The US Open is one of the most prestigious events of the year. The conditions are the hardest these guys will experience all year. The rough is near impossible to play from, the greens are lightening fast and the fairways are long and tight. This is a tournament that is truly anyone’s to win. Especially this year, where there are so many strong players on the tour with no true dominant golfer. With the second major of the year upon us, and so many ‘ifs’ as to who could win and why we decided to have our panel of ‘experts’ make their US Open predictions. THP asked each member of the staff 3 questions:
1. Who will win the 2011 US Open?
2. What name not thought of will make a splash in this event (darkhorse)?
3. Who finishes higher, Luke Donald or Lee Westwood?
Here are the predictions from our “expert” panel. You can also discuss the US Open all week long in the tournament thread in the THP Forum.
1. The 2011 US Open Champion will be Phil Mickelson. I crown Phil the champ for a couple of reasons. First, he just has to win a US Open at some point. If there are Golf Gods, then Phil will finally win this title. Second, he has the game for a US Open Venue, and he’s preparing by putting his 2 iron in the bag this week. Lastly, he’s left handed! All lefties are winners.
2. I think that Alvaro Quiros makes a splash in this years US Open. He certainly has the length for a US Open venue, but he also has a solid overall golf game. The big Spaniard might surprise a ton of folks this year. He’s also a Callaway staffer, and all Callaway staffers have serious game.
3. Perhaps the toughest question yet. Luke Donald is now the #1 ranked golfer in the world, and he’s simply been a top 10 machine in 2011. However, Westy typically knows how to show up for Major Championships and has proven that with his finishes over the past couple of years. I think Luke Donald’s inconsistency off the tee stacked up against Lee Westwood’s brilliance from tee to green gives Lee Westwood the nod. I say Lee Westwood finishes higher.
1. Steve Stricker- Last time the US Open was at Congressional he finished T2, a lot has changed since then and one thing that has changed for the better is Stricker’s golf game. He’s as due as anyone else in the world for a major win, he will get it done at the 2011 US Open!
2. Ryan Palmer- great finish early in the season (4 at the Bob Hope) decent finish in 2011’s first major (10 at The Masters) and a solid finish recently (lost in a playoff at the Byron Nelson). He hasn’t strung together any kind of a roll in 2011 but that big finish at the HP BNC shows that he’s still playing well and call it a hunch, but I like him to make some noise at Congressional.
3. Luke Donald- it’s gotta be Luke until he proves me otherwise right now. He is on some kind of a tear in 2011 and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. When Westy dunked one in the drink in the playoff against Luke it showed me that it was Luke and not Westy who was really ready for the prime time. There’s still time for him to notch a major win in 2011 and heck he might just do it at the US Open.
1. I think Westwood is going to get his first major at Congressional. He’s had a pretty strong year and has actually gotten it done on Sunday more than once, though the level of competition has been questionable for at least one of them. Still, winning has to give him confidence and I predict a strong showing.
2. Johan Edfors. He’s coming off of two good finishes against strong fields and has put together a pretty solid year so far. I think he carries that confidence with him into the US Open.
3. Westwood. I think Donald will be pressing to legitimize his #1 status and will suffer for it. If his driver isn’t accurate I think the US Open conditions will hurt him.
1. Steve Stricker. He’s finished top-25 seven times in the US Open and 3 times in the past 5 years. Pressure? Doesn’t affect him at all. ‘Khaki man’ knows how to split fairways that are usually more narrow in the US Open with his consistent iron play. He’s as good a putter in the PGA when on so the fast greens of the US Open shouldn’t be daunting for him. If all of that lines up for him then the title is Steve’s for the taking.
2. Gary Woodland. He’s in the Top 10 for driving distance, GIR’s, birdie average, and scoring average. He may not win it but this could be the place where Gary becomes more of a recognized name. Congressional will play 500 yards longer this year and a consistent driver combined with his ability to score could be a great combo platter for him.
3. Luuuuuuke. At least he has consistently played here in the US in 2011 and played very well at that. Westy seems to have an aversion to playing west of the Atlantic Ocean on a regular basis and the US Open is a tough place to win a first major when playing against consistent, tough competition hasn’t been the trademark of his 2011 season so far.
1. I really want to say Phil will win it because that’s who I want to win it! I actually think the Westwood will finally show up on Sunday in a major this time and pull out the win. He’s been close a lot and obviously I won’t be shocked if he lets it slip away, but I think he has to put together four rounds sooner or later. I predicting it’s sooner. Westood takes it. And no playoff. I also predict he wears those white pants where you can see his legs through them on Sunday.
2. Hmm. Darkhorse. Is that outside the top 20 or outside the top 30? I’m going with outside the 30 for my pick but I’m going slide in a “but” pick as well. The player I think who will surprise some people and finish in the top 20 (that’s a splash, right?) is Aaron Baddley, number 53 in the world. My “but if you can pick someone outside the top 20” pick is Miguel Angel Jimenez, number 26, to get a top 15 finish. He seems to be there a lot.
3. Based on my winner prediction, I can’t really say Luke Donald now can I? I say Westwood finishes better than Donald, who might crack the top 10. Maybe 7th, 8th place for Luke.
1. There are so many intriguing choices as we head into the US Open at Congressional. In fact this may be the most open the field has been in many many years. My mind keeps telling me that Phil gets the win here, but I am going in a different direction. All of the talk has been “Lee Westwood is #1 with no majors and he doesn’t deserve it”, but if not Westwood at #1 then who (outside of Donald of course). I think Westwood gets his first major here and just for that added shot, he does it on US soil. Despite Lee being a religious man and not playing on Sundays, I think he comes through with a not so close win and quiets fans up for a while. After all, that is what Westwood is best at right now.
2. My oh my, the darkhorse this year could come from anybody. Two names keep coming up for me based on play this year and how I think they will handle the course. The first one is Sergio Garcia. He had to qualify to get in and did so despite the odds stacked against him. He is ranked 75th right now and has been chasing a title like this since his “scissor kick heard around the world” against Tiger Woods. In the end though, I think my colleagues will call this an easy pick, so I am going to shy away from it and go with a guy ranked outside the top 80 that is playing good golf right now and has been this year at certain times and that is John Senden. He has 2 top 10s in 2011 equaling his performance from 2010 in which it took 21 events to get there. I think he could be a major force in this tournament if he gets off to a quick start.
3. Based on picking Westwood to win, its clear I will pick him to finish higher. This course will favor distance off the tee, which favors Westwood. It also will favor accuracy off the tee and that favors Westwood as well. Add those together and a putter that could get streaky hot and I think this is not even close. Westwood ahead of Donald by a large margin.
1. Picking a winner this year seems to be an impossible task. So many names have crossed my mind. Could an Aussie take this such as Adam Scott or Jason Day? Both came so close at The Masters. What about Rory McIlroy? We saw his catastrophic demise on Sunday at The Masters, can he come back and win it here? Then I started to think of the usual suspects; Phil, Westwood, Donald. What about guys like K.J. Choi? He has a win this year, he has played solid golf and he is extremely consistent. However, his putter can fail him and that scares me at a US Open. So I went over the field reading each name over and over again and at the end of the day I think picking a winner is a true shot in the dark. So with that said I think I will close my eyes, spin a wheel and pick Adam Scott. I don’t know why, I just have this gut feeling that he is going to put 4 solid rounds together. He played well at The Masters and I just have a feeling he is going to do it again here.
2. Oh the Dark Horse. This is always a controversial pick but probably the more fun one to make. I like TC’s pick of Quiros, because he certainly has the length off the tee, but I am not sure his putting will be good enough for these greens. I thought about picking someone who has won a major before, like Zach Johnson. He can putt, and he is consistent with the driver, but he just doesn’t have the length off the tee. Then it hit me, BOOM BABY! Jeff Overton. His game is erratic but if he can get that Ryder Cup spirit going I think he has a chance.
3. The battle of the powerhouse Euros. Who deserve to be #1 more? This is a tough one because they both have their strengths and weaknesses, but in the end, I have to agree with the majority and say Westwood has the upper hand. He has the length off the tee and if he can just show up on Sunday, then I think he has a better chance of winning. I am still a little hesitant to make this pick because a small part of me feels that Luke Donald might actually want the major win more then Westwood. But if I go with stats and gut, then Westwood is my pick.