The 114th United States Open Championship is just over a week away. The world’s best will make the long-awaited pilgrimage to Pinehurst, North Carolina to vie for the coveted title of US Open Champion.
The second Major of the year, scheduled for June 12–15; will be played on the No. 2 Course, which is famous for hosting the US Open twice since 1999. This majestic par 72 course, the 7495 yard creation of Donald Ross, will test the skill, determination and focus of all participants.
The 156-player event captures the golfing world like most majors. Unlike other professional tournaments, the United States Golf Association (USGA) controls all aspects of the US Open. Anyone can qualify for this prestigious tournament, however the competition is exceptionally tough and the chance of success is extremely low.
The USGA sets exacting rules for their championship. The most famous is the length of the treacherous rough.
“The rough should be of sufficient height to provide a significant problem… The USGA believes that the penalty for straying off the fairway should be about one-half stroke. The desired height of the rough depends on the type of grass involved… (approximately) 3 and 6 inches, except that there is a strip of rough about 6 feet wide just off the fairways… Less punitive rough would be advisable for most club competitions as it increases the time spent searching for balls and leads to slower play.”
Their unwavering standards have caused many a player to self-destruct during the final round.
As the top players in the world congregate at Pinehurst, the media will speculate about who will play well; who will complain about the conditions; and who will choke down the stretch. The US Open is the most difficult Major – bar none! Adding to the length of this monster course and murderous rough, the weather will have a tremendous effect on the outcome of the tournament. At this time, the forecast is for thunder showers all four days with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), but will feel like 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit). Everything combined will surely test the contenders on every shot!
The competition to be crowned US Open Champion will be very tough this year! The world’s greats will all be there except for one. Not to mention Tiger Woods would not do justice to this Major. Always a factor in big tournaments, he will be missed; however, his absence will not take away from the hype, excitement or drama that all Majors garner.
The pundits have already started to pontificate and the self-professed arm-chair experts are making their predictions. The difficulty of picking a winner is compounded by the constant changes to the plethora of variables related to any golf tournament. Who is going out early? Who is starting on the back nine? Will the weather change drastically throughout the four days? Who is feeling good? Who has outside influences that may affect their game? The questions go on and on!
After looking at the field, the following are The Grateful Golfer’s top picks for the week.
Jordan Spieth – This is a no brainer. He finished at the top of most leaderboards and rises to the occasion in big tournaments. He has the total game and if he putts well, will be tough to beat.
Dustin Johnson – His length is his greatest asset. His game is well suited for the 7495 yard beast that awaits the field. If he is hitting the ball well off the tee, his strong iron play will likely vault him over the top.
Rory McIlroy – his recent win at the BMW PGA Championship seems to have righted his ship. He appears focused, playing extremely well and if he stays zeroed in on the prize, has a fantastic chance at his second US Open.
Phil Mickelson – This is likely Mickelson’s last year to win the US Open. Finishing second six times previously is inconceivable. Mickelson has the complete game and if he forgets his current off course challenges, he has a great chance to pull it off.
Ernie Els – A two-time US Open Champion, this old lion has played extremely well over the past 4 years. He is competitive, long and well-tempered for this pressure packed tournament. If he gets off to a quick start, he will be extremely hard to beat.
Sergio Garcia – The Spaniard has experienced moderate success at the US Open. However, this year he is playing extremely well. He appears to have regained some of his magic of early years and hopes to leverage that into a win!
Any one of these six players has a strong chance to win the 114th US Open. It will take tremendous focus and mental fortitude to raise the US Open Trophy over their heads. Regardless, it will be extremely exciting to watch the world’s best professional and amateur golfers compete at the toughest Major of the year.
For those who are keeping track – The Grateful Golfer predicts Dustin Johnson as the winner of the 114th US Open Championship.
The Grateful Golfer, Pundit Arena.