Tag Archives: Luke Donald

2012 U.S. Open Picks

Olympic Club

The golfing gods and the USGA have left us with a truly tantalizing mix of events and pairings in advance of the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco.  As in all U.S. Opens, the premium will be on driving accuracy and putting (specifically in the 5-10 foot range) so let’s get to the analysis:

On everyone’s mind is Tiger Woods.  Can the two-time winner in 2012 sustain his newly regained momentum on what arguably could be considered a home field advantage?  You’ll recall Tiger played his collegiate golf at Stanford and is a California native so this a home game.  Olympic will favor the straightest of hitters and Tiger has found the go-to stinger shot that will get him in the fairway.  He leads the tour in total driving and is incredibly 24th in driving accuracy.  Ball striking consistency is becoming less of an issue, but on course adjustments seem to allude him because he’s still plagued by mechanical corrections and thinking issues when his swing is off.  Tiger’s putting is coming around as well, and he’s ranked 8th from 5-10 feet.  He’s not all the way back but is a serious contender.

Phil “Check your cell phone” Mickelson is also a California native and is partial to west coast courses.  Is the mental fatigue over?  If the cell phones were a true distraction at Memorial they won’t be at Olympic because the USGA doesn’t allow them in.  I didn’t like the way that whole Memorial thing played out.

Does Bubba Watson have his mojo back?  We’ll give him a pass at Memorial to bang the rust off his layoff.  His record in the U.S. Open is spotty with his best finish being a tie for fifth in 2007 at Oakmont.  The key for Bubba is keeping it in the fairway and exhibiting enough coolness under fire.  Last year at Congressional, he lost his composure after some bad breaks.  Bubba, Tiger, and Phil are paired together in the first two rounds.  Clearly the USGA loves the Tiger-Phil matchup with the butt kicking Phil administered to Tiger at Pebble Beach creating a wonderful story line, but the throng that’s going to follow this threesome will be huge and the distractions aplenty.  This pairing will make for great theater but doesn’t help any of the three.

Luke Donald has the KPIs (18th in putting from 5-10 feet and 8th in driving accuracy) but he still hasn’t won a big one.  You need to meld killer instinct with the patience of Job to with this tournament and I’m not sure we can call Donald a killer.

Rory McIlroy is in good form in Memphis the week before and seems to have taken his issues with preparation more seriously.  If he can drive it straight enough, he’ll contend on talent alone.  Definitely has the guts and killer instinct.

Lee Westwood has half the package (driving ability) but just doesn’t putt well enough to win an Open.  Whether it’s nerve or touch, something has always been the issue with Lee’s flatstick and that’s a non-starter.  Lee, Rory, and Luke are also paired in the first two rounds and they’ve got to love this arrangement, as all the distractions and hoopla will be with the Big-3 American pairing.  Look for Luke and Rory to be in contention after Friday’s round.

Matt Kuchar mysteriously did not play Memorial this year.  I don’t like that trend because in the last two years he played Memorial two weeks before the U.S. Open and played well in both tournaments.  If you believe in trends, this is not a good one.

Dark horse contender:  Jim Furyk.  The cagey veteran is playing super consistent over his last eight events with a tie for 26th at Wells Fargo being his worst finish.  He’s presently 3rd in driving accuracy and 3rd in scoring average.  With a past U.S. Open championship on his resume, Furyk knows how to get it done and will contend.

My final 2012 U.S. Open picks.  Who do you like?

1st Place:  Rory McIlroy.

2nd Place:  Tiger Woods.

3rd Place:  Jim Furyk

2012 TPC Wrap-Up

Strange sort of PLAYERS Championship this year characterized by a lack of star power at the top, with the exception of Rickie Fowler, and no dynamic pulse pounding finish.  Again, #16, 17, and 18 played pivotal parts, but I felt like I was watching a fleet of large ships all leaking oil and trying to get to port.

Matt Kuchar

Congrats go to Matt Kuchar, for leaving the smallest oil slick, and for taking the crystal while maintaining the best attitude and biggest smile on tour.  By historical standards, Kuchar won this in traditional style by finishing 3rd in GIR which is always the key stat.  My picks of Luke Donald (6th) and David Toms (T-10th) played out well but they were never really in contention.  I was very disappointed in Hunter Mayhan’s performance as his ball striking failed him and he missed the cut.

Final impressions on the other principals:

  • Tiger Woods:  T-40th at The Masters, T-40th at THE PLAYERS.  Probably the 40th best player in the world.
  • Rickie Fowler:  This guy is the real deal.  Goes all out and made key birdies on 16 and 17 and had a great look at another on 18.  LOVE to watch him in the hunt.
  • Lee Westwood:  Another good ball striking week but same old story with the putter.
  • Has anyone noticed that Charlie Wi cannot play on the weekend?  Poor Charlie is 14th on tour with his pre-cut scoring average (70.04) and 165th in final round scoring (73.11).
  • Kevin Na:  3rd round leader and total basket case on the tee with more false starts, waggles, practice swings and self admonishments BEFORE THE BALL IS STRUCK than I can remember.  Don’t think it would be pleasant playing with Kevin until he gets these worked out and was worried that Kuchar would get distracted.  Not the case, though.
  • Rory McIlroy:  Didn’t drive it straight, didn’t hit greens, didn’t make the cut.  Didn’t have high hopes for him this week but he underachieved even my lowly expectations, and again on one of the biggest stages.

2012 TPC Picks

The Tournament Players Club at Ponte Vedra is one of the greatest venues for stadium golf in the world and The PLAYERS Championship is arguably the strongest field of the year because it’s open to only the highest ranking professionals.  Picking a winner is like shooting fish in a barrel since the course favors accuracy over length and the potpourri of recent champions bears that out.  The winner is usually the one who drives it the straightest, hits the most greens in regulation, and can handle #16, 17, and 18 on Sunday.  The pressure in the final three holes is immense and has broken many a golfer’s heart. 

In recent history, the champions haven’t necessarily won the week before, or even in the same season but are generally in good form for the previous month.  With that in mind here are your winning picks for 2012:

PLAYERS Champ:  Luke Donald.  I like him on the strength of his iron game and high GIR potential.  Conventional thinking has this coming down to a head-to-head matchup with Rory McIlroy, but I’m a little cool to McIlroy’s 78th place ranking in driving accuracy and 76th place ranking in GIR.  Donald is in good form after winning twice, and had a strong fourth place finish here last year.  I love his nonchalant approach to the #1 world ranking and results in general.  He stays in the moment quite well.  Luke’s ready, and will take the first step towards winning a major with a victory here.

Runner Up:  Hunter Mayhan.  I actually like his ball striking better than Donald’s but his short game is so inferior to Luke’s that you have to give Donald the edge.  If Mayhan can stay out of the bunkers (149th on Tour) he’s got a shot to win it but I need to see a win in a big tournament like this before I give him the nod.  The image of his chunked chip in the Ryder Cup is still burned in my mind.  Is it still in his?

Third Place:  David Toms.  I’m allowing myself one horses-for-courses pick and Toms drives it straight and had a great TPC last year despite losing in a playoff to K.J. Choi.  Also seems to be rounding into form at Wells Fargo after three solid rounds.  Momentum is often fleeting on the PGA Tour from week to week, but I’ll ride this horse to a very high finish.

Notes on the field:  Bubba Watson is burned out and will not play.  Tiger Woods has taken a step back with his missed cut at Wells Fargo and insistence on the root cause being the swing corrections he and Sean (Foley) are working on.  Really?  Thought he had it worked out after winning at Bay Hill.  Again, Tiger has morphed into merely a good PGA caliber pro with a very a high focus on swing mechanics and a long record of success, but in a different virtual lifetime.  He’s a very poor pick on this layout since the premium is on ball striking.   Last year, Rory McIlroy played the stupid shot off the tree root that injured himself, but he’s in good form at Wells Fargo.  I think he comes up short for reasons mentioned earlier.  Phil Mickelson is a past champion, but is driving it too inconsistently to threaten.  Lee Westwood could make some noise as the venue suits his ball striking, and the greens will not be as fast as Augusta National.  With a little less pressure than a major watch him.

Looking forward to some excellent play and a thrilling Sunday finish.  Who are your top three picks?