The 2014 U.S. Open is setting up to play out as one of the most intriguing majors in recent memory. Will the back-to-back line up with the Women’s Open have an impact? You bet it will, as will the course redesign by Coors and Crenshaw in 2010. Picking a winner this early requires some deep analysis. Let’s go out on a limb and make a prognostication without seeing results from The Memorial, because I’m gearing up for my own U.S. Open (Myrtle Beach trip) and can’t take the time next weekend. So here’s your early winning pick – call your bookie now to get the best odds :)
When I traveled in 2011 and played Pinehurst #2, along with gathering data for the course review, I was trying to evaluate how this storied venue would stack up for the Open after the redesign. What immediately struck me was how wide open it was off the tee. I had mentally prepared to be hitting a lot of 3WDs but ended up with driver on every par 4 and 5. We were playing if from the same yardage as the women will play the following week, but noticed that our tee shots were landing with ample room in the fairways and there was literally no rough. The natural waste areas were mostly sand but were not played as a hazard (unless you were in a bunker within the waste areas). I thought the way they had these laid out was awkward and it would be difficult to determine how to play if your ball was on the edge of a bunker. Expect an abundance of USGA officials traveling with each group to speed along ruling inquiries, but the main takeaway is that unlike most U.S. Open venues, the rough will not be the penal impediment it usually is.
Pinehurst’s crowned greens will be the course’s main defense, BUT they won’t be able to shave them down and dry them out almost to the point of burning them because of the Women’s Open immediately following. So with small reasonably well watered greens, expect some diabolical pin placements and a premium on chipping, missing the greens on the correct side, and solid bunker play; but not a fairways and greens affair.
This sets up perfectly for Matt Kuchar who will win the tournament.
Kuchar is not the greatest driver of the ball but has a wonderful short game, is getting in contention with every major, is from the southeast, and just feels like the right pick. I’m giving him a pass on the missed cut at Colonial.
Justin Rose is the defending champion and his golf swing looks great. He’s over his shoulder injury and actually seems rather bulked up (have you noticed too?) and I’m wondering if he’s been collaborating with Tiger The Gym Rat Woods, considering they both work with Sean Foley. Normally, I’d take Rose to repeat in a ball striking competition, but his short game is not strong enough. His form is good for a top 10, though.
Coming in a close second again is the hottest golf property on the planet, Jordan Spieth. He is getting so close, is so mentally mature and tough, that it’s just a matter of time; just not this time.
So that brings us to Phil Mickelson, who would be the perfect pick for the way this course sets up. Phil is without a top 10 this year and despite finishing second at Pinehurst to Payne Stewart back in 1999, Lefty will remain a sentimental pick.
So what about Rory McIlroy and Woz-gate? Good timing or bad? I say bad and a missed cut.
So there you have it with Koooch finally getting his first major. You like this pick or someone else?