US OPEN AT PINEHURST: PREVIEW

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“One of the greatest atmospheres in the world for golf” – Arnold Palmer on Pinehurst.

 

Pinehurst’s rich history makes it a perfect place to host the 2014 US Open. Designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1907, the course changed drastically over the years. A lot of people thought it became too commercial, too much like your average country club course. So the board took a massive risk and hired the course design company Coore and Crenshaw, in hopes of restoring some of the classic Pinehurst feel. The 5 year restoration project was completed in anticipation of this US Open. Experts are saying Pinehurst has been restored to its’ most classic era, and will provide a challenging test for the contestants in the biggest golf tournament in the world. Call me a nerd, but golf history gets me fired up. I love the idea that golfers today are walking down the same fairways that some of the legends walked down 50-100 years ago. That is part of what makes the Masters so special, and that is what will make the 2014 US Open special. 

 

Who to watch:  

 

 Adam Scott: The Aussie comes in as the number 1 player in the world, boasting what many experts believe to be the sweetest swing on tour.  Scott is in top form right now having not missed the cut in 9 starts this year, and coming off of a win 2 weeks ago at the Crowne Plaza Invitational. Scott’s distance off the tee gives him an advantage over most at any golf course. It is extremely hard to find weaknesses in his game, as pretty much every aspect is ranked inside the top 25 on tour this year. Scott has a swing that travels well wherever he goes, so there is no reason to believe he can’t play well at Pinehurst. Look for another solid week from the Aussie.

 

Bubba Watson: Bubba, so hot right now. Bubba. He has been absolutely en fuego this year. He has finished in the top 10 an unreal 8 times out of the 11 tournaments he’s played. Everyone knows he crushes the ball farther than anyone on tour which allows him to hit shorter clubs into greens, but he only hits about 60% of his fairways. Luckily for Bubba one of the main goals for the Pinehurst changes was widening the fairways. Bubba has been putting as well as he ever has in his career, and if he can continue rolling the rock like that he is the favorite to take home his second major of the year. 

 

Henrik Stenson: Stenson is ranked second only to Scott, but hasn’t exactly been red hot as of late. He comes in with 1 top 10 finish in his 8 tournaments in 2014. Not known as a bomber, Stenson has been hitting 66% of his fairways. If he wants to have a chance to win the US Open, he has to putt better. He is averaging 30.04 putts per round (ranked 180th), a number that needs to be lower in order to win a major tournament. Stenson has been in contention in a lot of recent majors, and I think he has the ability to win one. We’ll see if this is the one.

 

Matt Kuchar: Kuch is the 5th ranked player in the world right now. Off the tee, Kuchar is the exact opposite of Bubba. He lost a good amount of distance when he recently changed his swing, but is still one of the most accurate drivers on tour. He has played in 15 tour events this year and has 9 top 10 finishes and 1 win. Kuch is dynamite out of the sand, and is one of the best scramblers on tour which will help him at Pinehurst. Can Kuch break through? />

 

Phil Mickelson: There is a very odd buzz following lefty after the allegations regarding his involvement in gambling and insider trading. All of the off the course issues aside, Phil has been having a very lackluster year. He has 0 top 10 finishes in his 14 tournaments and has been cut 3 times. If Phil can get it going and find some magic for any tournament however, its this one. He has never won the US Open, but has been so close several times including last year. He needs this win to finally capture his career grand slam. All of the off the course issues as well as his poor play this year points to him not being in contention, which is exactly why i’m predicting he will be right there in contention late on Sunday…and because of this video.

“Come one baby, DO IT! Ahoooo I misread it!” How can you not root for this guy.

 

Jordan Spieth: The young star is 5th in FedEx points and 10th in the world golf rankings. We saw at Augusta that he has the makeup and the resolve to win a major tournament. He has played in 17 events this year and has 6 top 10 finishes including 2 top 5’s. Spieth is a bit weird to analyze because none of his stats rank that high, yet his scoring average is 7th on tour. This kid has been through a lot in his young career, so the big stage will not phase him. I would love to see him get his first major win at historic Pinehurst. 

 

 

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Sergio Garcia: The man everybody loves to hate. He has played only 8 events in the U.S. and has 5 top 10 finishes including 2 top 5’s. Unless Serg goes on a crazy run winning several majors, it is safe to say his career has been disappointing. He has been a solid player and the in my opinion the disappointment is unwarranted because it comes from the hype that surrounded him when he was a teenager. He is back in the top 10 in the world right now and I think has good a chance as ever to capture his first major this week. His scoring average is 1st on tour, his sand saving score is 2nd on tour, and his greens in regulation is 8th. I would absolutely love for Serg to piss everyone off and go win a major. 

 

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Rory McIlroy: 
A lot has been made of Rory breaking it off with his fiance Caroline Wozniacki, I’m not going to read much into that though. Rory has been off to a much better start in 2014 than last year, as he has 6 top 10’s in the 9 starts he has made in the U.S.  He also has played well in the tournaments he has played overseas. He must be used to his new Nike equipment..finally. For a little guy Rory crushes the ball, and when he putts well he is the most explosive player in the field. He makes more birdies than anyone on tour, but he has to play more consistently if he wants to get back to his winning ways in majors. 

 

Jim Furyk: Furyk is another one of those guys that quietly plugs along all week and always ends up in contention on Sundays. Even though he’s the 12 ranked player in the world, you never hear too much buzz about him. He is an accurate driver and hits a lot of greens in regulation, but never really wows you. He’s pretty opposite to Rory in my opinion. He’s a consistent golfer who seems to play well at all different types of courses. 

 

Whatever your opinion is on Tiger, golf is more entertaining with him. Either you love him and want to see him win, or you hate him and can’t wait to watch him crumble on Sunday. I was hoping he was going to get back for this week, but that’s obviously not happening. That’s all i’ll say on Tiger right now, because that’s all anyone should say about Tiger right now. But i guarantee you will see ESPN and the Golf Channel coverage analyze Tiger’s return, or talk about how his absence effects the field. The attention should be on the players who are actually teeing it up this week. Regardless, i’m super pumped for this thing to finally start. I can’t wait to see how Phil comes out and plays. I think if he can put up a good score on Thursday he can be in contention. 

 

— Steve Butabi

 

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