The 2014 US Open gets underway on Thursday morning at The Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina. The one thing I love about our national championship, is its desire to fully test the capability of each, and every player in the field. I don’t care to see a golf course set up this brutally every week, but one week out of the year, let’s make them earn their money the hard way.
Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have spent the last year turning the clock back to 1908 at the infamous Pinehurst number two golf course and have only added length to the original layout to reflect the changes in equipment since the course was first designed. One thing is certain, whoever hoists the trophy on Sunday afternoon will have to earn it on this layout.
The initial design by Donald Ross was 6089 yards, and the new layout will play to 7562 yards. Players wanting to win the season’s second major will need to navigate fairways that are less than 10 yards in some places, and greens that will not hold any shots coming in on the incorrect trajectory.
I personally like to see the winner of the US Open at one under par at the end of the event. That tells me the field was well tested, and the player who drove the ball the best, scrambled the best, putted the best and exhibited the most patience is the one who gets his name on the trophy.
Only two times in history has the winner of the US Open achieved double-digit scores. Of course the two people in question were Rory McIlroy who put a -16 on the board at Congressional in 2011, and of course, Tiger Woods in 2000 at Pebble Beach where he carded a 12 under par score for the week.
I don’t think we will see these types of scores this week at Pinehurst. Payne Stewart won here in 1999, beating Phil Mickelson at one under par, and Michael Campbell was the 2005 champ at even par. I don’t see the scores being any better in 2014.
At the start of the 2014 season, based on what I saw from the 38 year-old Swede in 2013, I picked him to win his first major this year, and I picked him to win the US Open at Pinehurst. I haven’t changed my opinion during a spring where the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai Champ has struggled. All one has to do, is watch the 72nd hole at The RTD finale’ in Dubai to see what Henrik Stenson can do when his golf game is working. Stenson has struggled through the early part of the season but has logged four top tens out of his last seven starts. He finished solo fifth at the Nordea Masters a couple weeks back, and looks to have his game back ontrack, and ready to notch that first major.
Rory in my opinion, has the perfect game for this golf course. He hit it long, he scrambles well, and has one of the highest ball flights on any tour. One only needs to see his five wood into the 72nd hole at The Honda Classic to know this guy can stop a ball on the green with any club. If he has put his love-life in the rear-view mirror and has his mind in the right place, he can win third major this Sunday.
A year ago I would never have put Bubba in this category, but after what I’ve seen from him since his goofy finish at Phoenix, I think he might have worked through his mental approach to the majors. His game is quirky, but if he is on, he has the game to add a US Open to his resume along with his two Green Jackets. He is a master at flighting the ball, and he will need every bit of that talent this week. The only question is his patience.
The 2012 US Open Champion kinda backed into his victory at The Olympic Club with Jim Furyk’s meltdown, but has a ton of local knowledge and has played this golf course many times. Simpson is ranked seventh in all-around stats, and could well be a factor on Sunday afternoon at Pinehurst.
Come on… no matter how bad he has played this year, I had to put Phil on this list. In 1999, he was the youngster being consoled by Payne Stewart after the defeat, and 2014 can be the year he gets this monkey off his back. He is struggling right now with his putter, and he will need to get that resolved before Thursday, but if anyone can do it, it’s Phil Mickelson. I would love to see him coming down the stretch on Sunday with a chance to win. That would almost make up for Tiger Woods not being in the field for fans like myself who love to see an exciting finish.