US Open Field 2014: Golfers to Watch on Day 2

Ben Alberstadt@benalberstadtFeatured ColumnistJune 13, 2014

US Open Field 2014: Golfers to Watch on Day 2

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    It looked like the best golfers in the U.S. Open field would be tightly bunched at the top of the leaderboard at one or two under until the dregs of the first round. 

    However, Martin Kaymer, who teed off just before 2 p.m. ET, birdied three of his final four holes to move to five under for the day and emerge from the pack. He finished three strokes ahead of Kevin Na, Graeme McDowell, Brendon de Jonge and the unheralded Fran Quinn. 

    Behind those at two under, 10 golfers were at one under at day's end. 

    Thus, it's not a spoiler to say that Kaymer, who led by three at the conclusion of play, will be a golfer to watch in the second round. 

    Who besides the 29-year-old German should you be keeping an eye on? Read on to find out. 

Brendon de Jonge

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    Tee time: 7:29 a.m. ET

    Why to watch: Brendon de Jonge opened with an impressive two-under 68. He made four birdies and two bogeys on the day. He hit 14 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in the first round. He needed 33 puts, however, for an average of 1.83 putts per green, which was slightly worse than the field average. 

    He hasn't played in the U.S. Open since 2010, when he finished tied for 33rd. He made five cuts in a row prior to this week, so the 33-year-old Zimbabwean is in the midst of a spell of consistent play. After finishing inside the top 40 earlier this year in his first Masters appearance, De Jonge will be looking to continue a run of good form in the majors.

    He'll be flanked by Kevin Stadler and Shane Lowry as he continues his pursuit of major glory.  

Martin Kaymer

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Tee time: 8:02 a.m. ET

    Why to watch: Martin Kaymer's Players Championship victory earlier this year was something of a return to glory. The former world No. 1 had spent time in the wilderness prior to getting his game in order this season.

    The culmination of his efforts to take a less cerebral approach on the golf course, Kaymer's win reminded the golfing world that the 29-year-old is a major champion (2010 PGA Championship) who is capable of rising to the occasion in the most significant events. 

    He was the best man on the course during the opening round of this U.S. Open. He carded a first-round 65 to finish at five under. On the day, the German was three strokes better than any other golfer, making a strong statement with his opening-round play. 

    He could easily go low again in his second round, as he's paired with Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner, who will surely set a relaxed tone. Additionally, he tees off early, so he'll be putting on slower, truer greens than the golfers in the afternoon flight. 

Kevin Na

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Tee time: 1:03 p.m. ET

    Why to watch: Paired with Patrick Reed and Ryan Moore, Kevin Na began his 2014 U.S. Open with a tidy 68.

    As he said following his round, per Alex Myers of Golf Digest, "I knew that the U.S. Open's going to be at Pinehurst and I heard about no rough and about the collection areas and people told me, 'This is a great golf course for you.' And I heard it over and over." 

    Through one round, it seems that the course is in fact great for Na, who suffered a bitter playoff defeat at the Memorial Tournament just weeks ago. Whether Na plus Pinehurst continues to equal love is worth tuning in to see.  

Steve Stricker

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    Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

    Tee time: 1:03 p.m. ET

    Why to watch: Steve Stricker doesn't play a ton of golf these days. When he does, however, he plays pretty darn well. 

    He opened with an even-par 70, which is five strokes off leader Martin Kaymer's pace. Still, Stricker is right in the mix entering the second round. He signaled that his game was in good shape with a tie for sixth at the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago, and he tied for eighth at last year's U.S. Open. At 47, he's running out of chances to win a major. 

    He will be a part of a low-key group with Jim Furyk and Bill Haas again on Friday, which shouldn't have a detrimental effect on the "The Savage."

Rory McIlroy

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Tee time: 1:25 p.m. ET

    Why to watch: Tournament favorite Rory McIlroy began his pursuit of the 2014 U.S. Open with a first-round 71.

    He needed 33 putts on the day and failed to convert three times out of the sand, which cost him. Still, the Ulsterman looked good enough from tee to green to contend in the opening round. And if he's able to hole some putts Friday afternoon, he could be near the top of the leaderboard entering the weekend.

    You have to keep tabs on the tournament favorite.  

Graeme McDowell

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Tee time: 1:25 p.m. ET

    Why to watch: Playing with the aforementioned Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell put together an impressive opening round. Hitting a ridiculous 13 of 14 fairways on the day, he got around Pinehurst No. 2 in 68 strokes. 

    At the conclusion of the first round, the native of Northern Ireland was tied for second place, three strokes behind Martin Kaymer.

    McDowell has the game to win the U.S. Open as evidence by winning the U.S. Open in 2010. With the accuracy he showed off the tee in the opening round, he indicated that he's prepared to contend this year.

    Depending on what happens in the morning, if McDowell can reprise his first-round performance, he could be leading this tournament entering the third round.  

Phil Mickelson

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Tee time: 1:36 p.m. ET

    Why to watch: With Tiger Woods out of this U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson entered the tournament as the highest-profile golfer in the field. He also traveled to Pinehurst with a bit of additional baggage: the insider trading investigation he was questioned about at the Memorial two weeks ago. 

    In a bid for his first U.S. Open (and the career Grand Slam), he fired a first-round 70. However, Mickelson, who began his round on the 10th hole, let two strokes get away late with bogeys at the sixth and eighth holes. 

    He'll want to do better than the 31 putts he took on Thursday, as he likely needs an under-par round to position himself for the weekend.

    "Phil the Thrill" is always worth tuning in for.   

Matthew Fitzpatrick

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    David Cannon/Getty Images

    Tee time: 1:36 p.m. ET

    Why to watch: In a tremendous display of talent and mettle, amateur Matthew Fitzpatrick began his bid for the U.S. Open paired with two giants of professional golf: Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson. 

    The 19-year-old had an up-and-down day, carding four birdies and five bogeys. But the Englishman was brilliant off the tee, hitting 13 of 14 fairways. He found 12 of 18 greens in regulation and took 30 strokes with his putter for the round. 

    With a similar performance Friday afternoon, Fitzpatrick, who plans to turn pro following the tournament, will do something he wasn't able to do at the Masters earlier this year: make the cut in a major. 

Jordan Spieth

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    David Cannon/Getty Images

    Tee time: 1:58 p.m. ET

    Why to watch: Really, if you need an explanation of why to tune in to see how Jordan Spieth follows up his opening 69, you're not a golf fan. 

    Nevertheless, a rationale: He tied for 21st in 2012 as the low amateur at the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. Since that performance, he's won on tour and nearly won a major.

    He hit 79 percent of fairways and 72 percent of greens in his opening round at Pinehurst. If he's able to keep that up and his putter cooperates, the young Texan could be on his way to a major victory in his first U.S. Open as a professional. 


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