Golf

Which Recent Winner Is Better Bet at 2014 U.S. Open: Adam Scott or Rory McIlroy?

Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy shake hands last year in Australia.
Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy shake hands last year in Australia.Rob Griffith/Associated Press
Mike DudurichContributor IMay 28, 2014

What a question!

Who's the better bet, Adam Scott or Rory McIlroy, to win the U.S. Open?

That's like trying to choose between the prettiest girls in the beauty pageant.

On one hand, you have the charismatic, handsome, sweet-swinging Australian who won the Masters in 2013 and is a heartthrob for female golf fans around the world. (Sorry ladies, he is a married man as of a month ago).

On the other, there's the mop-haired Northern Irishman, 25 years of age, a bomber off the tee who won the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship. (Ladies, he's available again after breaking off his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki last week).

And let's be real about this for a moment. These two have the possibility to become the faces of golf, given the physical condition and inactivity of Tiger Woods and the slipping in the game of Phil Mickelson.

Sure, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson are all hanging around in the vicinity of golf's most elite neighborhood.

But Scott and McIlroy, as major champions with great personalities and charming accents, have a chance to become dominant figures in the golf world.

So how do I go about choosing between the two as the most likely to win at Pinehurst? I start by doing the eye test. And no, not the one where the doctor asks if you can see this or is this better than that.

Scott has been, well, very good over the last three years, nearly winning the 2012 British Open, winning three times, posting 15 top-10s and earning over $10 million.

McIlroy, on the other hand, has four wins, four seconds, 21 top-10s and earned over $11.5 million.

McIlroy has better performance stats, absolutely. But he's definitely been more up-and-down than Scott, having suffered through a miserable season in 2013.

Scott has been the more consistent of the two, so he passes my eye test.

There won't be any argument about who is hotter going to Pinehurst since both won on Sunday.

More evidence for Scott as the choice?

The strongest favorites for the U.S. Open.
The strongest favorites for the U.S. Open.Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Scott is a better putter than McIlroy, and that will mean everything on Pinehurst No. 2's maddening crowned greens with runoffs everywhere. One of the things that slowed McIlroy's rise back to prominence was the flat stick.

A year ago, McIlroy ranked 122nd in the strokes gained putting category with an average of minus-.109. This year, he's even a little worse, with a ranking of 125th and an average of minus-.122.

Those kinds of numbers won't get a player anywhere the Sunday evening celebration on the 18th green.

Scott, by comparison, is ranked 18th in the strokes gained putting with an average of .452.

In terms of U.S. Open experience, McIlroy has that eight-shot victory at Congressional on his resume as well as a T10 in the 2009 Open at Bethpage Black. He also has a pair of missed cuts and a T41.

Scott's resume isn't nearly as sparkling. He's made 12 starts in the U.S. Open and has only two top-25 finishes to his credit. His best finish was a T15 in 2012.

McIlroy does rate the edge in power. In his limited number (eight) of starts on the PGA Tour this year, he's averaged 303.8 yards off the tee, 13th on tour. As the old saying goes, he hits them a long way but doesn't always know where they're going.

He's 145th in driving accuracy at 56.89 percent.

After his win at the BMW Championship Sunday, he was asked about Pinehurst, a course he hasn't played. And, in a story on golfchannel.com, McIlroy said, "I hear it's going to be a long, long golf course, which I'm looking forward to. I don't mind that at all, getting driver in the hand, and a long golf course, it would suit me.”

Scott is a highly respectable 30th in driving distance, averaging 297.5 yards per measured drive. His accuracy is a little better, as he hits 61.50 percent of the fairways, 83rd on tour.

Both are superb with their irons. McIlroy is 20th on the PGA Tour and Scott is 21st. They'll need to be at least that good for those four days next month.

Scott played at Pinehurst No. 2 when the Open was held there in 2005 and finished T28.

But in reality, no previous experience will mean much when they tee it up in the Sandhills. The restoration done on the old Donald Ross course will make it play more like it was designed to. This will be a U.S. Open with no rough, something almost as rare as a player getting very far under par.

Is Adam Scott a clear-cut choice? No, I don't think so.

But the way I see it, he's the best bet.

 

All statistics courtesy of PGATour.com.

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