2010 US Open Field: Five Contenders and Five Pretenders
For the first time in a decade, the US Open Golf Championship will be held at the scenic Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif.
Historically, the course has proved difficult for the majority of players in this tournament. Only three players have finished the US Open under par at Pebble Beach since 1992.
While I would expect to see more golfers under par in the 2010 edition of this tournament, I don't think that we'll see a dramatic shift in the scores.
The course is meant to pose challenges to players by running a number of holes along the windy California coast and should prove difficult to a large majority of its competitors.
The leaders for this tournament will be individuals who are able to cope with these conditions on a consistent hole-to-hole basis. For that reason, I would expect to see a number of big names scattered across the leaderboard.
Despite the fact that the course favors the more experienced golfers, the US Open usually features a few contenders that have not yet cemented themselves as top golfers on the tour.
Here are five players that are poised to make the leap at this year's Championship as well has five players I would expect to fall short of their lofty expectations.
Contender No. 5: Geoff Ogilvy
It's difficult to consider Geoff Ogilvy a player that has not yet made his mark on the PGA Tour.
He has already recorded one major victory with his victory in the 2006 US Open at Winged Foot Golf Club and is currently ranked No. 18 in the world.
That one major victory, however, came with a five-over par score and he has just a handful of wins outside of that tournament.
Since he tied for eighth place at the 2008 US Open, he has not recorded a top-10 finish in a major championship.
With all that being said, I think Ogilvy is poised for another run at this week's tournament at Pebble Beach.
He brings a consistent stroke to the course and can be expected to play smart golf on each hole. That will be key this week as the elements can force players out of their elements.
If he can play safe and smart throughout the tournament, Ogilvy should be looked at as one of the players that will challenge for a victory.
Contender No. 4: David Duval
David Duval is one of the more interesting contenders in the field.
Despite the fact that he has spent time near the top of the golf rankings earlier in his career, we can still currently classify Duval as an up-and-coming player.
After winning the 2001 British Open Championship, Duval's career took a turn for the worst. He has not won a tournament on the PGA Tour since his 2001 victory.
But despite his struggles, Duval has shown signs of returning to his old form—the biggest of which came a year ago at this very tournament. In the 2009 US Open, Duval tied for second place with an impressive 2-under par at the imposing Bethpage Black course.
Betting odds place Duval as an 80/1 longshot to win the tournament. At the same time, I wouldn't bet against him.
As he continues turning his career around, Duval can now be considered a legitimate threat at this year's Open.
Contender No. 3: Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy is the youngest player on the tour that can be considered a real threat to win the Open at Pebble Beach.
At 21 years old, McIlroy is already in his fourth year on the Tour.
While he has recorded just one tournament win in those four years, his career has progressed as expected and he has become a very consistent player over the course of the year.
Labeled early on as the next threat to Tiger Woods' reign as the world's best golfer, McIlroy has dealt fairly well with the high expectations and even recorded a top-five finish in last year's PGA Championship.
After missing the cut in the 2010 Masters, McIlroy will look to rebound. Pebble Beach will provide a good opportunity.
Contender No. 2: Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia may have lost the title of best player never to have won a major, but he is still one of those players you always expect to finally make the big jump.
He has a number of top-10 credits to his name in major championships, but hasn't even won a tournament on the PGA Tour since 2008.
He even missed the cut in the most recent major, the Masters, in April.
Despite his inconsistent play of late, he is still much too talented a player to remain insignificant for too long.
Will Pebble Beach be the setting of his victory? Who knows. But Garcia should always be considered a threat.
Contender No. 1: Lee Westwood
Lee Westwood is one of the more interesting contenders at the US Open this year.
At 37 years old, Westwood has a long career already under his belt and a number of wins on the European Tour.
Despite extensive success across the pond, however, Westwood is yet to really make a name for himself on the PGA Tour.
He has just two tournament wins—neither of which occurred in a major championship.
But after three consecutive top-three finishes in major championships, no player looks more poised to finally make the leap in a major championship than Westwood.
If he can remain the consistent force that he has been of late, Westwood should be the most dangerous player this side of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Pretender No. 5: Jim Furyk
Jim Furyk already has two tournament wins under his belt for the 2010 season and should, by all accounts, be considered a serious contender for this year's US Open.
However, I think his missed cut at Augusta in April is more indicative of what to expect than the two victories.
The last time the US Open was played at Pebble Beach in 2000, Furyk struggled to a 60th place finish in a field where even the top-10 finishers couldn't break even.
While betting odds lean heavily on Furyk to be a top-10 finisher, I wouldn't be surprised to see him slide down the leaderboard by moving day.
Pretender No. 4: Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh is another player that oddsmakers seem to favor despite a glaring lack of success in recent major tournaments.
Since his sixth-place finish at the 2006 US Open, Singh has finished no higher than 13th and has missed the cut in six of 15 tournaments.
He hasn't even recorded a win in any tournament on the Tour since his 2008 victory at the Deutsche Bank Invitational.
He did finish in the top-10 the last time the US Open was played at Pebble Beach, but I think recent history speaks volumes about Singh's current potential on the Tour.
I think his time as one of the best players on the Tour has ended and I wouldn't expect much out of him in this week's event.
Pretender No.3: Angel Cabrera
In Angel Cabrera, you can expect all or nothing.
Although he has just two tournament wins on the PGA Tour, both came in major championships.
It's possible that I am very wrong to consider him one of the pretenders for this tournament for that reason, but my gut says this is not the tournament for him.
His 37th place finish at Pebble Beach in 2000 is not a poor performance, yet I still consider that to be the peak of my expectation for his success in the 2010 edition.
In my opinion, he is too inconsistent to keep up with the other top players on a hole-to-hole basis in this tournament.
If he gets on a run, however, it is possible we could see him finish near the top of the leaderboard.
Pretender No. 2: Lucas Glover
Placing Lucas Glover among the pretenders for this year's tournament is in no way a question of his skills.
It is simply an observation of the difficulty of winning the US Open in back-to-back years.
No player has done it since Curtis Strange won in both 1988 and 1989. In fact, only Ben Hogan has matched the feat in 1950-1951.
Glover is neither a Strange nor a Hogan and to expect him to contend for a second consecutive US Open is to expect the near-impossible.
He won it a year ago in part because of a poor start in the final round by David Duval.
If he is to win it this year on this course, it will require him to play flawless golf for four days. I think that lies beyond our expectations.
Pretender No. 1: Ernie Els
I place Els at the top of this list only because of the lofty expectations surrounding him going into this tournament.
Els has experienced a resurgence of sorts over the last year after he had dipped into a slump in the second half of the 2008 season.
After missing consecutive cuts in the 2009 Masters and US Open, Els recorded back-to-back top-10 finishes to close out the 2009 major season as well as a tie for 18th at the 2010 Masters.
But right now, I still don't have confidence in Els' consistency on the course. He has been up and down to often over the last two years to expect him to be able to contend with either Woods or Mickelson at Pebble Beach.
Most experts still consider him to be one of the best golfers on the Tour and he is still ranked No. 7 in the world. In my opinion, though, it is a distant No. 7 to the leaders of the pack.
Els could very well put up some solid numbers this week at Pebble Beach. His second-place finish on the course in 2000 would suggest this possibility.
In my opinion, however, Els, like Singh, is seeing his career begin to wind down. There are too many good players in the field to expect Els to contend as easily as he once did.