US Open Golf 2012: Where Best Golfers Will Finish
On Thursday at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, the best of the best in golf suffered from this little thing called "being human."
Only Tiger Woods and Justin Rose shot anything respectable (both minus-1 for the day).
The rest of the field quite frankly stunk—or is it stank? Or stinky?
Whatever it should be, it was nasty.
This could easily become one of those U.S. Opens in which the winner comes in right around minus-1 or minus-2.
Will any of the top players end up there on Sunday?
Here are some reasonable predictions for the final three rounds of the 2012 U.S. Open.
Of the great players in the game (and somehow Woods is still considered among that group, despite sucking for the last two years), Tiger Woods played the best golf on Thursday at Olympic Club.
At one-under par, Woods is still three shots off the lead after the first day. However, at least Woods put himself in a position to contend after the first day. That's more than elite players such as Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy can say.
Look for Woods to stay close all weekend, but to fold on day four as he has made a nasty habit of over the past two years. I don't know for sure who will win, but I think it's fair to say it won't be Woods.
Day one does not make a tournament. Even though he stayed close, Woods is nowhere near over the hump.
The only other member of the World Golf Rankings Top 10 to play under par on Thursday was Justin Rose (minus-1).
Rose has never won a major golf tournament, and hasn't even been close in recent memory.
However, on Thursday at Olympic Club, Rose looked the part of a potential U.S. Open winner. Considering that many recent U.S. Opens have been won by non-Americans, Rose certainly fits the profile.
It's almost impossible to say who will win after just one day, but Rose will finish in the top-three in this tournament. He's too good not to get that done this year.
Shooting even on day one of the U.S. Open is good.
Doing so on a day when the leader Michael Thompson shot just four-under is great.
Kuchar sitting tied for seventh after the first day is fabulous. Though Rory McIlroy went four consecutive rounds as the leader at the end of the day in last year's open, such an occurrence would be more than a fluke this year.
He doesn't have to play perfect golf to catch up. In fact, all he has to do is play one or two-under for the rest of the tournament and he'll put himself in the best possible position to win it all.
If I had to choose one player right now to win this golf tournament, that player would be Kuchar.
At two-over, Jason Dufner kept himself in the golf tournament on Thursday.
Friday needs to be moving day for him.
He doesn't figure to face much danger of not making the cut, but if he stays even on Friday, it is possible that some players could run away from him.
Dufner, the hottest player in golf, should improve his play over the next three days in pursuit of his first major victory.
If he can, he figures to cop a top-five finish at Olympic Club.
Rickie Fowler tied Jason Dufner in the first round with a two-over-par 72. For the young man with the bro hats and skinny mustache, Thursday was only an average round.
However, like Dufner, it was enough to keep him in contention.
Fowler didn't play his best golf on Thursday, which is actually something he can view as a positive. If he is able to take that positive approach, he can make Thursday his weakest outing of the week.
If he does that, he's got a chance to do some major damage come Sunday.
I have a feeling he will do exactly that, but ultimately fall short.
Look for the young Oklahoma State Cowboy alum to place in the top-five for the second time in a major.
Lee Westwood made a habit of pointing into the woods and yelling "FORE!" quite often on Thursday.
Even so, he managed a plus-three score and remains somewhat in contention, if he can put together three rounds significantly better than the one he registered on Thursday.
Westwood has played well in majors over the last two years. For that reason, it is a good bet Westwood will take charge over the course of the weekend and make a significant run on Saturday and Sunday.
Expect another top-10 finish out of the No. 3 player in the world.
Few players possess the talent that Sergio Garcia has in his right pinkie. If they did, it's possible they'd have multiple major championships to their name.
Bad breaks have bewildered the 32-year-old Spaniard for over a decade.
On Thursday, Garcia played okay, but still found himself at three-over-par after one day.
Everyone loves to root for Sergio, but it still appears likely he will go winless in another major. Expect the super-talented player to make a few nice shots, but never truly contend at this U.S. Open.
Even at age 41, Phil Mickelson remains one of the best players in golf.
On Thursday, as he was paired with his rival Tiger Woods and Masters champion Bubba Watson, it was awfully hard to tell.
The six-over-par score Phil registered was hardly anticipated and even less appreciated by the No. 13 player in the world. That score left Mickelson tied for 93rd place after day one.
At this rate, he is unlikely to make the cut. Of course, Mickelson rarely plays two poor rounds back-to-back. If he can avoid such a fate, he ought to make it through the weekend.
Nonetheless, Thursday's round makes it unlikely Mickelson will contend this weekend at the Olympic Club.
Rory McIlroy wasn't the only one who wanted to cover his face from the terror of his round on Thursday afternoon.
Any fan, golf coach or commentator who watched any part of McIlroy's round on Thursday probably wanted to run away and hide at the site of McIlroy on the course.
His hideous play was matched by few players, and the fact he did so after winning last year's U.S. Open makes his round that much more confounding.
He has the talent to recover and get himself back in contention, but at this stage that seems unlikely.
As a result, look for McIlroy to merely play out the weekend and finish in the top 50.
Bubba Watson, the 2012 Masters champion, struggled mightily on Thursday.
Among the game's top players, Watson was by far the worst (the incredibly overrated Luke Donald doesn't count), coming in at eight-over-par.
It's going to take a ballsy effort, similar to the one he had on the second playoff hole at Augusta, just to make the cut in this year's tournament.
With zero offense meant towards Watson, it would hardly surprise me if he follows up Thursday's awful round with another clunker.
Watson more than struggled, as was the case with the majority of players on this list. Watson is the only one who doesn't figure to find his way back inside the limits of the cut.
Friday will give us a much clearer view, though.