Burning Questions as the 2014 US Open Draws Close
Expectations are very high for next week's U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
The No. 2 course has been renovated by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, giving it an old-school feel and look.
The U.S. Women's Open will follow the men's on the same course, creating mystery and intrigue as to how the course will play during those two weeks.
But among the most burning questions are those that involve Phil Mickelson and his mental state going into the Open; who are the true favorites and just how the players will handle no rough at a U.S. Open.
Here's a list of my five most burning questions.
All statistics courtesy of PGATour.com.
How Will Players Handle the Roughless Major?
I wonder why it is that we're not hearing screams of joy, fits of laughter and other expressions of celebration from the 156 players who have earned spots in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst next week.
Might it be that, while not having to face sideways chip shots back to the fairway every time a player finds the rough, the realization has set in that the alternative is not a bowl of cherries, either?
Take a look at the picture above and note the sandy waste area on the right side of the fairway. That's where offline drives will stop rolling when they run through the fairway or land on the fly.
That doesn't look like much of a bargain to me.
Can Phil Really Concentrate on the Career Grand Slam?
Phil Mickelson has had a lousy year to this point.
He does not have a top-10 finish in 13 starts, has missed three cuts and has withdrawn twice.
His final-round scoring average of 72.25 is 152nd on the PGA Tour.
Mickelson has finished second a record six times in the U.S. Open and needs a title in that event to complete the career grand slam.
Based on his play thus far, his admitted inability to focus over the golf ball and the recent accusations of alleged insider trading, I'm thinking a second-place finish is a very admirable goal this year.
Will Pinehurst No. 2 Actually Be Easier Than in the Past?
It's going to be hot next week in Pinehurst, where the U.S. Open will be contested on that resort's world-famous No. 2 course.
That's not really a surprise since it gets hot in Pinehurst just about every summer.
That heat, however, is just one of the ingredients that will make the Open a bit tougher than most for the United States Golf Association to manage.
Under normal conditions, the USGA would love to have the course hard, fast and dry but will have to be somewhat careful with that this year. The U.S. Women's Open will be played the next week on the same course, so some caution will have to be used during the men's Open.
If the greens are kept a little slower and softer, that just might make things a bit easier on the most diabolic part of the course.
Who Really Is the Favorite for the 2014 U.S. Open?
Adam Scott is the No. 1 player in the world.
Rory McIlroy is on the rebound from a disastrous 2013 season and has shown signs of returning to the form that made him the No. 1 player in the world in 2012.
But how much faith do you really have in Scott or McIlroy?
Scott has won the Masters. McIlroy has a U.S. Open and a PGA Championship on his resume.
But have they played well enough to warrant being the two best bets in the field?
Considering how the other top players are playing at the moment, they seem to be the best of the lot.
Is This the Major Jordan Spieth Wins?
Part of Jordan Spieth's remarkable second season on the PGA Tour has been his near-miss at the Masters and a strong performance for three-and-a-half rounds at the Players Championship.
Five of his last six starts have resulted in top-20 finishes for Spieth and puts his game in good stead heading into Pinehurst.
Lessons learned from his T2 at Augusta National and T4 at the TPC at Sawgrass should help the 20-year-old as he attempts to take that next big step in winning a major.