Of all the things to happen as an appetizer to the third Major of the year in golf known as the US Open, the St. Jude Classic sure was something.
For one: It sets an interesting tone as a preface involving those that did and didn’t make the cut. The types that made it of import—Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington—yet failed to win due to rounds above par, look in good enough form to make waves after weeks of so-so golf.
Those that didn’t play on Saturday and Sunday of note—Zach Johnson, Graeme McDowell—but have no reason to fret, failure doesn’t bode anything particularly toward a negative; these two for instances had a strange disadvantage caused by course type and slow starts, two things when mixed doom most players, even better ones like this.
The main thing the St. Jude Classic did was ruin any surprise about my pick for the US Open at the Olympic Club in San Fran. Why? Because the guy won the tournament the week before the bloody Major!
I was thinking of Dustin Johnson for this spot weeks ago; he’s just getting healthy again, getting his game back in order, ascending at the right pace to be ready for this Major.
The only other guy on my radar for winning this thing was a member of that club that took the week off to prepare: Hunter Mahan. He’s won twice this year on the PGA Tour, and he’s certainly capable, but Johnson’s my pick, so I’ll say Mahan will finish in the Top 5. (That being by score, not by official numerical order; all of those ties do make a mess of things like that all the time.)
For everyone loving Tiger Woods for this, I’d be all for it, but not this Major—the British Open is his to lose—and not for any reason of which you would think.
Tiger’s a trendy play/talking point because he won the Memorial Tournament two weeks before this US Open, but need I remind you: Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks prior to the Masters, too, and he didn’t win that one either, despite the hoopla going into that one.
Too much déjà vu for me to latch onto Tiger for this one, yet you can’t say I’ll count him out, for he’s always a factor just being on the golf course.
During this US Open, like the Masters, I’d be willing to bet he’ll have a mathematical chance, make a charge entirely too late, and have a few too many boogies making his birdies null and void, like, once again, the Masters.
Plus, there’s the Par 5’s, or lack thereof, which brings me to my next talking point…
The Wild Card: The Course
The Olympic Club in San Francisco has been put through the US Open ringer by now meaning that it’ll have narrower fairways with many more obstacles and super thick rough cut to exact measurements.
Its 7100 yards, par 70, and has only two par 5’s. Furthermore of the four par 3’s, Hole 3 will play well over 200 yards, and Hole 16 is a 600-yard par 5, so that’s three shots to the green for everybody.
But there is Hole 7, which is a drivable par 4, being less than 300 yards of a hole.
This course also ends 5-5-4, so someone could give this thing up, or win it all, over the last three holes—that should make for interesting television.
Players will have to grind out pars all weekend. Translation: Iron play could be the make-or-break element of the US Open, not just finding the fairway.
So, to recap, I got Dustin Johnson to win, Hunter Mahan for a top five and for fun let’s add a third with Jim Furyk in the top ten, for he always plays this course well.