It’s the middle of June and golf season is in full bloom. It should be an incredible tournament as the US Open heads back to Pebble Beach after a decade. I can’t help but think, has that much really changed? Looking at the leaderboard ten years ago showed Tiger, Els, Westwood, Jiminez, Paddy, Cink and Duval. No one would be surprised if that happened again this year. However, there have been many trials and tribulations to get to this point and I’ll look at some key things as we head back to the Beach.
Jack, Tom-Tom and Tiger are the past winners in this situation and they all did it in their own way. Jack with his Amateur and US Open wins and Tiger with his blowout. However, Tom Watson is the focus here. He competed here in ’72, ’77, ’82, and ’00. His average finish is 16th. He’s been magical in the past year and this time history is on his side. That’s not even mentioning his record at all US Opens. Look for Tom to make more magic this week.
One other note in US Open history is that in the past 18 years, 15 times the winner has come from within 4 shots of the opening round. In the past 20 years, only 4 times has the first round leader won the tournament (two of the occurences belonging to Tiger). So, look for your winner to most likely come out of the Top 10 and not be the first round leader. Looking back at results, Mr. Watson has also come out very hot in all the US Opens, so that’s another to look out for Stompin’ Tom.
These guys haven’t won a US Open in 40 years. In the past 20 years, it’s been South Africa and the US holding the trophy. I fully believe that will end this week. Some of the hottest players on the planet right now are from Europe. Luke Donald and Lee Westwood have been playing incredible golf lately and look to bring that to Pebble Beach. A pair of Northern Ireland mates, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are also playing top notch golf and can easily contend deep into the weekend. I’ll just highlight main players from some European countries who have good histories and are playing well heading into the US Open. I will also put them in order in likelihood of them winning. It’s my World Cup special.
England :: Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher
Italy :: The Super Molinari Bros.
Spain :: Alvaro Quiros, Sergio Garcia and Miguel “The Mechanic” Jiminez
Germany :: Martin Kaymer
Sweden :: Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson
This list is ridiculous. I think Fisher and Kaymer are the real dark horses here. They both played great last year and can play on the big stage. I really feel as though a Brit will win it. Luke Donald is the hottest player in the world and Westwood is right behind him. One of these two will win and if they don’t, the European talent pool is too deep for this drought to last any longer.
Almost all of the focus will be on Tiger this week and it is well deserved. But he’s had his decade of glory and we’re looking at a completely different animal (what a pun). I will outline five Nike golfers who have the best chances of winning it all. Below are the swooshers entered in this week’s major (sadly, AK is still injured);
This could very well be Tiger Week (take that, Shark Week) if he magically pulls his game together on the course. Coachless, Tiger has been spraying the ball recently, but I just think that Pebble magic will creep back into him. Also, it’s a major and you can usually count on his game then. His first week back at the Masters was proof of that, if his neck was bothering him there. Tiger likes big venues and familiar ones. I don’t see him winning, but I see an easy Top 25 at least.
PC is a real underdog this week and I think that will work to his advantage. While The Masters has been his best major and he’s struggled at US Opens, Casey has battled back this year through injury and won’t be playing with a lot of pressure. Let’s not forget he was the best player in the world during mid-February to mid-March.
This could be Schwartzel’s big coming out party. South African history is on his side, too. While Ernie and Retief have had two US Open wins each, Charl has shown his big game at the WGC events where the fields are world-class. He’s also second in the Race to Dubai on the European Tour and could be well rested headed into this week.
Duval and Watson could be the big stories again this year, only in the same tournament. History is on his side as he finished 2nd at last year at Bethpage and also 2nd in this year’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am. His record is very similar to that of last years, except for his excellent showing at Pebble Beach. I think he has a great shot at finishing the highest out of all the Nike athletes.
Cink always plays well this time of year. Basically for the past 5 years, he’s had three straight Top 25’s heading into the US Open and always keeps the streak going. He’s said himself that this would mean more than his win at Turnberry and with so many storylines, he can let his golf do the talking. He also had a T8 back in 2000 at Pebble Beach and will have a good finish again this year.
It should be an amazing week and Bob will take a closer look at some of the Nike athletes later this week.
This was the second post in NG Nation’s US Open week (athlete scripting is also live) and here’s a look at what’s in store:
- Editorial: Tiger, Lucas and David – Do They Have a Chance?
- Custom U.S. Open Apparel and Footwear for Nike Golf Athletes
- Fantasy Four: U.S. Open Edition
- Nike Golf Athletes in the Field: 6.17-6.20
- Pictures and Video from Bob on site
It will be an amazing week and I can only be so bold as to say, history will be made.