As the U.S. Open rolls around, there is a lot to be expected of the tournament. It is the U.S. Open, after all. Last year's Sunday debacle by Dustin Johnson was not what anyone saw coming, and nobody anticipated that Graeme McDowell would be taking home the trophy at the start of the week.
In 2008, who would have thought that Rocco Mediate would force a playoff with Tiger Woods?
Simply put, the difficulty of a U.S. Open course levels the playing field and creates a lot of chances for the unexpected to happen.
This would be a pretty odd thing to occur. Normally, at least one amateur makes the cut. However, this year the course set-up is much longer, and the tour players will have an insurmountable edge over the amateurs in course knowledge.
But everyone wants to see at least one amateur make the cut. It makes the public feel like there is someone out there who is as good as the pros, and that the qualifying is still a valid way to find people for the field.
This is another thing that isn't hard to see, because it's the U.S. Open. The course's length alone will cause scores to go up, because even with the length on tour today, most of the holes will require more than a simple wedge shot.
And don't forget the rough either. It's going to start long and end up punishing on Sunday. Average driving accuracy on tour is in the mid-60s at best for a tournament. That means that 40 percent of the shots these guys will be hitting will be out of that rough.
It's hard to imagine Phil missing the cut at any event, but this week could be one of those weeks. But it's not the course, and it's not Phil; it's the tournament. His history with the U.S. Open is not one that he likes to recount, and I don't see this one being any more memorable.
Have you seen the finishing hole at Congressional? It's a 523-yard, par 4 with a peninsula green. Not forgetting that it is a two-tier green, which makes ball placement important if you want to make birdie.
From around 200 yards out, this green is going to be a tough target to seek out. Check out the hole at the U.S. Open website:
A 636-yard hole normally doesn't yield an eagle. However, this week, there will be one. Whether by hole out or hit in two and make the putt, it will happen. And it will be the shot of the day.
Lee Westwood will be in a position to win the tournament going into Sunday like he has been for a few other major titles. But as always, he will find a way to screw it up. Westwood will remain one of the best to never win a major for at least one more tournament.
I don't know how bold this is, but being the defending champion, you would at least hope McDowell has a good showing. But he won't be a hot contender. In fact, I would venture to say he finishes just outside the top 25.
It's the U.S. Open. Scores will be high, and this year's will be even higher. While there will be one or two names under par after the first two rounds, it's going to be a high-scoring week for these gentlemen.
Egos will be bruised, a club may be snapped and guaranteed fans will be struck with tee shots. This week will be one of the most entertaining tournaments, because of the test it will provide for the players. Of course, the U.S. Open always does that.
While this does almost erase the possibility of a dramatic finish at the U.S. Open this week, it doesn't quite. Under-par versus par is pretty close. But this week, the conditions will be tough, and the man to come out on top will be the only person under par.
If I had to guess, he's only going to be one under, which is exactly what the USGA wants: tough scoring.
Note on the picture: you will not be seeing this man under par, guaranteed.
Okay, so this is complete bias on my part, but it is a bold prediction, especially after his missed cut this week. Garcia's game may not be tailored to the U.S. Open from a putting standpoint, but his ball striking will be the difference.
When he is on, he is normally top-five in greens in regulation. And at the U.S. Open, you only need a few birdies a round to offset a few bogeys. Garcia won't need to be golden on the greens as long as he hits them. It's high time we finally saw Sergio come to fruition, and this week has the conditions for it.
Note: Garcia winning would make him the third man to win from qualifying in the 21st century.
My realistic pick for the U.S. Open this week is: Matt Kuchar. Luke Donald will find the top-five, but only by his short game.
Here's to a great U.S. Open! Keep a look out this week as I will be posting numerous articles.