The 2010 US Open: Five Storylines to Watch
The site of golf's 2010 US Open, Pebble beach, is one of the most historic courses in this country. It has hosted this tournament four times, most recently in 2000.
Tiger Woods won the 2000 event, playing the 72 holes at 12 under; the best score in US Open history. Woods was the only player under par at the tournament's conclusion and was an amazing 15 strokes ahead of the three second-place finishers.
After ten years, the US Open returns to Pebble Beach, the home of Tiger’s most dominant run through a major tournament. Also returning are eight of the top 11 finishers from 2000, with only Nick Faldo, Loren Roberts, and John Huston missing from this year's event.
With the start of the 2010 US Open less than 24 hours away, here are the five key storylines to follow. But, one thing about golf, these storylines could be ruined by a horrible round on day one.
5. Can Lucas Glover repeat as the US Open champion?
Lucas Glover won the 2009 US Open, held at Bethpage Black in New York. A surprise winner, Glover, ranked 71st in the world at the time, had just one previous tournament victory before winning the Open.
Glover began the final round a stroke back from Ricky Barnes. He recorded a birdie on the 16th and shot par on the last two holes to win the tournament by two strokes.
To add to the surprise of that week, Glover had not even made the cut in his last three US Open events.
Since the US Open has not been held at Pebble Beach after Glover turned pro, he will be defending his championship at a course he has never played a US Open at.
At the only other major this year, the 2010 Masters, Glover finished in a tie for 36th . He had two top-10 finishes this year, including a third place finish at the Players Championship.
4. Can a European player win the US Open for the first time since 1970?
It has been 40 years since a European player won the US Open. England's Tony Jacklin was the last player to break through in this tournament.
Over that period of time, players from South Africa have won four times, Australian players have won twice, and a player from New Zealand and Argentina have each won once.
Players from the United States have won the US Open 31 times over the same period.
Several players from the European continent can win this tournament, but the main hope for Europe could come from England.
In the World Golf Rankings, four of the top ten players are from England, led by third-ranked Lee Westwood, and followed by Luke Donald (ranked sixth), Ian Poulter (ranked eighth), and Paul Casey (ranked ninth).
A European breakthrough could also come from Rory McIlroy out of Northern Ireland, who is tenth in the world.
The first European winner could also be Martin Kaymer of Germany, ranked 12th in the world, or Padraig Harrington, who is ranked 15th .
Any number of these men could be in contention over the next four days. The real question is, can one of them finally end the European win drought in the US Open?
3. Will Tom Watson become the oldest US Open winner?
Anyone who has seen the ESPN promotions for the US Open knows why Tom Watson is a storyline to watch. For those who have not, it was his near win at the 2009 British Open that made him a storyline.
Another reason could be that his lone US Open title came at Pebble Beach way back in 1982. Watson won that tournament over Jack Nicklaus by two strokes and hit one of the most memorable shots in the final round on the 17th hole.
Watson was also one stroke off the lead after the first day of the 2010 Masters, behind Fred Couples. He finished the tournament one under par and tied for 18th place.
No player has kept Father Time away better than Watson. He always finds a way to get himself in contention.
If Watson, 60, can find a second US Open victory at Pebble Beach, he would be the oldest champion in this event by 15 years. Also, if Watson won this event, he would be the oldest player to ever win a major.
2. Which Tiger Woods will we see at the 2010 US Open?
Since Tiger’s late night car wreck and admission to marital infidelities, Woods' play can best be described as up and down.
At this year’s Masters, Woods was lurking all weekend long before finishing in a tie for fourth place.
In his next event, the Quail Hollow Championship, Woods missed the cut. And his following tournament, the Players Championship, Tiger withdrew in the fourth round.
Woods cited a neck injury for his withdrawal at the Players Championship, and he has not played a tournament since. As stated earlier, this is the same course Woods shot -12 under and won by 15 strokes.
There is no way of telling where Tiger’s head is with his marital problems and injuries he has suffered. Woods will be in contention if he can keep his mind on golf and play like he did at the Masters.
If Woods' neck is not 100 percent, or he cannot keep his mind off his family problems, he will likely play like he did at Quail Hollow or at the Players Championship.
Woods is always a player to watch, but more so in this tournament than any other, because it can be a good indicator for how the rest of his 2010 will go.
A victory will go a long way to help people forget about the mistakes Tiger has made in his personal life.
A bad showing will only raise the cries that he cannot keep playing if his mind is not truly on golf.
1. Can Phil Mickelson win his first US Open title?
Mickelson can give himself the best birthday and Father’s Day present possible by winning the US Open. Phil has never won the US Open, but is a five-time runner-up.
After winning the 2010 Masters, Mickelson is the only player who can complete the Grand Slam. A win at the US Open would put Phil halfway there, with the British Open and PGA Championship still to go.
Mickelson turns 40-years-old the day before this tournament starts and wins for 40-year-old golfers are few and far between.
Phil needs to win the US Open this year or next year, along with the British Open if he wants to win the career Grand Slam.
This could be Mickelson’s best chance to win the US Open, since he is playing some of the best golf of his career. He can also become the top golfer in the world for the first time if he wins this event. Without question, Phil will be the sentimental favorite to win this tournament.
Much like the Masters, if he is in contention, the focus will be on how his mother and wife are battling cancer. Mickelson’s wife Amy was there to greet him at the 18th green at the Masters in one of the best sports moments of 2010.
A second victory would provide a repeat moment to go along with the one we all saw at Augusta National. Mickelson will have to get over the mental block of his second-place finishes if he is to win the 2010 US Open.
While there will be other storylines before and during the tournament, these five are some of the most compelling.
Only time will tell if one of the storylines above will play a major part in deciding this year's US Open.
In a weekend with World Cup Soccer, Major League Baseball and the College World Series, the US Open should be entertaining to watch as well.
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