Foreboding. Challenging. Mentally taxing. Daunting. These are just a few of the adjectives that could aptly describe Pinehurst and the U.S. Open.
Always a tournament that challenges and frustrates the world's top golfers, the U.S. Open is often brilliant television for that very reason. Playing the mental game with the pros becomes a fascinating subplot for those watching at home.
And you won't want to miss any of that, right? Fear not, for below, all of your viewing needs will be addressed. For good measure, let's make some predictions as well.
Bring on the foreboding.
When: Thursday, June 12, through Sunday, June 15
Where: Pinehurst No. 2 in Pinehurst, North Carolina
Tee Times: For all of the tee times from the first two rounds, check out USOpen.com.
|Thursday, June 12||TV|
|9 a.m.-3 p.m.||ESPN|
|5-6 p.m.||ESPN 2|
|Friday, June 13||TV|
|9 a.m.-3 p.m.||ESPN|
|Saturday, June 14 and Sunday, June 15||TV|
|12 p.m.-7:30 p.m.||NBC|
All times ET
Well, the prediction is that a lot of people will be flipping between the U.S. Open and the World Cup over the next four days. Yours truly will be guilty of that.
But let's get to the actual predictions. Go around the Internet and you'll find a number of players favored for this reason or because of that trend. Andy North of ESPN has studied the past winners to determine trends and has concluded that Dustin Johnson will win. Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel likes Matt Kuchar. And Kyle Porter of CBS Sports likes Charl Schwartzel, as he explained:
Schwartzel has finished top 15 in two of his last three US Opens and has top 15 finishes in three of his last four PGA Tour events. He's a good putter, a good driver, and a good enough scrambler.
The only stat that worries me is his greens in regulation percentage but, well, I don't think many folks will be hitting greens in regulation this week.
There's another easy prediction for you—the difficult course will be a major storyline. Always unforgiving, this year's U.S. Open won't be the exception.
A prediction that probably won't be popular but seems steeped in logic is that Phil Mickelson will struggle. It doesn't bode well for him that he doesn't have a single top-10 finish this season. The drought will continue (though he won't make it seven runner-up finishes; his tournament will be rougher than that).
Still, Mickelson wants that career Grand Slam, even if he knows this year won't be his last chance, as he told Ian O'Connor of ESPN:
I'm going to be up front that [a career Grand Slam is] a goal of mine. I'm up front with the fact I would love to do it here at Pinehurst. But I'm not going to put that pressure on me and say that this is the only week or only opportunity. It's probably the best opportunity because the golf course is so short-game oriented, because greens are so repellent, and the shots around the greens play a premium amongst all the Open venues that we have had.
But I don't want to put the pressure on that this is the only week that I'll have a chance. I think that I'll have a number of great opportunities in the future years, but this is certainly as good a chance as I'll have.
Safe and steady golf will be rewarded, more than likely, while the risk-takers will be left disappointed. In other words, don't expect players like Bubba Watson or Rory McIlroy to win this tournament. The former is always full of surprises, of course, and the latter is playing really well this season in general, but streaky brilliance isn't generally rewarded at the U.S. Open.
We also don't generally see repeat winners at the tournament, so say goodbye to Justin Rose. Adam Scott and Matt Kuchar tend to really struggle at this tournament, so they can probably be eliminated.
There are safe and steady players out there that could be the prediction, but let's live a little, shall we?
This year's winner of the U.S. Open will be Jordan Spieth.
Sure, he's young. Sure, he missed the cut last year and finished seven-over the year before that (though that was good for 21st overall because the U.S. Open is—if you'll permit me to get technical—hard). Yes, he's only cracked the top 20 at a tournament once, finishing second at this year's Masters.
But the future is now.
And why not? Tiger Woods won his first major at 21. Rory McIlroy won his first major at the age of 22. Why can't Spieth win his first at 20?
He's ranked fifth on the PGA Tour, with six top-10 finishes. He nearly won the Masters. He was fourth at the Players Championship. He's proved he can hang with the big boys.
In many ways, it would be a stunning victory, a player so young conquering a course that befuddles the old and experienced. But it would also be almost expected, the game's next superstar staking his claim so quickly, and at such a challenging tournament.
Spieth has the talent to make that statement over the next four days. A star is about to be born.