As we head into this week's U.S. Open, a lot of questions remain about who will win. But there's one name that has certainly appeared on more radars since last year this time: Graeme McDowell.
Since winning the U.S. Open last year, McDowell's game has been the tale of two players. McDowell was a dominant force for the remainder of last year, and took down Tiger in a playoff to boot. However, his results this year have been anything but admirable.
McDowell's game may not be perfect if you're looking at it right now. But there's still some reasons you have to think McDowell could be a repeat champion.
When he's on, he proved that he's as good as Tiger. At the Chevron Open, it was only Tiger and McDowell; and Tiger was on. He was hitting all the shots the old Tiger used to hit. All the shots that made Tiger five strokes better than the rest of the field.
Only this time, one other name joined him, and it wasn't Phil Mickelson. It was Graeme McDowell. McDowell and Woods were four shots clear of Paul Casey, who sat at 12-under par, and only eight of the best players in the world were within 16 shots of Woods and McDowell.
It came down to a playoff, as Tiger surprisingly shot over par in the final round, causing a four-stroke swing in McDowell's favor. They both had nearly identical shots in the playoff. McDowell left himself 20 feet away again. Tiger stiffed his shot to somewhere around 10 feet. Then McDowell putted. And it went in the hole.
Tiger would miss his, and McDowell had thwarted Woods' best attempt to be a winner once again.
If McDowell's game can show up this week, it could be quite fun to watch.
Overall, McDowell isn't a Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods or D.A. Points. His demeanor is much cooler. His class is unmistakeable.
McDowell has the attitude to keep himself in it. Throughout all the trials and tribulations that this year has yielded for him, McDowell has remained as poised as possible. As it was shown last year, it takes poise to take a major title.
While this field is as deep as it could be, there is one name reduced from the list. I'm not even going to say it. Despite what everyone thinks, this specific golfer creeps into everybody's mind at a major. Just look at the 2011 Masters, and five of the past six U.S. Opens. He was always there.
And without this person there, looking at the field, no name jumps out. Phil Mickelson can't be picked as an odds-on favorite with his history at the U.S. Open. And the rest of the field does not own too many major titles themselves.
Overall, this is just a bland field, and anyone could win. Of course that's the way it always is. We just never noticed it until that one guy decided to not show up this time around.
It takes a lot to win on tour. It takes more to win a major on tour. Last year, Graeme McDowell did more. He accomplished what nobody expected from him: He won the 2010 U.S. Open. Amid a Dustin Johnson breakdown, McDowell stood tall and gave his dad reason to be happy for being in attendance.
Having that first major title takes some pressure off, because he has been there now. There are expectations for him, but being there has to make the entire process easier.
McDowell may not seem like he is the hot contender to defend the title, but think of who has won the U.S. Open over the past five years prior. Only one name jumps out. That Tiger Woods guy. Other than that, it's a list of improbables. And that's exactly what McDowell was.
Right now, I have no solid reason to predict that McDowell can't, and won't defend his title.
McDowell is in one of the featured groups, with Louis Oosthuizen and Peter Uihlein as is tradition at the U.S. Open champion.
McDowell will tee off at 7:55 a.m. off the first tee on Thursday, and 1:35 p.m. on Friday off the 10th tee.
Keep your eye out for him in the last few pairings going into each of the final two days.