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BlogU.S. Open Preview and Picks

U.S. Open

June 12 – 15, 2014

Pinehurst Resort

(Course #2)

Pinehurst, N.C.

Par: 70 / Yardage: 7,562

Purse: $8 million (last year’s)

with $1,440,000 (last year’s) to the winner

Defending Champion:
Justin Rose

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 59 of the top 60 in the latest Official World Rankings, with just one player not in the field, Tiger Woods because of injury.

The field includes 23 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2014.  Those players not in the field are #20 Charles Howell III and #25 Will MacKenzie.

The field includes 25 players in the top 25 on this year’s PGA Tour money list. 

The field includes 22 players that have won 26 events on the PGA Tour this year: Jimmy Walker (Frys.com Open, Sony Open in Hawaii & AT&T Pebble), Webb Simpson (Shriners Hospitals); Ryan Moore (CIMB CLassic), Dustin Johnson (WGC-HSBC Champions); Chris Kirk (McGladrey Classic), Harris English (OHL Classic at Mayakoba); Zach Johnson (Hyundai T of C); Patrick Reed (Humana & Cadillac); Kevin Stadler (WM Phoenix); Bubba Watson (Northern Trust & Masters); Jason Day (WGC-Accenture); Russell Henley (Honda);  John Senden (Valspar Championship); Matt Every (Palmer); Matt Jones (Shell Houston); Matt Kuchar (RBC Heritage); Seung-Yul Noh (Zurich); J.B. Holmes (Wells Fargo) Martin Kaymer (Players); Brendon Todd (Byron Nelson); Adam Scott (Colonial) and Hideki Matsuyama (Memorial).

Those winners not in the field are Scott Stallings (Farmers); Chesson Hadley (Puerto Rico); Steve Bowditch (Valero Texas) and Ben Crane (FedEx St. Jude).

The field includes ten past champions: Justin Rose (2013), Webb Simpson (2012), Rory McIlroy (2011), Graeme McDowell (2010), Lucas Glover (2009), Angel Cabrera (2007), Geoff Ogilvy (2006),Retief Goosen (2001 & ’04), Jim Furyk (2003) and Ernie Els (1997 & ’94).

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the U.S. Open field is our performance chart listed by average finish.  Another way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the U.S. Open in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the U.S. Open.

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Another cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmaker in Las Vegas.

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for the U.S. Open

Player FedEx St. Jude Lyoness Open Memorial Nordea Masters Colonial BMW PGA Byron Nelson Open Espana The Players Wells Fargo Zurich Classic Volvo China RBC Heritage
Rory McIlroy
(326.33 pts)
DNP DNP T15
(35)
DNP DNP Win
(198)
DNP DNP T6
(60)
T8
(33.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Martin Kaymer
(233.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T12
(57)
T29
(14)
DNP Win
(132)
T18
(21.33)
DNP DNP T23
(9)
Adam Scott
(224 pts)
DNP DNP T4
(80)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP DNP DNP T38
(12)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Jim Furyk
(216 pts)
DNP DNP T19
(31)
DNP T51
(0)
DNP DNP DNP 2
(100)
2
(66.67)
DNP DNP T7
(18.33)
Brendon Todd
(205.33 pts)
DNP DNP T8
(50)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP Win
(88)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T38
(4)
Hideki Matsuyama
(203.67 pts)
DNP DNP Win
(132)
DNP T10
(40)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(27)
T38
(8)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Joost Luiten
(200.33 pts)
DNP 3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP T12
(57)
DNP 4
(53.33)
T80
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Shane Lowry
(195 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T25
(25)
DNP 2
(150)
DNP T15
(23.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Henrik Stenson
(191.83 pts)
DNP DNP DNP 5
(70)
DNP T7
(82.5)
DNP DNP T34
(16)
DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP
Stephen Gallacher
(191.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T2
(100)
DNP T5
(105)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Luke Donald
(181.33 pts)
DNP DNP T49
(1)
DNP DNP T3
(135)
DNP DNP T38
(12)
DNP DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
Miguel A. Jimenez
(180.5 pts)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP 70
(0)
DNP T35
(22.5)
DNP Win
(88)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Francesco Molinari
(176.5 pts)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T7
(82.5)
DNP T24
(17.33)
T6
(60)
DNP DNP 4
(26.67)
DNP
Chris Kirk
(174 pts)
DNP DNP T4
(80)
DNP T14
(36)
DNP DNP DNP T13
(37)
T30
(13.33)
DNP DNP T27
(7.67)
Justin Rose
(170.83 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP 25
(37.5)
DNP DNP T4
(80)
5
(46.67)
T8
(16.67)
DNP DNP
Jordan Spieth
(168.33 pts)
DNP DNP T19
(31)
DNP T14
(36)
DNP T37
(8.67)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP T12
(12.67)
Thongchai Jaidee
(140 pts)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(132)
DNP T38
(18)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Matt Kuchar
(138.67 pts)
DNP DNP T15
(35)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T7
(36.67)
DNP T17
(33)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
Jason Dufner
(134.33 pts)
DNP DNP T19
(31)
DNP 2
(100)
DNP T48
(1.33)
DNP T48
(2)
DNP DNP T54
(0)
DNP
Kevin Na
(120 pts)
DNP DNP 2
(100)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T38
(12)
T18
(21.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Ian Poulter
(119.33 pts)
T6
(60)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T26
(36)
DNP DNP T65
(0)
DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP
John Senden
(117 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T5
(70)
DNP T11
(26)
DNP T26
(24)
DNP T29
(7)
DNP DNP
Billy Horschel
(115.67 pts)
T6
(60)
DNP T15
(35)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T26
(24)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T68
(0)
Bernd Wiesberger
(114 pts)
DNP 2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP T46
(6)
DNP T38
(8)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Bill Haas
(105.33 pts)
DNP DNP T8
(50)
DNP T21
(29)
DNP DNP DNP T26
(24)
T44
(4)
DNP DNP WD
(-1.67)

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the U.S. Open

Player FedEx St. Jude Lyoness Open Memorial Nordea Masters Colonial BMW PGA Byron Nelson Open Espana The Players Wells Fargo Zurich Classic Volvo China RBC Heritage
Darren Clarke
(-41.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-15)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
D.A. Points
(-38.33 pts)
WD
(-5)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
T52
(0)
DNP DNP
Chad Collins
(-35 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T45
(1.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Lucas Glover
(-30 pts)
DNP DNP T69
(0)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
T62
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Kevin Tway
(-29.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T65
(0)
T48
(0.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Hudson Swafford
(-26.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Nick Watney
(-26.67 pts)
DNP DNP T55
(0)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
T75
(0)
DNP DNP
Nicolas Colsaerts
(-26.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T71
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Joe Ogilvie
(-23.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Jim Renner
(-23.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T68
(0)
DNP DNP T69
(0)
T70
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

When the USGA decided six years ago to place both the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open back to back, one of the questions in the decision was something they couldn’t control, the weather.  The hope was that each day would be in the mid-80s with low humidity and lack of rain.  Back then the first choice for this marriage of the two events was Pebble Beach but they weren’t going for it while Pinehurst graciously was in favor of this plan.  Now if this was being done in May I would have said great, the weather is perfect at Pinehurst then.  Around mid-June it starts getting hot, sticky and afternoon thunderstorms so yes it was a gamble, and it’s looking like they may lose this gamble.

Reason, the USGA wouldn’t be able to put much stress on the greens for the U.S. Open because there is a worry that they could be in terrible shape for the Women’s.  So this could force them to compromise on plan-A in having really hard, firm fast greens to preserve those greens, thus bringing low scores for the U.S. Open.  Then you have the ultimate problem, let’s say you have the kind of weather they had at Bethpage in 2009 with lot’s of rain that forced a Monday finish.  You put that in effect along with a possible 18 hole playoff on Tuesday, and you can see that it won’t be a good scenario for the Woman.  The course won’t be in perfect shape, lot’s of divots in the driving areas and possible poor, bumpy greens and washed out fairways created by the U.S. Open.  So they need the help of mother-nature.

Looks like they aren’t going to catch a break.  In looking at the long range forecast for Pinehurst, it’s going to be hot and muggy each day and during the four days of the U.S. Open the chances of thunderstorms are between 30 to 40%.  So we just have to hope for the best, but it ‘s supposed to get hotter and by Sunday it will get into the 90s which will put stress on the greens, especially if the USGA cuts those greens tightly.  Guess we have to just hope for the best.

Memory of Payne Stewart

Historically a course only gets the U.S. Open once every 10 to 13 years.  But that is different for Pinehurst who is holding it’s third U.S. Open in 15 years.  The reason, money.  For this year’s U.S. Open, the USGA sold between 50,000 to 55,000 tickets.  Last year they were limited to just under 20,000 so you can see the difference that the size of Pinehurst helps bring in more money to the USGA coffers.

So Pinehurst has had two champions, Payne Stewart in 1999 and Michael Campbell in 2005.  Campbell decided last month to take a pass, his game has never blossomed after he won in 2005 and he has left playing competitively.  As for Payne Stewart that’s a sad saga because he died in a plane accident four months after he won.  Stewart was a very complicated person and some parts of life was a struggle for him.  Things changed, in the year leading to his death he found an inner peace which made him a much different, kinder person.  I remember sitting across the aisle from him on a flight between Atlanta and Bermuda just a month before he died, he was fun to talk with, and you could tell he was enjoying life and his family.  After the years of struggle he had with media people it was a nice change of pace.

Last month when I was at Pinehurst for media day, I sat outside on the veranda overlooking the 18th green.  Behind the green is a statue of Stewart remembering the moment that he made that 15 footer on 18 to give him that one shot win over Phil Mickelson.  It was a glorious moment, probably one of the top-ten moments in U.S. Open history of a player making a tough par on the 72nd with a decisive putt.  It’s nice to remember that great moment in the statue, but I was struck with a bit of sadness.  If Stewart didn’t make that putt and if he didn’t win that U.S. Open, things could have been totally different.  The probability of him dying could be totally different and who knows what role he would have played today, maybe a golf commentator or maybe just as a regular person that enjoyed his family growing up.  So it’s sad that something as great as what Payne earned in winning went down the path that it did.

On the other end of the spectrum, Phil Mickelson had one of those tough moments that any player has had.  Seeing your dream of winning the U.S. Open put on hold, Phil was the gracious winner he always is in hugging Stewart to congratulate him. They had a very poignant moment in which Stewart told Phil to go and enjoy the birth of his child in which Amanda was born the next day.  For Phil, that moment was tough on him not winning the U.S. Open but since then he has won five majors and had enjoyed a wonderful career and family life.

Guess the lesson in all of this, life can’t be judged by one moment of time.

Could parity be coming to the U.S. Open?

One last thing on the tournament that shows more parity, this year 53 of the 156 players will be U.S. Open rookies.  This is a remarkable number.  In the history of the U.S. Open the year with the most first-timers was 86 in 1919.  That was the first Open played after World War I and the field increased in size.  If you look at the most first-timers since World War II, it’s 75 in 1948.

Looking at U.S. Opens since 1970 the most first-timers are 53 in 1977, 1980 and 2011 so this year will be the most first-timers since three years ago, so it’s not that remarkable of a number.

For those wondering, last year there were 44 rookies at Merion, in 2012 there were 46 first-timers at Olympic and in 2010 there were 50 at Pebble.

U.S. Open information:

The inaugural U.S. Open was slated for September of 1895. However, the Open, as well as the inaugural U.S. Amateur, were delayed due to a scheduling conflict with the more popular sporting event, the America’s Cup yacht races. Finally, the first U.S. Open was played on Oct. 4, 1895, on a nine-hole course at the Newport Golf and Country Club in Newport, Rhode Island. The first U.S. Open was somewhat over-shadowed by the first U.S. Amateur tournament, which was played concurrently at the Newport Golf and Country Club. Its meager field consisted of just 10 professionals and one amateur. Horace Rawlins, the assistant at Newport Golf and Country Club, captured the first U.S. Open. The format for the tournament was 36 holes squeezed into one day, with four trips around the nine-hole course in Newport.

In 1898, the U.S. Open switched to a 72-hole format, two days of 36-holes. For the first few years, the field was routinely riddled with amateurs as well as British and Scottish professionals. Popularity for the event dwindled until Americans began to dominate, starting with John McDermott in 1911. The U.S. Open experienced a dramatic jump in popularity in 1913 when Francis Ouimet, a 20-year-old American amateur, defeated famed British professionals Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff. Popularity for the U.S. Open began to soar even higher in the early 1920s. In 1922, the U.S. Open sold tickets to the event for the first time. A year later, Bobby Jones, an amateur golfer from Georgia won his first of four U.S. Opens. By 1924, an enormous influx of applicants to compete in the U.S. Open forced the USGA to hold sectional qualifying to determine who would receive entry into the field.

In 1926, the format for the tournament was again switched. Players would play 72 holes; 18 holes on each of the first two days, followed by 36 holes on the third and final day. The changes to the U.S. Open format were paralleled by an almost systematic phase-out of the amateur player. Though amateurs still compete annually, John Goodman was the last amateur to win the U.S. Open, taking the 1933 crown  at the North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Illinois. Jack Nicklaus’s second-place finish at the 1960 U.S. Open is the best finish by an amateur since Goodman’s victory in 1933.

The U.S. Open saw relatively few changes between 1935 and 1954. In 1954, the course was roped off from tee to green for the first time, as well as broadcast on national television. Arnold Palmer’s historic comeback victory in 1960 further boosted the tournament’s popularity. But it was the 1962 U.S. Open, in which Jack Nicklaus defeated Arnold Palmer in a Monday playoff, that would catapult “America’s Championship” to the forefront of the golf world.

Over the next 18 years, from 1962 to 1980, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer combined to win four U.S. Opens. Fans flocked to the U.S. Open in droves to see the budding rivalry. In 1965, in an effort to accommodate the growing fan base, the U.S. Open switched from the three-day, 72-hole format to the current, four-day, 72-hole format.

In 1971, Lee Trevino’s victory at the U.S. Open was the catalyst as he went on to play, arguably, the three greatest weeks of golf. After winning the U.S. Open, Trevino went on to capture the Canadian Open crown, followed by the British Open crown. A feat that to this day has not been matched. Trevino, as well as the already well-established Nicklaus and Palmer, created a trio that further launched the event into the American limelight. In 1977, ABC began live coverage of the final two rounds of U.S. Open play. By 1982, upstart cable channel ESPN was broadcasting the Thursday and Friday rounds.

In 1994, the U.S. Open at Oakmont was the venue for Ernie Els’ first victory in America. Els and Loren Roberts both shot 74, while Colin Montgomerie shot a 78. Els claimed the title by defeating Loren Roberts on the second sudden-death playoff hole.  Els and a slew of other foreign champions paved the way for the first qualifying tournaments held outside the United States.

But for the masses nothing will compare to Tiger Woods’ victory in 2000 at Pebble Beach.  First of all it was the 100th U.S. Open. Secondly, it was held on one of the great courses in the world that comprised the beauty of an ocean side course that stunned the viewers and fans but on a tough course in which wind played an important factor. It was also perfect timing for Tiger Woods to win his first Open title in a dominating way. At 12 under, he finished 15 strokes ahead of Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez to become the first double-digit winner relative to par.  The win clearly brought the U.S. Open into a different focus as it began its second decade of play.

Course information:

  • Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (#2 course)
  • Pinehurst, N.C.
  • 7,562 yards     Par 35-35–70

For the 1999 U.S. Open, Pinehurst played at 7,175 while in 2005 it was 7,214.  So in 15 years since,  387 yards has been added.

Pinehurst #2 Resort & C.C., Pinehurst, North Carolina

Course design: Designed by Donald Ross.  He built nine holes in 1900, the other nine in 1907 and redid the whole course in 1935.  Ress Jones did some cosmetic changes in 1996 along with resurfaces all of the greens.

Championships held:

  • 1936 PGA Championship won by Denny Shute
  • 1962 U.S. Amateur won by Labron E. Harris Jr.
  • 1967 World Senior Amateur Team
  • 1980 World Amateur Team won by the United States
  • 1980 Women’s World Amateur Team won by the United States
  • 1989 Women’s Amateur won by Vicki Goetze
  • 1994 U.S. Senior Open won by Simon Hobday
  • 1999 U.S. Open won by Payne Stewart
  • 2005 U.S. Open won by Michael Campbell
  • 2008 U.S. Amateur won by Danny Lee
  • Other tournaments: Played host to the 1991 & ’92 Tour Championship

Pinehurst history:

In 1895 Boston industrialist James W. Tufts came down to the center of North Carolina and developed a small vacation town called Pinehurst.  Tufts, who made his money selling Soda Fountains, was always getting ill over the harsh Massachusetts winters and his idea was to set up a health resort in the moderate weather of North Carolina in which his rich friends up north could escape the raw winters.  Tufts purchased 5,000 acres of cut-over timberland in the sandhill sector of North Carolina and created the village of Pinehurst.  The village looked like a small New England town and had one of the best health spas of the time.  The only thing missing from the resort was a golf course.  To answer the call Tufts built a nine-hole course in 1898 and the next year expanded it to 18 holes.

In the summer of 1900, Tufts hired a professional for his course, Donald Ross, a young Scottish immigrant from Dornoch, Scotland.  Ross was a fine player who also liked to dabble in course design.  So when Tufts increased the facilities the same year his new pro arrived, he had Ross build nine more holes, the original holes of the No. 2 course.  Seven years later Ross added nine more holes.

The original course had dirt greens, since the warm summers wouldn’t maintain grass.  In 1935 when the PGA of America awarded the PGA Championship to Pinehurst, part of the deal was to change the dirt greens to grass.  Taking advantage of the decision to change the grass, Ross completely rebuilt No. 2.  He lengthened it and changed all the contours of the greens, which before were flat.  He dug up every one of them and using horse-drawn drag-pans, he sculpted the ground around them and used the soil to crest the putting surfaces and shape the mounds.  The PGA Championship was called a big success, with many of the players calling the course one of the best in the world. Now for years the course held the North and South Open and Amateur, but with the change to the course the best players ventured down to Pinehurst making both tournaments pretty famous for the times.

Even though Ross was an established architect he still lived at Pinehurst and tinkered with the course until his death in 1948.  When James Tufts died the property was passed on to his son but in the 70s it got too tough to run and he sold it.  Believing that it was upgrading No. 2, the company that bought Pinehurst completely changed the course, scraping the sandy wastes alongside the fairways and planting Bermudagrass from tree-line to tree-line.  They also changed the greens to bentgrass, which at the time was the proper move for a resort course that had a lot of people running through it, but it lost another trademark that made it famous, hard, dry and fast fairways and greens.  The PGA Tour brought a major tournament to the site in 1974, the Hall of Fame tournament that turned into the World Open, but it became evident that the course lost his sting and scores were very low.  With the word of mouth floating around that the course had lost a lot of its luster and wasn’t what it use to be, people lost interest in it and the Tournament was dropped in 1982.

The course conditioning got worst over the years, with the owners losing interest in it and selling it to Club Corp. in the mid 80s.  That proved to be a very important part in the history of the course because the company returned the course to its original look and splendor, bringing back the waste areas off the fairways and making the course play fast and dry again.  These moves got the PGA Tour to give them the Tour Championship in 1991 and ’92.  The change proved to be a big success with the players raving about how great the No. 2 was.  The USGA took noticed and believed the course could hold an Open, first giving it the Senior Open in 1994.  That proved a big success and it got the 1999 U.S. Open.  The greens were redone twice, just before the Senior Open and after the tournament to change the greens to a G-2 strain, which would have hard, fast greens that would hold up in the heat of summertime.

The course is a perfect example of a “thinking man’s course.” Built on sandhills the emphasis of the course is on shots to greens slightly raised with subtle slopes.  The fairways are very generous and could be one of the rare Open courses were the driver isn’t taken out of the hands of the players.  The importance of the drives comes into play on the shots to the green, well placed tee shot will give players easier shots to the green.  Those that hit the ball the best to the greens will be in the best shape to win this open.  One other important part is chipping, since the greens are built like upside-down saucers, look for even the best struck shots running off the green and down into hollows.  This creates a scramblers delight and those that lack in this department will not win.

Everything went great during the 1999 Open, so perfect that the USGA awarded Pinehurst another Open in 2005, just six years later one of the shortest turnarounds in modern Open history.

In the months leading up to the 2008 Amateur, Mike Davis who was in charge of course set-up for the USGA got together with the owners of Pinehurst and they talked about a major renovation of Pinehurst.  They wanted to restore Number 2 the way Donald Ross intended the course to be.  They hired Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to remove all of the rough and turn it back to it’s natural state of sand, wire grass, pine straw and a variety of native grasses.  They also did major bunker modifications to rebuild them the way they were in the 30s and create a rustic appearance.  With all of these changes, 35 acres of turf was removed.  Work started after the U.S. Amateur and was finished in March of 2011.

The course has gotten rave reviews with these changes.  As the U.S. Open is played, look for the players to give it high marks as one of the best courses to hold a championship course on.  In looking at the course here is some historic numbers on how it played for the other U.S. Opens

In 1999 Pinehurst played to a 74.547 average, four and a half shots over par.  It was the second hardest course of the year behind Carnoustie that held the British Open.  17 of the 18 holes played over par, the lone exception was the 4th hole which was played as a par 5 then and played at a 4.926 average.  The hardest hole was the 5th, which is a par 5 this year but back in 1999 was a par 4 that played at a 4.549 average.  The second hardest hole was the 16th which played to a 4.504 average.

In 2005, Pinehurst was the hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to a 74.166 average, just over four shots over par.  Again 17 of the 18 holes played over par, the 4th hole which played as a par 5 was the easiest playing to a 4.756 average.  The hardest hole was the 2nd, and the par 4 played at 4.458.  The 16th hole again was the second hardest hole at 4.426.

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the U.S. Open:

  • Since 1960 only nine players have made the U.S. Open their first PGA Tour victory; Jack Nicklaus, 1962; Lee Trevino, 1968; Orville Moody, 1969; Jerry Pate, 1976; Ernie Els, 1993, Retief Goosen, 2001, Michael Campbell in 2005, Angel Cabrera in 2007 and Graeme McDowell in 2010.  But take a look at that list. Jack Nicklaus and Jerry Pate were U.S. Amateur champions, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els had almost a dozen wins around the world before they won the U.S. Open and Lee Trevino became one of the greatest players in the world.  Michael Campbell, Angel Cabrera and Graeme McDowell have won a lot around the world, especially in Europe. Of those, you just have Orville Moody, who also won the Senior Open but still wasn’t that great of a player.  The point here is look for a big name to win the U.S. Open.
  • So could that open the door for another non-PGA Tour winner this week?  One person that would have been high on my list was Hideki Matsuyama, but he became a winner two weeks ago at Memorial.  Here is a couple to look at, Joost Luiten was third last week in Austria and has been playing well.  You also have Victor Dubuisson, he from Match Play fame lost a playoff two weeks ago at the Nordea Masters so look at him.  Also have to look at Jamie Donaldson and Stephen Gallacher.  Now before you say no on any of those just remember your history lesson when Angel Cabrera won at Oakmont in 2007.  So anything is possible
  • There are 53 players that have never experienced the U.S. Open.  Frankly I look at that number and treat it as “only 103 players have a chance at winning,” many will say the same.  In looking at the list (Look at our U.S. Open performance chart on the bottom) is pretty thin, yes maybe Victor Dubuisson or Harris English or Joost Luiten.  One name that sticks out like a sore thumb is Patrick Reed. Since winning at Cadillac and proclaiming himself as a “top-five player”, he has missed the cut in four of his last six starts including the Masters and frankly I don’t seem him finding that “top-five forum” this week.
  • Four years ago the 40 year streak of not having a European Tour player winner was finally broken by Graeme McDowell.  It only took three years for the mark to get broken as Justin Rose won last year.  Now the talent pool leans toward European players since 12 of the top-30 in the world rankings are from Europe.  So the big question, can it be done again?  Lots of talent between the likes of Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose.

Here are some more key stats to look to for this week:

Could the third time be the charmed?

Here are the guys that have played in both the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Open’s at Pinehurst and playing this year.

The chart is from the best performances down.

  • Player                          1999            2004
  • Phil Mickelson             2nd           T33rd
  • Justin Leonard            T15th         T23rd
  • Jim Furyk                   T17th          T28th
  • Jeff Maggert                T7th           T78th
  • Miguel A. Jimenez     T23rd          Cut
  • Robert Allenby           T46th           Cut
  • Retief Goosen               Cut           T11th
  • David Toms                  Cut           T15th
  • Ernie Els                       Cut           T15th
  • Lee Westwood              Cut           T33rd
  • Matt Kuchar                 Cut             Cut

 

The weather is always important at the U.S. Open. This week all the players will have to endure a lot of change, between rain to hot steamy conditions.  Most of all with wet fairways and greens it opens things up to a lot of different scenarios

Is there any rhyme or reason for a player winning the U.S. Open?

No.

In the past 25 years its been won by grinders like Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jim Furyk, Retief Goosen, Angel Cabrera and Graeme McDowell, who may not look pretty but knows how to place shots in the right spots.  There have also been superstars like Tiger Woods, who were expected to win.  It’s been won by great tour players like Tom Kite and Corey Pavin, who capped off their PGA Tour careers with their first win in a major.  It’s been won by up and coming stars like South African’s Ernie Els and Retief Goosen and Australian Geoff Ogilvy, who won it in 2006. <P>

Who can forget the stars that many thought were past their prime, like Payne Stewart and Hale Irwin.  It’s also been won by tour grinders like Lee Janzen and Webb Simpson. Last but not least the stray qualifier like Steve Jones, who surprised the golfing world with his victory in 1996, plus Michael Campbell in 2005, who was contemplating not going to U.S. Open qualifying the night before.  How about last 2009 winner Lucas Glover, you show me a person that had a winning Lucas Glover ticket and I will show you my winning Irish sweepstake ticket.  Now in past Opens we have said that it’s a wide open field.  But I feel that only the best will contend this week. It will be just like the Masters in which only a dozen players have a real chance at winning.

Last but not least, look at our stats of the U.S. Open.  The ones that are important to see are Fairways hit, Greens hit and putts.  Here is a chart of all the winners going back to 1996.

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 12.05.44 PM

Who to watch for at the U.S. Open

Best Bets:

Phil Mickelson

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T2 T65 T54 T4 T2 T18 CUT T2 T33 2 T55 2

For once I am going on pure sentiment and history. Mickelson’s quest at majors got his first real test in 1999 at Pinehurst. You can say that when Payne Stewart won that open, Mickelson’s life changed. He flew back to California and was with his wife on the birth of their first child and since his life has been a dream come true, with one negative. He has never won the U.S. Open, been runner-up six times and come close. He hasn’t played well all year but you could sense since he left Merion, he was gearing up for Pinehurst. This could be a Hollywood drama, they couldn’t write a better one with him winning. Despite his play I think he has a great chance and would really like to see it happen. Sorry this is more than sentimental, I think it can happen.

Bubba Watson

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T32 CUT T63 T18 CUT T5 CUT

Yes he blew Memorial and yes he is shaky in some cases. But if you look at a perfect course for Bubba’s game this is it. If he is on his game with the putter, he will do very well.

Rory McIlroy

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T41 CUT Win CUT T10

Look at what he did at Kiawah Island. I can see him doing the same thing here, look for him to be in contention.

Best of the rest:

Adam Scott

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T45 T15 CUT CUT T36 T26 CUT T21 T28 CUT CUT CUT

He grew up on a course like this in Australia. He gears himself up for majors and I can see him winning this week. Only problem, you have to scramble well and putt well, those aren’t the keys to Adam’s game and may be a problem for him.

Jordan Spieth

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
CUT T21

Why not. He came close at the Masters and the Players, think he can do well this week.

Henrik Stenson

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T21 T23 T29 9 CUT CUT T26

He is a very quiet person that doesn’t get much attention but should. He can be brilliant this week, think the course will suit him.

Martin Kaymer

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T59 T15 T39 T8 CUT T53

Gosh we shouldn’t forget about him, played great at the Players and could be a factor this week.

Solid U.S. Open players

Matt Kuchar

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T28 T27 T14 T6 CUT T48 CUT CUT CUT

Think his game is best suited to play well at Pinehurst, other than Phil. Look for a good week from him.

Jim Furyk

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
CUT T4 CUT T16 T33 T36 T2 T2 T28 T48 Win CUT

Again another U.S. Open and he is always a person to think of. Just have to wonder if he can do it on a course like Pinehurst in which in two U.S. Opens wasn’t anything to write home to mother about.

Jason Day

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T2 T59 2

Could be a good course for him.

Justin Rose

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
Win T21 CUT CUT CUT T10 CUT T5

Defending champion, can he pull a Curtis Strange from 24 years ago? I think he will do ok, but won’t contend. It’s just too hard.

Guys that we shouldn’t forget about

Hideki Matsuyama

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T10

Got the monkey off his back by winning the Memorial. I think it could open up the flood gates and he will win many more. Have always thought of any Asian player, he has the best tools to win a major, could be this week.

Jason Dufner

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T4 T4 CUT T33 62 T40

We just about forget about him at the PGA and look what happened.

Victor Dubuisson

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
First time playing in this event

Yes this name is popping up again, the guy that almost won the Match Play. Came close in Sweden two weeks ago, I think he will do very well among the pine needles and waste areas of Pinehurst.

Sergio Garcia

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T45 T38 T7 T22 T10 T18 CUT CUT T3 T20 T35 4

Gosh we can’t forget about him. Only problem I have, he will find some silly way to play a few holes poorly and take himself out of contention. We also tend to forget that he finished T3rd in 2005 at Pinehurst.

Long shots that could come through:

Luke Donald

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T8 CUT T45 T47 CUT WD CUT T12 T57 T18

This guy has been forgotten and he shouldn’t be. Could do very well in this event this year.

Ernie Els

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T4 9 CUT 3 CUT T14 T51 T26 T15 T9 T5 T24

Hard to believe that the British Open champion of just two years ago could be a long shot today. Has played well in the last couple of Opens and finished T15th at Pinehurst in 2005.

Dustin Johnson

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
55 CUT T23 T8 T40 T48

Haven’t heard much from him of late, course could be good for his length, just may not be playing well right now.

Lee Westwood

2013 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02
T15 T10 T3 T16 T23 3 T36 T33 T36

His game has not been sharp that is the reason he is a longshot. Can he get it together, who knows but his time clock keeps on ticking and he may be too old to be able to win.

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