By Eric Kammeraad
The Olympic Club in San Francisco, California is a Par 70 golf course(as one Par 5 has been made a Par 4) that can be stretched to almost 7,200 yards from which the Players will be playing this week. This Private Club will be hosting the U.S. Open for the 5th time starting on Thursday. The previous Winners have been Jack Fleck in 1955, Billy Casper in 1966, Scott Simpson in 1987, and most recently Lee Janzen in 1998. And if you know anything about these Players, they don’t hit the ball far off of the tee, have consistent iron play, and they ALL were great putters in their eras.
As we move on to see who has the best chance of winning the 2012 United States Open, let’s first review the biggest discussing point of the week; the Thursday and Friday grouping of Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, and the Current Masters Champion and fan favorite Bubba Watson. If you have heard anything on this subject this week, most of the analysts and commentators are basically giving Phil no chance because of the way he is being ‘punished’ by the PGA Tour and getting paired with Tiger Woods and the biggest Gallery on the golf course, and then adding Bubba Watson, who hits it farther than anyone on the PGA Tour and won the most recent Major Championship in Augusta. Who wouldn’t want to see this grouping? Phil Mickelson. Why wouldn’t he want this grouping? Because it was 2 weeks ago that Phil complained to anyone he could talk to in the media about his hatred for the new cell phone camera policy at PGA Tour events. And basically Withdrew from the Memorial Tournament(Jack Nicklaus’ yearly Tournament, yes that Jack Nicklaus!) after the 1st Round of play and shooting a 79. While saying it was from mental and physical fatigue, which is what any player would say after withdrawing due to a personal problem with the PGA Tour and its fans.
Crowd members can now use the camera on their cell phone to take pictures of players during Tournament Play. The PGA Tour says it is to gain more exposure to players, which is ridiculous because crowds cannot go past the ropes to talk to Players, they cannot get access to the Practice Areas before Tee Times, and they certain cannot stop a Player to have a chat before during or after their Round that day. The only true exposure that fans are getting is the exposure that is left on their cell phone camera and the images left in their mind.
From Rory McIlroy to Tiger Woods to Webb Simpson to 14 year old Amateur Andy Zheng, whoever can shoot below Par of 280 after Sunday afternoon will most likely be the 2012 U.S. Open Champion. This is very much a shot maneuvering course that has many ridges and slopes on the generally smaller greens for such a large course. This is most likely not the week for long tee shots and going for the greens in two on Par 5’s. Precise placement and clutch putting will win this year’s U.S. Open.
Players like Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson most likely will try and over power the course, but their strengths are not in putting and that will be their demise. Some Europeans and Top Worldwide Players such a Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, and Martin Kaymer just aren’t plying particularly well recently. Especially McIlroy, as I would not count on him repeating as Champion. Quite a few Australians catch my eye this week though. Jason Day, Aaron Baddeley, and Adam Scott all have the game, confidence, and experience now that one of them could end up winning their first major this weekend. As for other Hot Players to look out for, there is the obvious of Tiger Woods and Luke Donald. But also keep an eye on Jason Dufner, Nick Watney, and Zach Johnson. And back to Phil Mickelson, where no one seems to be giving him a chance, I disagree. If there is anyone besides Tiger out there that can use the negative publicity as motivation, it is most definitely Phil and his caddie ‘Bones’ McKay. While Tiger Woods will be in the hunt too, this is NOT a golf course set up for his game, especially when it still isn’t ‘The Old Tiger’. I believe we will see a lot of big names and high rankings by the weekend, which will make this Major Tournament even more exciting to watch.
As much as I would like to pick Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, and Tiger or Phil, this is the time and the place for Luke Donald to end his Major Championship drought with a course suited for his precise swings and dependable putting stroke. His game is on a very high level right now and that is why he will bring home the U.S. Open Trophy and the new Jack Nicklaus Medal back to his hometown in England.
But in all honesty, this is the U.S. Open where tight fairways, menacing greens, and tremendous pressure is only the beginning of winning the United States Open Tournament at the Olympic Club in San Francisco on Sunday Evening.