Our U.S. Open experts, Ron Green Jr. andDavid Scott, weigh in on what to expect this week at Pinehurst.
The Top 10
1. Rory McIlroy: The right guy at the right place at the right time.
2. Phil Mickelson: Take the emotion out and Mickelson still looks like a favorite at No. 2.
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3. Sergio Garcia: He’s due to win a major and finished T3 at Pinehurst in ’05.
4. Matt Kuchar: Nowhere is steady play more rewarded than in a U.S. Open.
5. Adam Scott: He’s No. 1 in the world for a reason.
6. Charl Schwartzel: Finished T16 or better in three of the past four U.S. Opens.
7. Graeme McDowell: He’s one of the best at using his imagination to save shots.
8. Justin Rose: Sure, it’s a longshot to go back-to-back, but Rose has the game to do it.
9. Jonas Blixt: His past two majors: fourth at PGA, T2 at the Masters.
10. Miguel Angel Jimenez: If ever a 50-year-old is going to win the U.S. Open…
• Most likely to stumble: Masters champion Bubba Watson has one top-10 finish in seven U.S. Open starts and he missed the cut in 2012 after winning his first green jacket.
• Most likely to surprise: Don’t forget about Henrik Stenson. He’s ranked No. 2 in the world, but it’s been a quiet season for him so far. He’s due for a big week.
• Most likely to break through: Would it really qualify as a breakthrough if Jordan Spieth were to win? He almost won the Masters and he almost won The Players Championship. He’s going to win something big soon.
• Determining factor: Players who can limit the damage from their mistakes wind up near the top of U.S. Open leader boards. Bogeys are going to happen. Keeping the double bogeys off the card is part of the U.S. Open challenge.
The Top 10
1. Rory McIlroy: Proven major winner (U.S. Open in 2011, PGA in 2012) apparently is past recent love-life drama.
2. Adam Scott: World No. 1 won recently at Colonial, builds schedule around majors.
3. Matt Kuchar: Probably first in best-to-have-never-won-a-major line.
4. Dustin Johnson: Columbia-native has quietly put together an excellent year (winning season-opening World Championships, second at Northern Trust), has been unlucky at the Open, though.
5. Steve Stricker: Form has been off, but there could be some good golf left in this 47-year-old.
6. Jimmy Walker: FedEx Cup leader has three wins, seven top-10s.
7. Rickie Fowler: Has slumped since finishing fifth at Augusta.
8, Lee Westwood: Always likes the bright lights – seventh at Masters, tied for sixth at Players this year – and has 17 career top-10s in majors.
9. Justin Rose: Not having a great year, but don’t count out defending champ.
10. Bubba Watson: No. 2 doesn’t necessarily set up well for a bomber like Watson, but he has the creativity to make up for that.
•Most likely to stumble:
Phil Mickelson hasn’t been himself this year, and Pinehurst No. 2 isn’t the ideal spot for him to find his game – and a chance for the career slam.
•Most likely to surprise:
Zach Johnson knows how to win a major (2007 Masters) and he’s having an excellent year.
•Most likely to break through:
With Jordan Spieth, it’s a sooner-or-later proposition for him to win his first major. It’s going to be much sooner.
The U.S. Open is normally a tournament with punishing rough. That won’t be the case this year, with Pinehurst No. 2’s restored natural areas now inviting more aggressive approach shots.