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Handicapping the U.S. Open

No tournament messes more with a professional golfer’s psyche than the U.S. Open. The sadists who set up the course generally want to insure that no golfer can reasonably be expected to break par. Of all the courses on the U.S. Open rotation, Oakmont is considered to one of, in not the, most difficult. Very high rough, length and lightning fast greens are expected to wreak havoc this week. I have heard experts predicting the winning score will be between 5 and 8 over par. The website makes the course look relatively benign, but apparently

it can be made to play extremely difficult.

Thus, picking a winner is extremely difficult. Most of the best players have at least one weakness that

they will need to overcome in order to pull off a victory. It is hard to know whether accuracy, length or

short game will prove most important (I tend toward the latter), but problems in any aspect could spell disaster. In the end, experience and mental toughness are likely to be the deciding factor. Here are my picks in order:

Jason Day

Why he will win: Best all-around game. Great distance, great short game, great mental

attitude. He has finished top 10 in each of the last three Opens; the most recent being impacted by his

vertigo. Why he will miss the cut: Probably not going to happen, but driving accuracy looked to be a

problem in his last couple of starts, with some indifferent iron play at the Memorial.

Dustin Johnson:

Why he will win: Most talented golfer, length off the tee and sneaky good short game.

Top 5 the last two years, and playing well currently. Why he will miss the cut: Again, probably not, but

he remains the biggest head case on tour. Should win, but may get in his own way.

Rory McIlroy:

Why he will win: Incredible power, plenty of big game experience. Top 10 last year. Why

he will miss the cut: Short game seems shaky; especially putting. He is returning to a conventional

putting grip so maybe it will jump start his game. If he does not putt better, he could be on an early

flight out.

Jordan Spieth:

Why he will win: Great intensity, phenomenal short game. The defending champion

figures to be on the leaderboard again, if he keeps making putts. Why he will miss the cut: For Jordan, it is all about hitting fairways. He may give up too many strokes getting his ball back into play from the

high rough.

Brooks Koepka:

Why he will win: Great natural talent. Similar to Dustin Johnson with length and solid

short game. In two prior Opens he has two top 20’s, including T4 in 2014. He is also playing well. Why he will miss the cut: Does not yet seem ready to close the deal. I expect him to be well up the leaderboard, but will falter in the stretch with DJ.

Henrik Stenson:

Why he will win: He is going to stick that damn 3 wood in every fairway. Easily one of

the best ball strikers, he may be able to avoid trouble up to the green. Finished 27, or better in each of

the last three opens. Why he will miss the cut: Despite the placid exterior, he always looks like he is

about to explode. A few three putts from 10 feet may get in his head. Watch out, however, if he comes

out hot.

Adam Scott:

Why he will win: Another great ball striker. Like Stenson, he may be able to avoid trouble

before the green. Top 10 in last two Opens. Why he will miss the cut: Scott’s game will live and die with

the putter. He has made as good an adjustment from the anchored putter as anyone, but these greens will require precision.

Phil Michelson:

Why he will win: Destiny. No one deserves this more than Lefty. A rash of “close but no

cigar” finishes in past U.S. Opens makes him the sentimental favorite. He has plenty of length and

everyone knows about the short game. His game looked great last week, so he is in form. Why he will

miss the cut: Phil wants this one too bad. I think he will be pressing. The aggressive putting may come

back to bite as putts keep rolling out. First in my heart, but he may prove to be his own worst enemy.

Justin Rose:

Why he will win: Justin has a very good record in U.S. Opens, including a victory in 2013.

Solid striker, with plenty of distance. Why he will miss the cut: His putting seems totally out of sorts.

Unless it improves dramatically, Rose will be heading home early.

Louie Oosthuizen:

Why he will win: What a great swing. He has the entire package, and finished second last year. (Probably should have won.) Louie is a streaky golfer that could get hot, although 2016 has been disappointing so far. Why he will miss the cut: Not playing very well at present.

Honorable Mention: Matt Kuchar, good record in recent opens, and playing well; Ricky Fowler, until

recently had excellent results in majors; Hideki Matsuyama, great young player, although first major win at an Open seems unlikely; Charl Schwartzel, seems to rise to the occasion in majors, with good recent Open results.

Save Your Money: Bubba Watson, does not seem to have the game or temperament for the U.S. Open with two consecutive missed cuts; Sergio Garcia, maybe if I jinx him, he will step up, but I think the course will frustrate him; Jimmy Walker, the magic seems to be gone; Danny Willett, seems to resting on Master’s victory so I do not expect a second major.

A Few to Watch: Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Paul Casey

Weekly Observation: After last week, I would love to see Stricker and Michelson paired together again in the final group on Sunday.

Paul Laubach is completely unqualified to provide expertise with respect to golf course rankings and

design, however, he is a highly opinionated golf addict who believes everyone should be entitled to his

thoughts. He has recently released Confessions of a Golfaholic: A Guide to Playing America’s Top

100 Public Golf Courses; now available in hardcover edition. Please visit regularly

for more (im)practical information.

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