As the U.S. Open begins play on Thursday, some of the staff at ProGolfNow have picked our winners. Four writers, four players. Here’s who we like at Shinnecock Hills.
The U.S. Open is underway at Shinnecock Hills, and the staff here at ProGolfNow have submitted their picks. This is one of the toughest majors to predict, with wild weather, a difficult course that hasn’t been seen for nearly 15 years, and a powerhouse field. Still, we gave it the old college try.
Because of all the variables, it should come as no surprise that out of our team of four writers, four different players are coming out on top. All have good reason, and all have (at least for the moment) a chance at major championship history.
With no further ado, let’s jump right in. When you’re done, let us know who you like – and whether or not any of us are out of our minds – in the comments below.
Kathy Bissell: Short game and nerves will determine the U.S. Open winner
The player who wins the U.S. Open at Shinnecock will have a short game as good as Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth or Sergio Garcia and be able to keep the ball findable, or, as they liked to say in Men in Blackon the planet.
While Mickelson, Spieth and Garcia have great short games, the first two have never been known to spend a lot of time in the fairway. Of course, as Tiger Woods showed us, hitting fairways isn’t as important as it once was.
Regardless, needing to hit fairways brings in a lot of players: Justin Thomas. Rickie Fowler. Dustin Johnson. Henrik Stenson. Jason Day. Maybe Patrick Reed. And more.
Tiger Woods is still exceptional out of trouble, although the rest of his game may not be U.S. Open ready.
The last three U.S. Open winners at Shinnecock were Raymond Floyd, Corey Pavin and Retief Goosen. None known for length, but all known for impeccable short games.
There was a time when you would bet on Floyd to hole anything he needed to make from just off the green. We’ve all seen what Garcia can do with his short game in Ryder Cup. Goosen, particularly, used to chip and putt like a crazy man.
However, I don’t know who, today, other than Spieth, Mickelson, and Garcia, have the kind of short game that Retief Goosen demonstrated both at Southern Hills and at Shinnecock.
At Southern Hills, in the U.S. Open playoff, I don’t think Goosen hit a green on the front nine. That’s not much of an exaggeration. I’ve never seen a guy make so many pars from bunkers and grass and other places not on the putting surface as he did there. Then in 2004 at Shinnecock, he was apparently the only guy who could land a ball close enough to have a chip and a putt or who could actually land a ball that would stay on the green. He won at both places.
Unfortunately, the typical stat categories are not going to be meaningful because scrambling from actual rough this week will be impossible. Stats are totally unhelpful. Again, the winner will have to keep it in grass that he can hit from. Neither Mickelson nor Spieth are going to lead in that category any time soon. But Garcia might. Thomas might. Johnson definitely could. Stenson could.
So take your pick of the big names, but the winner is going to be the one with the best short game this week and the one who can handle the nerves of a U.S. Open.
David McPherson: Tiger Woods can rekindle U.S. Open magic of a decade ago
Why? Why not! Sure, it’s been a decade since Tiger won his last U.S. Open title and the last of his 14 major championships. And, in the two most recent times Shinnecock Hills hosted the year’s second major Woods has not fared great (T17 in 2004; WD in 1995). Those are past performances…just stats in a history book.
Tiger’s game is trending in the right direction. In his nine PGA TOUR starts this season he has produced six top-25 finishes and two top-10s. He has been in contention. Lately, the flat stick has let him down. At the Memorial he missed seven putts inside 5 feet and 15 putts inside 10 feet. Shinnecock’s greens are a different type of grass – one Tiger grew up on. He’s confident these putting surfaces will suit his game.
I’m confident this is the week the 42-year-old former World No.1 closes the deal.
Follow David on Twitter @mcphersoncomm.
Mike Randleman: Justin Rose wins his second U.S. Open this week
Justin Rose was a worthy champion when he prevailed at Merion in 2013 and is in fine form to win his second major. Fresh off a win at Colonial a few weeks ago and a top-10 against a loaded field at the Memorial in his last start, Rose’s ball striking suits Shinnecock well. If he doesn’t win, he’s reliable to at least play all four rounds; Rose hasn’t missed a cut in a year. It may be a boring pick, but the Englishman’s machine-like consistency is valued this week.
Brandon Raper: Dustin Johnson keeps it rolling with a dominant U.S. Open win
Dustin Johnson is my pick to bring home the title from Shinnecock Hills this week. I know the history – no player has won the week before the U.S. Open, and then won the major. I also know that there’s no better golfer on the planet today than DJ, and that matters more than any statistic.
Don’t get me wrong. I want – desperately – for Phil Mickelson to win this week, but Shinnecock Hills simply doesn’t set up particularly well for his game. Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods can’t putt right now. Justin Rose is hot, and so is Justin Thomas. Heck, Thomas is (statistically) basically a clone of DJ. But Johnson is on a different level, and I can’t pass on the hot hand.
Shinnecock will test Johnson, to be sure. But if he can’t overpower the course, he’ll break it with his wedges and putter. Johnson ranks 23rd on TOUR in proximity to the hole on approach, 20th in greens in regulation, and 20th in strokes gained putting.
The key for DJ will be keeping his head on straight, and he’s got the experience from recent U.S. Opens to handle pretty much any adversity the course can throw at him. As long as he doesn’t play his way out of contention early. he’ll simply lean on the field and wear them out down the stretch.
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The best player in the world wins the toughest tournament in the world. It seems simple, and maybe this time it is.