By Brandon Raper @Brandon__Raper on June 11, 2014
Feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the U.S. Open coverage yet? Have no fear, whether you're a diehard golf fan or just here for the majors, we've got you covered.
The U.S. Open always creates its own share of drama, and it's known as the toughest test in golf for good reason. To get you prepared, here are ten storylines you absolutely need to be watching as you prepare yourself for one of the best weeks in all of golf. Enjoy!
This is less about what happens on the course than how viewers respond to not having Tiger Woods around for yet another major. The Father’s Day weekend numbers should still be solid, especially if Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy or another big name are in contention. However, if they falter, casual viewers may look elsewhere on Sunday afternoon. For such an incredible tournament, here’s hoping that isn’t the case.
While he gets a ton of the press, Jordan Spieth is far from the only “young gun” with a chance to win this week. Guys like Hideki Matsuyama, Billy Horschel, Rickie Fowler, and even former champions Rory McIlroy and Webb Simpson are making waves for the under-30 crowd. It’s not a trend that I expect to stop any time soon, so pick a horse and hang on for the ride.
Justin Rose’s triumph at Merion last year was the third for a European player in the last four U.S. Opens. Without even counting non-European international players like Adam Scott and Jason Day, the European roster looks strong this week. Although Rory McIlroy is a big favorite considering recent form, don’t count out Rose making another run, or the seemingly-annual Lee Westwood streak to the top of a major leaderboard.
No doubt one of the biggest things facing all the players this week is their first real look at the new, well, old version of the legendary No. 2 course at Pinehurst. One of Donald Ross’s crown jewels was restored by the team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, and the lack of true “rough” by modern standards is surprising. The greens are as small and treacherous as ever, and although it will play differently, No. 2 will still fight back.
Bubba Watson has long been a fan favorite, and this year his performance on Tour is more than living up to lofty expectations. There’s not a thing in the world that can diminish two Masters green jackets, but if Watson can put it together at Pinehurst, he’ll prove that his is a game that travels far from the confines of Magnolia Lane.
Matt Kuchar, Sergio Garcia, Jason Day, even veterans like Steve Stricker and Miguel Angel Jimenez have their sights set on etching their name in major history for the first time this weekend, and that’s not even to mention the countless other qualifiers and journeymen in the field. I like Kuchar’s chances as much as any this week, but the U.S. Open has a funny way of bringing unexpected names to the top.
Fans and observers like me have been waiting for this moment for weeks. Ever since Woods’s surgery, Scott was on the fast track to the No. 1 spot in the world ranking. He won his first Tour event of the year at the Crowne Plaza Invitational, but now is the perfect time for Scott to prove that he’s the best in more than just points calculations.
It’s been 21 months since the “heir apparent” to the throne of golf last won on the PGA Tour. McIlroy’s been phenomenal this year, and his victory in the BMW PGA Championship stands out as a landmark moment. Still, when majors are basically expected of you, nothing else will do. There’s a big crowd at the top right now, and McIlroy would make a huge statement with a win at Pinehurst.
Spieth took the PGA Tour by storm in 2013, and he’s more than lived up to the hype that surrounded him when he left the University of Texas after just one year. Two months ago, Spieth nearly won in his debut at the Masters, so there’s really no telling where the ceiling is anymore. With his 21st birthday still over a month away, Spieth could become one of the youngest major winners since Gene Sarazen won the PGA and US Open in 1922.
Mickelson was the runner-up to the late, great Payne Stewart in 1999, and at that time he was prepared to walk away from the tournament for the birth of his first daughter. 15 years and five near-misses later, Lefty is ultra-focused, with all of his efforts since Merion in 2013 leading up to this week. He hasn’t looked great so far this season, but none of that will matter if he's finally holding the trophy on Sunday afternoon.
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There have been a number of players making statements on the PGA Tour this season. Read More
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Rory McIlroy stumbled at the BMW PGA Championship, but a disappointing missed cut won't impede his major championship aspirations this summer. Read More
May 22, 2015 by Brandon Raper
Jordan Spieth fell from the top of the leaderboard following a bad day at Colonial, but he's proven to have a short memory and an uncanny ability to bounce back. Read More