I think I’ve been a little too overly excited for the the upcoming US Open at Pebble Beach, mainly because it’s at my former workplace, which is why I started the stories from Pebble Beach series earlier this year. I’ve never seen the course set at an open level, but know that even back when I was working there from 2004-2006 they were continually adding in obstacles and changing tee boxes to make the course tougher for this very event. Hopefully this time around it won’t be a blowout like the 2000 US Open at Pebble where Tiger won by a ridiculous 15 strokes. It sounds like nearly every hole has been changed since Tiger’s dominating US Open, whether it’s an added bunker or trees, a little extra length off the tee, narrowed fairways (they moved many fairways closer to the cliffs), etc. We all know about the length of the rough in the Open, and that will surely cause the players the most grief over this weekend. It sounds like it’s going to be a chilly weekend in the Monterey Penninsula, so hopefully the wind kicks up too making it tougher to shoot low. I’d like to see some 4 or 5 irons being used on the famous 109 yard par 3 7th hole. Here’s a few players that I’ll be looking forward to watching how their weekend unfolds…
Dustin Johnson – He is my dark horse candidate to win this tourney, and with 40 to 1 odds, I think I might have to throw some money on him. He has won the last two AT&T Pro-Am’s at Pebble Beach. Sure, he wasn’t against as talented of a field that he will face this weekend or the same course for that matter, but DJ is for real, and could make a splash at the venue he has dominated in recent memory.
Phil Mickelson –
He didn’t fare too well in the 2000 US Open, but has won the AT&T Pro-Am three times at Pebble Beach (one of which I saw in person). The crowd loves the guy as it’s nearly impossible for anyone not to like him. He gave the guy who cleaned his shoes a $1,000 tip after winning the AT&T in 2005 (the one I saw), and it was just one more reason for my mancrush to grow, and probably made me pull for him in every tourney he enters in. I think the whole being ranked as the number one golfer in the world would be a nice and all, but it would be a small consolation prize to winning the one major that has eluded him so many times, whether it was his own self destruction (Bethpage) or just being too far behind to catch up (everywhere else). He has finished 2nd in the US Open five times, so he’s about as due as anyone to break through, and it’s a sign that he knows how to grind it out without getting frustrated.
Tiger Woods – You can’t really call this much of a preview unless I talk a little about Tiger somewhere along the way. People seem to think he’s getting his touch back, maybe because he’s smiling again for the first time in awhile, whatever the case, the main question for Tiger will be; can he hit the fairways? That has been his biggest problem over his first few tourney’s this year, and if he’s in the deep US Open rough it will be hard for him to compete if he can’t keep the ball on the short grass. Pebble has narrowed the fairways and made them as fast as possible to try and roll the balls into the rough. Tiger hasn’t played at Pebble since 2002, and when he left the course that time he was bitching about the greens. Since Pebble is a public course, it does get its fair share of play, but it was just one more reason for me to NOT like him at the time… He’s number one on the tour this year in putting, so that will be a huge factor if he can stay in the fairways, and continually hit the greens in regulation. I hope he loses, but still want to see him in the top five to make it more entertaining on Sunday!
Lee Westwood – He has slowly become the best player to not win a major (a less than attractive title that nobody wants to own). The guy has been on fire for the last year and counting, and should have a good showing, since he’s been in the top 5 of nearly every major he enters lately. I have my doubts about Westwood, he seems like he doesn’t have that ability to sink a birdie during the opportune times when it counts the most, and pull away from the field for good.
Another thing he has going against him, is that he is a European player, and they don’t usually fare too well in the US Open. Europe’s last winner was Tony Jacklin in 1970. I don’t even know who that guy is, but a 40 year drought for European’s is enough to make me think Westwood won’t be taking home this major.
Jim Furyk – Jimmy Furry has done well so far this year, and has won two events already. It shouldn’t be surprising he’s playing well, because he’s a guy you always see in the mix. I’m not sure I have that much confidence in him to take the championship, but his game fits the small greens at Pebble. He’s precise, and that’s what you need to succeed this weekend. I’d say either him or Stricker will be somewhere in contention or maybe both since both their games cater to a course like Pebble.
Tom Watson – The 60 year old is the only player to have played in all five of the US Open’s held at Pebble Beach. He even pulled out a victory in the 1982 Open taking out Jack Nicklaus with a chip in birdie on the 17th hole to seal the deal. I hope he comes close to his performance that he had in the Masters where he was a contender for the first two days, or even mirrors his runner up finish in the British Open last year. So there’s a Llyod Christmas type chance he could defy the odds in this one. Let’s just hope this isn’t his last tour of the majors before he ends up on the Senior Circuit…