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US Open Preview + Picks
by Matt Fargo - 06/13/2011
We have hit the second major of the season as the 111th edition of the U.S. Open tees off this week from Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. This is the first trip for the Open back to Congressional since 1997 when Ernie Els won by a shot over Colin Montgomery. The course has gone through some changes, most notably the par three finishing hole from then is now number 10 and the tourney concludes on a long par four.
The USGA will have this course tricked up to usual Open standards so the course will be far from the same when it hosted the AT&T National. There will definitely be some advantages to having had success in the past but there are factors that need to be weighed heavier. The typical Open track will have higher and thicker rough as well as faster and harder greens making scoring much more difficult than what is normally seen.
Unlike most tour events, the Open changes venue every year but past history still does play an important role. While the courses are different, the setups are similar so any patterns by players need to be taken into consideration. The three AT&T National winners at Congressional were Tiger Woods, Anthony Kim and K.J. Choi. With Woods out and Kim not playing well, it leaves Choi as the player of this group to contend.
Parity has shown up over the last few years as ten players have won the last 10 majors and only two of those players, Phil Mickelson and Angel Cabrera, had won before. International players have won the last four majors, including Graeme McDowell winning the Open last year. He was the first European player to win the Open since 1970 when Tony Jacklin won at Hazeltine National Golf Club in 1970.
The favorite at many spots this week is Rory McIlroy (+1000) which may come as a surprise after his epic collapse at the Masters. He did bounce back however as he has put together three top tens in five events and he is coming off his best U.S. finish, a solo fifth at the Memorial two weeks ago. As far as the U.S. Open, he finished T10 in his first one in 2009 at Bethpage but missed the cut at Pebble Beach last year.
Trying to defend will be Graeme McDowell (+5000) and he is a pretty healthy underdog this week. McDowell won at Pebble Beach last year at even-par 284. This year, he has not been at the top of his game in the states as he finished in the top ten in his first three events but his best finish since then is a T33. His collapse at THE PLAYERS is noteworthy since that was his last event on American soil.
Many are hoping that Phil Mickelson (+1200) will finally break through at the U.S. Open. He has never won but has certainly been close as he has finished second a record five times, his last coming in 2009. He finished T4 at Pebble Beach last year so he seems to be in the mix every year and while many are saying he is having a down year, he has yet to miss a cut and has four top tens including a win at Houston.
The number one player in the world is Luke Donald (+1200) but he is not the favorite everywhere surprisingly. After missing the cut at the Northern Trust Open in his first PGA Tour event, he has gone on to place in the top ten in his last eight tournaments including a win at the Accenture Match Play. His U.S. Open history is spotty with a T12 being his best finish in 2006. He finished T47 at Pebble last year.
Dustin Johnson (+1800) will long be remembered for his two meltdowns last year including his 82 on Sunday at the U.S. Open to go from leading after Saturday to finishing T8. Then there was the bunker incident at the PGA Championship. This year he has yet to win and has a few missed cuts along the way but he has a T3, a solo second and a solo fourth to his credit, the last being at the Memorial two weeks ago.
K.J. Choi (+2000) has won on this course as he was the 2007 winner of the inaugural AT&T National and while the course is much different this week, that knowledge and confidence is big. He has already won this year with a similar field at THE PLAYERS and overall he has five top tens to his credit. His best U.S. Open finish was a T15 at Pinehurst in 2002 but his game is in great form now.
Hunter Mahan (+2000) missed the cut in the first major this year but he has a great U.S. Open track record as well as great success on this course. Like Choi, he won't see the same Congressional but at the AT&T National, he has finishes of second, T12 and T8 here. He missed the cut at Pebble last year but his other three U.S. Open appearances resulted in finishes of T6, T18 and T13.
As for a longshot, Geoff Ogilvy (+6000) is getting some very solid odds. Ogilvy won the U.S. Open in 2006 at Winged Foot and followed that up with a T9 two years later at Torrey Pines. He did miss the cut last year at Pebble Beach but that was in the midst of a very rough stretch for him. He has two tops tens this year including a T4 at the Masters and despite an average showing last week in Memphis, he could be a factor again.
Recommended Tournament Win Six Pack at the U.S. Open
Phil Mickelson (+1200)
Luke Donald (+1200)
Dustin Johnson (+1800)
K.J. Choi (+2000)
Hunter Mahan (+2000)
Geoff Ogilvy (+6000)