Round 1 of the 2014 U.S. Open is officially underway, and we already have some very familiar names hovering near the top of the leaderboard.
Matt Kuchar always seems to play well during majors, although he's never managed to finish better than sixth at a U.S. Open. Well, his three-under 32 on the front nine of the treacherous Pinehurst No. 2 certainly bodes well going forward.
The Players tweeted an update on its former champion:
Jordan Spieth is beginning to become a household name—especially on golf's biggest stages. Earlier this year, he put on some dazzling rounds at the Masters. Now, he's off to a great start in the U.S. Open after firing a two-under 33 on his opening back nine.
Phil Mickelson is in the mix as well. Lefty birdied the par-five 10th—his first hole of the tournament—to get into the red early. Despite his recent struggles, it's difficult to count out the six-time runner-up in this prestigious tournament.
USA Today certainly thinks Mickelson has a great shot this year:
Here's a look at the updated leaderboard:
With many of the golfers yet to tee it up, expect a great deal of leaderboard movement during Thursday's action. Getting off to a hot start and building confidence is essential here. After all, according to David Simms from the movie Tin Cup, the U.S. Open is "where the rough is deep and the greens are slick and the nerves are shattered."
So, which players are poised to flourish this year at Pinehurst No. 2?
Pinehurst No. 2 is a very demanding course from tee to green. Crisp, precise iron play is necessary to survive this brutal venue. Scott has all of the tools to flourish here.
The Aussie has an arsenal of shots at his disposal, and can hit his irons long and high, allowing for increased accuracy and spin control on difficult greens.
Yes, he's struggled at U.S Opens in the past—his best finish coming in 2012 when he tied for 15th—but Pinehurst No. 2 suits the world No. 1's game.
Apparently, Scott's fans are already lining up to see him in action, via a tweet from Jay Busbee of Yahoo! Sports:
This guy is a bigger fan of Adam Scott than you are of anything in your life. pic.twitter.com/OE8xKb02M9— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) June 12, 2014
Scott enters the tournament with a hot hand after winning the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and finishing T4 at the Memorial Tournament.
If the Aussie is going to notch his first U.S. Open win, this is the year to do it.
Spieth, the 20-year-old phenom, has simply been brilliant this year. Despite his young age, he's maintained a high level of maturity and poise on golf's biggest stages.
After finishing T2 at the Masters, he came right back to finish T4 in the Players Championship. Spieth simply seems to succeed when the stakes are highest.
That trait will serve him very well at the U.S. Open.
Spieth isn't overly experienced in this tournament, having made just two previous starts, but that didn't hinder his performance in Augusta. There's no reason to believe it will at Pinehurst No. 2 either.
ESPN Stats & Info tweeted a statistic that bodes well for Spieth this year:
Jordan Spieth has shot a 77 and a 74 in his 2 previous opening rounds at the U.S. Open. Currently 1-under thru 12. http://t.co/0UmdDPewB4— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 12, 2014
Expect four strong rounds from Spieth, and a Sunday showdown with Adam Scott.
Prediction: Second Place
Day just knows how to get it done at the U.S. Open—no matter the course.
He finished second in 2011 at Congressional and second again in 2013 at Merion's East Course.
Here's an interesting Day statistic, courtesy of the Golf Channel's Justin Ray:
Most top-3's in majors since 2011: Jason Day, Mickelson and Scott with 4 apiece. Day only one in group missing major win.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) June 12, 2014
So far this season, Day has had his fair share of ups and downs. He won the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship, but suffered a thumb injury and missed a large amount of time.
He resurfaced seven weeks later to compete in the Masters—where he finished a respectable T20—but clearly wasn't in top form at the time.
Although, after a disappointing T37 at the Memorial Tournament, Day suddenly feels he's moved on from his injury, according to an interview with Jim McCabe of GolfWeek:
"I'm 100 percent healthy. I want to get that out there." He added, "I'm trying to be on top of (the left-thumb issue). I'm icing my thumb and taking anti-inflammatories every day, just to make sure that it doesn't pop up again."
Assuming Day doesn't suffer any setbacks, he'll be well in the mix late in the tournament.
Prediction: Third Place