The 2014 U.S. Open is set to feature some of the top golfers in the world testing their mettle on the notoriously difficult course at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.
The No. 2 course at Pinehurst has undergone some big changes, and everyone is excited to see what this course has in store for golf's elite.
Bubba Watson, via Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein, is particularly wary of the famous turtleback greens on this course.
Bubba: “I think this US Open is the toughest we’ll play – or toughest for me, because the greens are so unfriendly.”— Teddy Greenstein (@TeddyGreenstein) June 10, 2014
Here are the latest odds heading into the first round of the U.S. Open, as well as predictions for a few of the top-rated golfers participating in this weekend's major.
(Note: Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com and updated as of Wednesday, June 11.)
Predictions for U.S. Open Favorites
Rory McIlroy is the favorite in this tournament, but there are a few red flags for this preeminent putter.
McIlroy suffered a left knee sprain in the Memorial Tournament in early June. Even minor leg injuries can have far-reaching impacts on a golfer's play. McIlroy did maintain his knee is "absolutely fine," as per Karl MacGinty of the Irish Independent, but his health is something to watch out for in the U.S. Open.
He's also faced issues with some wild variability between rounds in recent tournaments.
|Tournament||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4|
|Wells Fargo Championship||69||76||65||70|
He can't seem to maintain his focus from round to round. Going from a 63 to a 78 the very next day is the sign of a golfer who has lost the mental edge in his game.
The Pinehurst course is decidedly unforgiving, and McIlroy can bury himself if he gets off to a rocky start in a round and can't recover. It will be difficult for McIlroy to make up strokes on the green—he ranks 71st on the PGA Tour in strokes gained from putting—and the upside-down saucer-shaped greens will make for some tricky approaches.
He is capable of making mincemeat out of some holes—he notched three eagles in the Memorial Tournament—but Pinehurst will eventually punish an aggressive approach.
McIlroy has the talent to stay near the top of the leaderboard in any major, but inconsistent play will prevent the man from Holywood from creating a Hollywood finish.
Prediction: fifth place
Justin Rose will be looking to become the sixth golfer ever to repeat as U.S. Open champion. He took the top prize in 2013 with a four-round total of 281, the one-over par being plenty good enough to vanquish the rest of the competition. His ecstasy was mirrored by Phil Mickelson's agony, as the latter's final-round 74 paved the way for the Englishman's victory.
He may be the defending champion, but he is a newcomer to Pinehurst; he didn't participate in the 1999 or 2005 editions of the U.S. Open. Of course, those events might not have prepared him for the renovated Pinehurst in any case.
Rose has scouted out Pinehurst and believes preparation will pave the way for a chance at victory.
Will Justin Rose repeat as U.S. Open champion?
"My preparation’s going to be key,” Rose told Michael Whitmer of The Boston Globe. “It’s developing and designing a game plan that you believe will hold up over 72 holes that you can execute, that suits your game, and that will produce the winning score."
Rose has been well-prepared for many of the events he's played in 2014; he has five top-10 finishes in 11 events.
His 146th-ranked driving accuracy percentage could get him into trouble in this one. The course is full of sandy traps for those unfortunate enough to miss the fairway off the tee. Rose is deserving of a top-five finish, but he won't repeat as champion on this difficult course.
Prediction: fourth place
The U.S. Open will force players into bogeys and double bogeys. The turtleback greens will ruin putts no matter how carefully the pros line them up. This tournament is all about damage control, and as Jason Sobel of Golfchannel.com notes, Bubba Watson is one of the best on the PGA Tour at limiting his mistakes.
U.S. Open is about patience, perseverance and pars. Boring golf wins. So here's a surprise: Top two in bogey avoidance are Sergio and Bubba.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) June 9, 2014
Watson, via Sobel, seems well aware of the fact that cautious play is rewarded at the U.S. Open.
BubbaGolf 2.0: Watson plans to keep driver in the bag and keep his ball in play this week. "It's a chess match."— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) June 10, 2014
Watson is obviously wary of the sandy wiregrass areas surrounding the fairways. Cutting down on distance off the tee would make some of the long holes difficult for most golfers, but Watson can afford to lay off of his top-ranked driving distance and still hit the ball farther than most golfers. His strength and accuracy off the tee will be a huge asset on the Pinehurst course.
It also helps that Watson is playing some of the best golf of his career. He has two PGA Tour wins—one of those being the 2014 Masters Tournament—and two second-place finishes in 2014. He may not add to the former category, but he definitely has a chance of pocketing some big money and finishing in second place yet again.
Prediction: second place