourites don’t always win the US Open.
There have been plenty of surprise winners down the years. Think Lucas Glover, Michael Campbell, Steve Jones, Andy North, Corey
Pavin, Dick Mayer and Jack Fleck who defeated Ben Hogan in a playoff in 1955.
Who would have picked last year’s winner Martin Kaymer?
Yes, bizarre things do happen when it comes to the US Open and is likely to happen again this year.
Chambers Bay is a links-style course, which might favour the Europeans – McIlroy, Rose,
Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Garcia or South African Louis Oosthuizen, who won the Open Championship in a canter at St Andrews in 2010.
Four of the past five winners have been European. Graeme McDowell in 2010, Rory in 2011, Rose in 2013 and Kaymer last year. American Webb Simpson won in 2012. That’s why I am tipping Henrik Stenson. I don’t know why, but I have a gut feeling.
The 39-year-old Swede won the Race to Dubai and has three top-10s from eight starts this season.
Okay, he is not overly long off the tee, but his driving accuracy and his greens in regulation percentages are at more than 72 per cent.
He ranks second in strokes gained, tee-togreen and first in strokes gained, putting.
I know – I’ve been known to jinx players I predict will win.
Anyway, Stenson’s challengers could well be Japan’s Heidiki Matsuyama, who has seven top10s from 15 starts this year, and Brooks Koepka, a big-hitting American with a bright future.
He has not missed a cut this year, has three top10s and is ranked 20th in the world.
Of the Aussies, I like the way Day is going about his work and Scott, well, he’s just one of the game’s great ball-strikers.
If Adam “Come on Aussie” Scott can sort out his putting woes, look out.
But weird things do happen at the US Open and it will happen again when Mr Stenson hoists the trophy.
Rickie Fowler Jordan Spieth