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It’s one of my favorite times of the year. The 112th United States Open is just around the corner, and it can’t get here fast enough. After the debauchery of last year’s Open, we can only imagine what the USGA has up its sleeve for Olympic. The last time Olympic hosted the Open was 1998, and it turned out to be one of the best Opens of the past 20 years. It has been five years since the last truly great U.S. Open, and if there is a perfect site for the USGA to redeem themselves, it is Olympic.
Take one look at the results from 1998, and it becomes obvious that the winner is going to have the drive the ball exceptionally. The winning score will depend on what the weather does. Dry conditions should see anything under par win, so hopefully there is no rain.
There are currently eleven Americans in the top twenty of the World Ranking. And dammit, that’s how it should be, especially for this tournament. This number is back up where it was ten years ago when the Americans were unbeatable. With Tiger trying to find his A consistently, the others are stepping up. Bubba took on the internationals in April and came out victorious. So, who will do it next week? Let’s look at the field.
It’s hard to bet against him when he is driving the ball so well. The big question with Tiger is his short game. He will drive the ball well enough to win, but will he chip and putt like he did back in 2008? Every time Tiger has won the U.S. Open, he has done so with an under par total. I’d like to think anything under par will win this year, but it could be very gettable with Mike Davis as Executive Director.
Is this the year Phil wins his first Open? I say no. Phil is not sporting his A game, and with a demanding test off the tee, Olympic isn’t the kind of course that suits his game. Phil will, without a doubt, be in the running for the favorite, but realistically a top ten for Phil will be surprising.
Since he won the Masters, golf has taken a back seat. I appreciate that about Bubba, but it’s not a good sign for this weekend. If Bubba can drive the ball like he did a couple of months ago, he is the favorite. Bubba has the ability to overpower this course, and if he controls the blowup holes, he is looking at a good chance to win the first two majors of 2012.
Kuchar was the low amateur in 1998. His game is much better than it was fourteen years ago, and I like his chances. He drove the ball great at the Players, which puts him in the conversation. However, without a great power game, Kuchar will need to be sharp if he wants to have a shot. He will have one good round, but can he put four together? That is the big question.
Mahan started off the season red hot. Although he has cooled off significantly, there is a lot of Payne Stewart in his game. He will need to bring his best short game to contend, but this is just the site for his major breakthough. Keep an eye on him.
Dufner is the hottest player on the planet, but questionable play in the final round of Colonial leaves a few questions. Dufner hates putting, so it seems improbable for his short game to stay sharp enough to win. However, he has contended in the previous two majors and was a shot away from winning his third straight tournament, so it’s hard to bet against the man.
Aside from his win in Hawaii, Stricker has had a very disappointing season. He was a contender at Olympic in 1998, and this is a great venue to bring out his game.
Peterson qualified Monday with rounds of 64 and 68. He won the NCAA tournament last year and has played solid in three starts this season. A win for him isn’t likely, but don’t be surprised if he has a tee time Sunday Afternoon.