Wednesday, June 16, 2010
10 years after one of the most dominant performances we as fans have seen in any sport, the U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach. Last time we were here for the U.S. Open Tiger Woods absolutely annihilated the field, winning by 15 strokes and being the only player to finish under par. Unfortunately, I don't think we are going to see anything like that this year. However, it appears as if Pebble Beach is going to play as tough, if not tougher than it was for everyone but Tiger in 2000. Because of that, and because Tiger is not the Tiger of 2000, it is really anybody's tournament this year. Let's have a look at Pebble Beach and pontificate on who might bring home the U.S. Open trophy.
Most of us are familiar with Pebble Beach Golf Links because of Tiger Woods Golf, but there is so much more to the course than hitting R2 and getting the game-breaker. Pebble Beach is such a great course for many reasons; it has a great combination of short and long holes, it has picturesque views, many of the greats have won here, the weather can change everything and it commands accuracy on every shot. Small greens, sloping fairways, treacherous rough and steep cliffs are standard operating procedure at Pebble, and any small mistake will be magnified by this course. That said, this is not a course where you need to be a bomber to compete. Sure there are some long par 5s, but there are also some very short holes where accuracy is an absolute must. Consider the 7th hole; a 106 yard par 3 that juts out into the Pacific Ocean. You could hit a lob wedge off the tee on this hole and bomb it into ocean. It is all about accuracy and control. Holes like this just don't exist in other places, and that is why Pebble is such a revered course and the ultimate test of a golfer. On the flipside, if you hit the ball in the rough on some holes you had better have taken your steroids that morning or you are going to have some trouble. Pebble Beach has it all.
Because Pebble Beach is playing so tough, the name of the game is limiting your mistakes. Par is a good score here, and I wouldn't expect the champion to have a score any lower than -5 when all is said and done.
Since Tiger is not quite back on his game, the field for the U.S. Open is really wide open. However, I am certainly not going to count Tiger out at all. He seems to be comfortable with his game and has the added incentive of defending his number one ranking from that other one. I don't think a top 10 is unreasonable to expect from Tiger, but it is all going to come down to his accuracy off the tee. Here are some other guys I like this week:
Dustin Johnson- DJ is the two time defending champ of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, so it is safe to say that he loves this course. Pebble Beach will play much different this time around, but expect him to be there on the weekend.
Lee Westwood- The Wizard is coming off of a win at St. Jude last week and has three top tens in the U.S. Open in his career, including a fifth place finish at Pebble ten years ago. He is England's best chance to end their U.S. Open drought, and will be fazed by nothing this week after having to endure Robert Garrigus' epic swass last week.
Retief Goosen- The Golden Goosen has two U.S. Open championships to his credit and has been playing pretty well this year. He is deadly accurate and has the potential to carve up this course like a fine surgeon.
Jim Furyk- Another deadly accurate guy. Always worthy of mention when predicting possible major championships. Although, when he loses I think that everyone is happier. Smug bastard.
Charl Schwartzel- Schwartzel has been solid on the euro tour this year, and finished second to fellow South African Ernie Els at Doral. He could surprise some people by competing into the weekend. Moreover, he was my first ever player update on rotowire.com.
Sleeper: David Duval
Last time we spoke of Duval was when he came in 2nd at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He calmly went about his business that weekend and played very well. It may be a long shot, but Duval is the kind of guy who can come out of the woodwork on these weekends when the course is playing deadly tough. Look what he did last year at Bethpage. I know I will be rooting for him.
Those are my thoughts. Again, let me stress it is all going to be about limiting mistakes. Whoever does that the best will be the winner. I know if I went out there I would probably be lucky to shoot a 200. Let us be thankful that we don't have to watch that, and sit back and watch the pros look decidedly average as Pebble Beach tames them. Enjoy!