U.S. Open Preview: Who Has What It Takes To Win at Bethpage?

Adam LawrenceContributor IJune 4, 2009

SAN DIEGO - JUNE 16:  Rocco Mediate reacts after hitting his tee shot on the seventh hole into a bunker during a sudden death finish against Tiger Woods during the playoff round of the 108th U.S. Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Course (South Course) on June 16, 2008 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

It seems every year we get doses of media coverage surrounding the U.S. Open, all of which say that this year's tournament will be even more brutal, challenging, and demanding than any in history.

This is not the case with the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.

The last outing at Bethpage in 2002 was extremely grueling for the entire competition, but this year's should be substantially easier.

Some of the shrubbery and excessive penalties have been replaced, and the 18th hole is one of the most forgiving in the history of the tournament.

This tells me that the winner of this year's Open will skate by with a score closer to five under than one over.

And it also tells me that, because of the advantages golfers now have compared to several years ago, scores will be dramatically lower than previous U.S. Opens.

Don't get me wrong; Bethpage is a beast and it will take superb rounds to contend for an under-par score.

That said, there are a few pros who have fairly large advantages heading into the tournament.

Let's run down the top-five contenders:


Tiger Woods

You can't have a list without Tiger. Honestly, I really don't even need to write anything here.

He is golf's most driven player, and has the ability to contend on courses as challenging on the U.S. Open for all four days. (Hell, even five at Torrey.)


Phil Mickelson

My personal favorite to win this year. I think all of the current emotion Phil is dealing with will propel him to a fourth major. This is a course he can win on because of its excessive length.

If he can hit a decent amount of fairways, even Tiger will have a hard time beating Phil in the Open. Let's not forget that before he suspended play on tour, he had already won twice this season, and finished in the top-10 in half of the events he entered.

Absolutely monster numbers for a guy that is almost always criticized by the media and golf commentators.


Jim Furyk

Furyk has always been one of my favorite players on Tour. His humble personality and desire to fight out almost every round is a quality not seen in most PGA professionals.

Furyk plays in almost every tournament, competing week in and week out, and has won on this stage before.

While his driving distance may hamper him on some of Bethpage's longest holes, such as its par 4, 525-yard monster, his ability to accurately place the ball on both fairways and greens will help him stay out of trouble on the most challenging holes at the Open.


Geoff Ogilvy

Ogilvy is one of the top golfers. His match play is almost unbeatable and his demeanor on the course is also extremely positive.

What I love about Ogilvy is his consistency. He has made 11-of-11 cuts this year, along with two wins, and that type of solid play always transfers over well to the Open.

Last year, he tied for a ninth-place finish at Torrey Pines and we can only expect more from the Australian this year.


Steve Stricker

How can you not like Stricker? He exemplifies everything right in the game of golf, working as hard as he possibly can to achieve better results in the latter part of his career.

Not to mention he is one of the best putters in the game (if you discredit a few three-footers that have killed him in the past).

Stricker is mature, developed, and has played on the big stage before. He is having an impressive season and should contend at Bethpage.


And after the Big Names, My Underdog Pick To Win the Open: Rory Sabbatini

Sabbatini is not the most popular player on tour, nor is he given the respect he sometimes deserves because of previous altercations with Tiger Woods and the media.

He had an extremely impressive win at the Byron Nelson with a 19-under round. He is one of the game's best putters while having an impressive distance off the tee with his drives.

Sabbatini needs a big win to solidify his career as one of the best golfers in the world, and a win at Bethpage could certainly do just that.

This U.S. Open will be extremely intriguing, and it should provide for plenty of trials and difficulty for many players in the field.

And there might be a small ray of hope for Nick Faldo, not to mention his fifth-place finish at Bethpage in 2002 over 60 times.