U.S. Open Golf 2012 Power Rankings: Top 10 at Olympic Club

Ron Juckett@ronjuckettContributor IIIJune 12, 2012

U.S. Open Golf 2012 Power Rankings: Top 10 at Olympic Club

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    While 156 of the world’s best golfers will tee it up starting Thursday morning at Olympic Club for the 112th playing of the United States Open, realistically, only a handful of players have a shot of winning the toughest trophy in golf.

    The United States Golf Association invites the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings to play every year. The OWGR is a complicated system, awarding points to players in each of the world’s major pro tours by how a player finishes in any given week and how strong the field is. The more top players in a tournament, the more points one can earn with a great finish.

    While not a perfect system, it does give the fan a good, solid snapshot of who the best of the best are on any given week. Being a fickle sport, it is certainly very possible for someone ranked somewhere in the 100s to win a big event. Chances are, however, that it will be someone in this ranking of the top 10 that will win.

    So, with apologies to Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, who didn't make the list, here are this week’s top 10, re-ranked based on their chances of winning.

    These rankings were released Monday following the finish of the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis. 

10. Lee Westwood

1 of 10

    Age: 39

    OWGR: 3

    Best Open Finish: 3 (2008); T-3 (2011)

    What He Has To Do To Win:

    The Englishman probably now wears the mantle of the best player never to win a major. While Lee Westwood does indeed have the game to win an open, he has yet to pull it all together. He won last week on the European Tour, a rare Wednesday through Saturday event in Sweden.

    Winning back-to-back weeks is almost an impossible task. The mental work needed to throw together four good rounds is pretty draining. Add that Westwood has never won a major, and there's the reason he is ranked so low. His experience will help and, as the oldest player in these rankings, his maturity will be an asset.

    Westwood has a big advantage in being paired with Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald. If one of these big three play well, it will be good news, as golfers tend to feed off each other. If he goes into the weekend on the first page of the leaderboard, watch out.

9. Dustin Johnson

2 of 10

    Age: 27

    OWGR: 10

    Best Open Finish: T-8 (2010)

    What He Has To Do To Win:

    Like Lee Westwood, Johnson won last week on tour, despite missing most of the first half of the season with a back injury. He could, however, have an advantage in the fact that he doesn't already have 10-15 events under his belt and is still pretty fresh.

    Johnson has all the game to win an open—long off the tee and a good putter. What Johnson has lacked in the past is the game between the ears.

    He had the lead after the third round two years ago at Pebble Beach and shot an 82. And he missed out at a playoff two years ago at the PGA by grounding the club in a bunker he was not aware of, taking a two-shot penalty.

    He has to learn from those mistakes and use his brain all 72 holes to win. There is a major in him, somewhere. He can show just how much he has learned by winning at Olympic.

8. Justin Rose

3 of 10

    Age: 31

    OWGR: 7

    Best Open Finish: T-5 (2003)

    What He Has To Do To Win:

    Rose is a very capable player that has had success on both sides of the pond. He will never wow you with his length, or dazzle you with his iron play, but it takes a very vanilla kind of player to win a U.S. Open.

    It may sound simple—find the fairway off the tee, then get on the green and take the two-putt par. But this week is anything but simple. Rose, being English, will find a lot less pressure as opposed to the British Open, which he nearly won as an amateur in 1998

    The lack of public expectations works well for him. The London bookmakers would be happy to pay off a bet on Justin Rose.

7. Bubba Watson

4 of 10

    Age: 33

    OWGR: 5

    Best Open Finish: T-5 (2007)

    What He Has To Do To Win:

    No one in the field with a chance is longer off the tee than Bubba Watson.

    As he showed at The Masters, Watson has a tremendous creative side on the course that can win majors from seemingly impossible lies.

    As the only golfer this year with a shot at the grand slam, Watson’s biggest challenge will be the game between his ears.

    He has all the skills, and his short game rivals what his pink shaft can produce off the tee, but his focus will be an issue. If he can channel that, he could win and celebrate with his wife and new child.

    He has to find fairways, however. One can only make par so many times from the rough at a U.S. Open before the course gives you a double bogey. We should know Thursday if he has any shot. A bad round early ends his week.

6. Jason Dufner

5 of 10

    Age: 35

    OWGR: 9

    Best Open Finish: T-40 (2006)

    What He Has To Do To Win:

    Dufner has had a summer to remember. With two wins on his resume and a beautiful new bride, Dufner has been on a roll not often seen on tour. What is surprising, however, is that his best finish in a U.S. Open was not only six years ago, but a T-40 to boot.

    He has it all clicking now and, like Justin Rose, can fairway and green himself through four days and literally survive his way to an open title.

    While not a golfer one would bet the mortgage on in Las Vegas, he is one of those players a gambler would look at for possibilities.

    Dufner is the biggest unknown in the top 10. History is not on his side, but he is playing well.

5. Matt Kuchar

6 of 10

    Age: 33

    OWGR: 6

    Best Open Finish: T-6 (2010)

    What He Has To Do To Win:

    Don't let his smiling, low key personality fool you, Kuchar just may be the best adapter to different courses week to week on tour. He already has a USGA title on his card after winning the Amateur in 1997. He contended well into the final round at The Masters and is a very good putter.

    He will not win if scoring goes really low, anything around five or six under, but if the winning score looks like it will be around par, then he will be there.

    Kuchar will not fold easily to pressure or conditions, and sometime on Sunday a glance at the leaderboard will show him right in the thick of it.

4. Hunter Mahan

7 of 10

    Age: 30

    OWGR: 8

    Best Open Finish: T-6 (2009)

    What He Has To Do To Win:

    Hunter Mahan just needs to play his game. He defeated Rory McIlroy at the Accenture Match Play event (though it was a desert course in Arizona as supposed to an open setup). The only thing that could really rattle him would be actually being a leader late on Sunday.

    He will find the fairways he needs and make enough putts not to play himself out of contention, and he has the game to win. He just needs to show some patience with himself.

    A win for Mahan would surprise the casual fan, but those who follow the game week in and week out would not be shocked. He has the goods—the question is whether he can he do it for four days.

3. Luke Donald

8 of 10

    Age: 34

    OWGR: 1

    Best Open Finish: T-12 (2006)

    What He Has To Do To Win:

    Luke Donald has a win in Europe already this year, capturing their biggest tournament, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, England, and won here in the States this spring in Florida at the Transitions at Innisbrook. But he has yet to win a major.

    There has not been a more consistent finisher the last couple of years than Donald. He knows what to do and, if he can stay out of trouble, is comfortable enough with his game to know where to press and try to take a stroke from the course.

    Donald knows the time is now. Like all European players trying to break through, the pressure to grab that first major is easier when it is not in the UK.

2. Rory McIlroy

9 of 10

    Age: 23

    OWGR: 2

    Best Open Finish: Champion (2011)

    What He Has To Do To Win:

    The best blueprint for Rory McIlroy, one of two in the top 10 to win the U.S. Open, is to mimic what he did in last year’s romp through Congressional.

    Sometimes being young and fearless can work to a player’s advantage, and McIlroy can be pretty fearless on the course. He is the complete package of power, finesse and putting. Possibly the best talent Europe has ever produced, he just needs to quiet the outside world and play golf.

    Last week’s near miss in Memphis was a good thing. His game was solid all-around, and he will be on edge after coming so close and losing at the end.

    The young man from Norther Ireland will be under pressure to repeat. The microscope is clearly focused on him and his personal life, but he will be ready.

1. Tiger Woods

10 of 10

    Age: 36

    OWGR: 4

    Best Open Finish: Champion (2000, 2002, 2008)

    What He Has To Do To Win:

    If Tiger can do what he did two weeks ago at the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio, then he will easily win his fourth United States Open. The creativity that had been lacking for a spell while Tiger was reconfiguring his golf swing returned with a vengeance with that flop-shot birdie he made at 16 on Sunday.

    He knows what it takes to win the Open as he already has three to his credit. Tiger, however, is not a guy that is comfortable with coming from behind.

    His temper needs to be in check, and he certainly needs to accept that he will find the rough and make bogeys. Tiger is not a particularly good grinder when it comes to winning—playing survivor golf is not his style.

    He needs a good score Thursday or Friday to stay close and do his usual Saturday fireworks to either put him in the last group or the penultimate one. Tiger would love to silence all the critics, and he still has the game to do it.