The US Open is the toughest test in golf, and it won’t be any different during the 2012 iteration at The Olympic Club this weekend, even for the odds-on-favorites.
The course was brutal the last time the US Open was played at The Olympic Club back in 1998. Not a single player finished the tournament under par and Lee Janzen eked out a one stroke victory over Payne Stewart.
But that doesn’t do the course justice. Olympic Club’s narrow and heavily slopped fairways make it a challenge to hit the ball in the right spot which is imperative at the U.S. Open to avoid the heavy, punishing rough. To make matters worse, players will be hitting into small greens that are surrounded by numerous bunkers, meaning that accurate iron play will be key.
This difficult course will test the limits of all the players in the field, amateurs and top-ranked pros alike. So let’s take a look at the odds of a few of the tournament favorites heading into Thursday.
The US Open has been the one that has gotten away for Mickelson. Five times he has finished in second place at the toughest test in golf, and a win at America's championship is the only real hole in his resume.
However, Mickelson does have the game to be successful at the Olympic Club.
He has the ability to put the ball in the fairway, especially if he plays smart and attacks the relatively short course—at only 7170 yards—with fairway woods instead of driver the majority of the time.
But Mickelson's main strength is around the greens. He has a magical short game, with the imagination and shot-making ability that few players in the history of the game have had. Mickelson will be able to consistently get up-and-down which will keep him in contention all weekend.
The world's No. 1 golfer is about as steady a player you can get on the PGA or European tour. Donald just seems to plod along the golf course, but on Sunday he always seems to be in contention.
This ability will serve him well at Olympic Club this week.
Donald is one of the most accurate ball strikers on tour, putting the ball in the correct spot in the fairway and on the green almost every time. He is also a brilliant bunker player, something that will serve him well at Olympic which has more sand on it than some small beaches.
Despite all of Donald's career accomplishments, he has yet to win a major. But he has the game and the course management skills to make him one of the favorites at the US Open this weekend.
At only 22 years old Rory Mcllroy shattered the US Open record books in 2011 when he shot 16-under and finished ahead of his closest competition by eight strokes.
Now, at the ancient age of 23, Mcllory is back to defend his title, this time at The Olympic Club.
Mcllroy is the No. 2 ranked player in the world, but he has been struggling of late. Before his seventh place finish at the St. Jude Classic this past weekend, Mcllroy had missed three straight cuts.
He was putting up a lot of big numbers and his usually picture perfect swing seemed a little jerky at times. But Mcllroy is still one of the premier talents on tour and he has perhaps the sweetest swing the game has seen in decades.
If Mcllroy plays smart golf and can avoid making any worse than bogey during the week, he will be in contention when Sunday rolls around.
Woods looked to be in brilliant form at the Memorial two weeks ago when he secured his second victory of the season.
He was striking the ball beautifully, hitting almost every fairway and seemingly placing the ball into the perfect spot on almost every green. His putting wasn’t spectacular, but it was solid, and good enough to pull off the win.
Woods will need that same level of ball striking to be successful at Olympic this week.
He is the odds on betting favorite to win the US Open, which is no surprise. When you have won 14 majors you should be favored, but there are no guarantees with Woods.
He has been inconsistent as he has implemented his swing changes over the last couple of years, and we have yet to see the consistently dominant Tiger that golf fans came to expect during his run over the last decade.
In order for Woods to be successful this week he will have to be at the same ball striking level that he was during the Memorial. But more importantly, his short game will have to be up to par. At a tough test like the US Open the ability to consistently get up and down is paramount.
If Woods comes in and plays as he did at the Memorial he should be the favorite at Olympic. He is the best player in the world and can prove it this weekend.