The 2014 United States Open

2014 United States Open

2013 Champion (At Merion Golf Club): Justin Rose +1

2013 Champion (At Merion Golf Club): Justin Rose (+1)

Course:

Pinehurst’s No. 2 course will host golf’s second major for the third time in 15 years. After being renovated in 2011 to play more like its original design, the course now plays at 7,565 yards (7,214 in 2005 and 7,175 in 1999) with a 70 par. While watching the US Open, you’ll hear not only about the length of the course, but about the lack of rough. US Opens are all famous for having four-inch-thick-rough but not this year. The fairways have been widened by up to 50% with the 35 acres of rough being replaced by “natural areas.” What are these “natural areas?” Sand, wire grass, and pine straw; none of that sounds fun. As per most Donald Ross courses, the greens on No. 2 are very particular-most are turtlebacked. The course distance shouldn’t affect the players’ ability to hit greens in regulation, but their ability to put the ball close to the pin.

TV Coverage:

Thursday: 9am-3pm on ESPN
3-5pm on NBC
5-6pm on ESPN2
6-7pm on ESPN
Friday: 9am-3pm on ESPN
3-5pm on NBC
5-7pm on ESPN
Saturday and Sunday: 12-7:30pm on NBC

The Field:

The Field includes 156 golfers with 87 Americans–I’m only including the number of American players because this is, of course, our National Championship–and 10 past champions.

Storylines:

The biggest story this year comes from two past US Opens: last year’s at Merion and No. 2’s first championship in 1999. The common theme: Phil Mickelson. In 1999, Payne Stewart won his second US Open by taking the lead from Phil on the 17th and sinking a 15-footer on the 18th to edge out Mickelson by a stroke. Stewart wouldn’t get a chance to defend that title, as he passed away in an aviation accident before the 2000 US Open.

The Statue of Stewart at Pinehurst

The Statue of Stewart at Pinehurst

Last year, Phil shot himself out of the lead on Merion’s back-nine leaving Justin Rose to take the title and Phil to finish second at the US Open for the sixth time in his career. Phil would avenge his melt down in the very next major by winning the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield. Coincidentally, Phil is looking to become the sixth Masters-era career Grand Slam winner (Nicklaus, Woods, Hogan, Player, and Sarazen–what a group).

Another player-related big story revolves around the guys without US Open titles. Whether you’re looking at guys with wins at other majors, like Bubba Watson or Adam Scott, or guys without a single major, like Jordan Spieth or Matt Kuchar, everyone is wondering who will step up in the absence of Tiger Woods. Most people are looking to either Phil or one other man…

Rory. Rory McIlroy enters the tournament as the odds-on favorite. He’s set at 10-1 over Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson at 12-1 and 14-1, respectively. Rory has finished in the Top-10 in eight of his eleven tournaments in 2014, including a win at the BMW PGA Championship.

Predictions:

The Cut: +8

Winning Score: +1

The Champion:

Phil Mickelson

Screw the insider trading accusations, Phil Mickelson will complete the career Slam this year. While his big errors on the back nine last year came from his pitching wedge, Phil’s wedge-play is spectacular. He’ll use his wedges to put the ball right at the pin. It may not be a low-scoring affair, but then again, it wouldn’t be the US Open if it was.

Disagree? Let me know in the comments below

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