The U.S.Open tees off on Thursday with Oakmont’s bunkers and rough being more terrifying than the prospect of Donald Trump becoming the next President of the United States.
The winning score the last time the Tour pitched up at the Pittsburgh track was +5 posted by Angel Cabrera so if you’re thinking it’ll be a birdie blitz – think again.
World No 1 Jason Day has reached for the sick note on the eve of the season’s second Major as the ‘stress’ of winning seven of his last 18 tournaments kicks in. But we’ve heard that from the Aussie before and he’s bolted in.
Tried and trusted seems to be the watchword for punters this week as 51 players pop their U.S. Open cherries and here are the 7 players you’re backing as of 3pm on Wednesday afternoon.
1. Dustin Johnson
Has had more near misses than Ireland’s John O’Shea but it seems to bother everyone else more than the smooth-swinging, 6’ 4” South Carolinan.
Had a 12-foot eagle putt to win this Major on the 18th at Chambers Bay last year but in typical DJ-style, didn’t even force a play-off with Jordan Spieth as he three-putted to gift the Texan wonderkid his first U.S. Open title and his second Major of the season.
Former caddy and top golf writer Lawrence Donegan reckons Oakmont is built for players with Dustin’s DNA – but its DJ’s brain rather than his deoxyribonucleic acid that has failed to follow instruction in at least four Majors now when he was in with a chance of winning.
You know what to expect if you back him and maybe going low (or as low as Oakmont allows) on the final day before kicking back to watch the contenders ‘do a DJ’ and make a balls of it could be the answer to the World No. 6 finally gets his hands on a Major.
2. Lee Westwood
A patriotic punt or divine inspiration for Europe’s answer to DJ?
Westwood has seen little game time this season and is either strategically building towards a first Major win or can’t be arsed putting in the hours anymore as he’s the wrong side of 40. And his mood won’t have been helped by a diversion to Canada as a few first-class – and first-world – problems kicked in at Heathrow.
Well I’m down sat at the 1st class check in if you’d like to send a manager and find a solution. https://t.co/eG7a8f38Cj
— Lee Westwood (@WestwoodLee) June 12, 2016
Westwood did post his second T2 in the Masters in April when runner-up to stable-mate Danny Willett and has been T3 twice at US Open before in 2008 & 2011.
Posted a +18 the last time the US Open hit Oakmont – but that’s unlikely to be good enough to win this time. Might get him a Top 30 spot though.
3. Phil Mickelson
Forever the bridesmaid with SIX runner-up finishes in the one Major Lefty has yet to win. But there was no softly-softly approach by Big Phil as he put in a shift when T2 to Daniel Berger at the Fedex St Jude Classic last weekend to let everyone know he was still around.
That was his fifth Top 10 of the year and while he missed the cut the last time he teed it up in a Major at Oakmont, Mickelson knows time is running out. Has the smarts to let the tournament come to him rather than chasing it when things start to go wrong. As they will.
4. Rory McIlroy
The 2011 U.S. Open winner needs to get hot with the flat stick if he’s going to back up his win at Congressional.
Despite 5 top 10s this season, McIlroy is winless on the American side of the Atlantic but did get his head in front at the Irish Open in May.
Has the approach game to keep hitting the dance-floor but needs to be accurate off the tee, hole his fair share of putts and importantly stay calm and carry on – if he’s to be the last man standing come Sunday night.
5. Danny Willett
The U.S. Masters champion looks to do what Jordan did last year and win the first two Majors of the season – but in very different circumstances. While Jordan kept the head down and put the hours in before his Chambers Bay triumph, the Danny lad took a month off to celebrate and spend time with his new-born son before understandably missing the cut at the Players Championship on his return.
Showed up well in earlier rounds at the Irish Open and at Wentworth before the obvious rustiness in his game kicked in.
Willett became only the second Englishman (after Nick Faldo) and the first European in 17 years to win at Augusta and deserves his new-found standing in the game.
But he’ll need all his concentration to get through four days here unscathed.
6. Justin Rose
A niggling back injury means the 2013 winner at Merion Golf Club hasn’t been seen in public with a club in his hands since The Players Championship.
Rose is built for a U.S. Open test according to Shane Ryan but has had his season curtailed in Florida just after posting his best finish of the season when third at Wells Fargo the week before.
Trying to combat a back injury isn’t the greatest preparation when trying to slash and burn yourself around Oakmont’s unforgiving rough. But as his Twitter posts show – you can’t fault him for effort.
Busy week in the gym and on the course preparing for the US Open. Made really good progress @360_healthperformance pic.twitter.com/LqCS7FFyAJ
— Justin Rose (@JustinRose99) June 10, 2016
7. Jordan Spieth
The World No. 2 proved there was no lingering after-effects after his Masters’ meltdown when winning the Dean & Deluca two tournaments later.
But there are questions to answer for the reigning U.S. Open champ as his swing has tended to go A.W.O.L. when the heat comes on from moving day.
Going toe-to-toe with the world’s best players is demanding enough without adding a course that makes Chambers Bay look like a trip to the local pitch ‘n’ putt on a summer’s night.