The 2nd major championship of the PGA Tour season, the U.S. Open, begins tomorrow at the daunting Olympic Club in San Francisco, CA. The US Open is perpetually one of the most difficult tests of the entire PGA Tour season, and this week is no different. Olympic is an absurdly long course, measuring out this week at an astounding 7,170 yards. Did I mention that the course boasts a 520 yard par 4 (hole #1) as well as 670 yard par 5 (hole #16)? Yeah, Olympic definitely isn’t suited for the average weekend hacker.
The first 6 holes at the Olympic Club are quite possibly the most difficult that any of these players are going to encounter. Countless players this week have indicated that if you can play the first 6 holes at even par on any given day, it’s like picking up at least 2-3 shots on the field. For those that have to start at number 1 early in the morning, the hole is going to play even longer than the 520 yards that it already does.
The talk to start the week has been about the featured grouping on Thursday and Friday, which consists of Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson. I’m assuming they’re going to draw a moderate to large gallery, but that’s just a hunch. Phil has owned Tiger when they have played together as of late. Even though Tiger holds a 14-13-3 edge in rounds they have played together, Woods has failed to break 70 in any of the last 6 rounds in which he has been paired with Lefty. If Woods gets off to a shaky start this week, Olympic is not going to be forgiving. Nobody is giving Bubba much of a chance, assuming that he is going to be intimidated by the larger than life persona’s of Woods and Mickelson. Watson is no slouch, and I think people are incorrectly overlooking him as a contender this week.
The other featured group to start the week is Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, a European grouping that should draw quite a bit of attention. The attention this group receives is certainly warranted, as its members are the top 3 ranked players in the world coming into this week. McIlroy, the defending U.S. Open champion turned in a solid performance last week at the St. Jude Classic after a string of shaky outings. Whether or not last week was enough to turn things around and get Rory in a position to compete this week has yet to be seen.
Woods is by far the favorite this week, going off at 7/2, followed by McIlroy, Mickelson, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood. There has been talk that Matt Kuchar may be a good bet at 25/1, as well. The fact that the last 14 major championships have been won by 14 different people certainly throws a wrench into things. I also don’t think Tiger will pull out the victory. His recent history with Mickelson leads me to believe that he is going to come out tight and put himself in hole that he might not be able to overcome. There’s a good possibility Tiger will win a major this year, but I just don’t see it happening this week.
Now, it’s time to sit back, relax and watch the best players in the world try to conquer one of the most difficult courses they will see. I, personally, expect to see a few shots and scores that make me feel not quite as bad about my game.