U.S. Open picks are everywhere as we hurtle toward the 113th edition of our national championship faster than the grounds crew scrambles around Merion trying to make the course playable for Thursday's first round.
What of the picks? What are the talking heads, eager prognosticators and twitchy typists saying collectively? Where is there consensus?
Read on to find out.
Tiger Woods will win
You don't have to be a psychic to foresee a Tiger Woods win at Merion. However, a psychic has predicted that TW will triumph, according to Jennifer Lynn of NewsWorks.
The majority of the Golf.com, Golfweek and Bleacher Report staffs all see a Tiger Woods victory in the cards. The feeling is that the bad weather and soft conditions only play into his favor further. Additionally, Tiger is the odds-on favorite at every sportsbook.
The fact that Tiger won't have to hit his driver at Merion and will instead be able to rely on his three- and five-wood is cited by many experts as a tremendous boon to the golfer. Finding fairways at Merion sets up the rest of his game, which has been superb this year. As Dave Dusek of Golfweek explains, "Everyone is going to miss some greens at Merion, but Woods is more than capable of hitting wonderful recovery shots. He's also No. 5 in strokes gained-putting."
Low amateur: Max Homa
As Nick Masuda of Golfweek said regarding Homa:
He suffered heartbreak in a 20-hole loss to Thomas Pieters that allowed Illinois to knock off the Golden Bears in the semifinals. Instead of crawling into a hole, Homa returned to the course at the sectional qualifier in California and won a spot in the U.S. Open via a playoff. Now that shows guts and incredible resolve – just the type of game he'll need at Merion
Making the cut at the U.S. Open as an amateur is a tall order. Indeed, many experts don't see an amateur playing the weekend at Merion. Other ams who could potentially make the cut, according to the experts, are Michael Weaver (last year's U.S. Amateur runner-up) and the soon-to-be-professional Chris Williams.
Picking the low amateur is a crapshoot, to be sure. Case in point: the Masters. Nobody thought Guan Tianlang would even make the cut, let alone capture low amateur honors.
Underdog: Jim Furyk
There's not a great deal of consensus amongst the experts about underdog picks (although Steve Stricker is getting some attention). However, prominent voices, including Dave Dusek of Golfweek, feel Furyk, a native Pennsylvanian, could make a run at the U.S. Open Championship Trophy.
Furyk is, of course, accurate of the tee. He's hitting 70 percent of fairways this year and is 35th in greens in regulation. The putter, however, is a concern for Furyk, and it's broken his heart more times than a habitual two-timing spouse over the past couple of golf seasons. He was 18th in strokes gained-putting last year but places 107th in the stat this year.
If Furyk (who had a legitimate shot at victory at the Olympic Club last year) can roll it, he can contend at the U.S. Open for the second year in a row.
No love for Kuch
None of the experts from the numerous sources reviewed think that Matt Kuchar, who won the Memorial Tournament in convincing fashion two weeks ago, has a chance at winning the U.S. Open. Even though he's been fantastic with his new arm-lock putter and unflappable from tee to green, Kuchar isn't given a chance by the authorities.
This frostiness toward the Memorial winner is likely the product of a glance at his driving accuracy: 57 percent. Even at a shorter U.S. Open track with damp, receptive greens, it's difficult to play from the rough with regularity. However, Kuchar is an adept scrambler (10th in the statistic this year) and could save a lot of pars after errant approach shots. He's also likely to convert birdie putts when he has them, as he's 13th in strokes gained-putting, picking up .6 strokes on the field with his flatstick every round.
The (club) pros love G-Mac, PGATour.com does too
Philly.com interviewed several club professionals and asked them a series of questions about the U.S. Open, including "Who will win?"
As Doug Delaney of Sand Barrens G.C. said, G-Mac "leads the tour in driving accuracy and is in the Top 20 in Putts Per Round on the PGA Tour. Plus, he has won the U.S. Open before and knows how to play out of tough rough."
Also stumping for a McDowell win is PGATour.com. Five of the 13 experts polled picked the Ulsterman to win the U.S. Open.
Bill Cooney of PGATour.com cites McDowell's "remarkable accuracy off the tee (1st in driving accuracy at 71.10 percent), strong putting skills (13th in strokes gained), and a knack for getting up and down around the greens (1st in scrambling)."
A few experts, including Michael Bamberger, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, have pegged the 2012 Masters champion (who hasn't done much lately) to win at Merion (h/t of Golf.com). Considering his lack of accuracy off the tee and subpar putting, Watson is an odd pick.
Watson is so long off the tee that, due to the wet conditions, soft greens and short layout, he might be able to implement a strategy we rarely see at the U.S. Open: bomb and gouge. If he's able to bomb his driver and hack it out onto receptive putting surfaces he could have a shot. The Floridian's putting is improved this year too. Last year, he was losing .2 strokes to the field with flatstick in hand; this year, he's picking up .1.
The winning score will be more than 10 under par
There's a consensus that a low score will win at Memorial this year, especially given the softening of the greens from the recent deluge.
As Eamon Lynch, managing editor of Golf.com said:
I'm calling 12-under. Even the medium-length hitters will probably hit wedge into almost half the holes, and these guys can do a lot of damage with that club, no matter how tucked the pins are. But note the yardage of the four par 3s: 256, 236, 115, 246. This might be the first Open venue at which the USGA is defending par on the curious beachhead of par 3s.
This is a bold prediction, as there have only been two U.S. Open champions more than 10 under par for the tournament since 2000: Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000 and Rory McIlroy at Congressional in 2011. However, the stars are aligned in the form of a soft, short golf course.
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