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Souhan blog: It's a wide open U.S. Open

  • Blog Post by: Jim Souhan
  • June 11, 2014 - 4:26 PM

Pinehurst, N.C. _

Just came off the course. Wanted to walk 18. Made it through 1 1/2 before heavy winds forced the course to be shut down.

On to the picks...

The only thing dumber than sportswriters picking who's going to win a game is sportswriters picking who's going to win a golf tournament. We don't know. We really don't. If we knew who was going to win, we'd live in Vegas. Or Monte Carlo.

I'm not going to pretend I have any idea who will win this week at Pinehurst. I wouldn't have picked Michael Campbell in the last U.S. Open held here. I wouldn't have picked Payne Stewart in 1999.

But there are types of golfers who have a better chance than others of winning a U.S. Open on a course like this. Here are some of the players I like to at least contend this week, in no particular order:

1. Rory McIlroy sounded well-prepared and eager today. He hits it long, hits it high, has a chance to stop the ball on fast greens, and is capable of having a hot putting week. What will be tested is his short-game touch on a course that will require a lot of uphill chips from tight lies. He practiced at PInehurst last week and visited with Jack NIcklaus about major mindsets. If McIlroy can avoid his now-typical early-round blowup, he could win.

2. Jordan Spieth finished second at The Masters, and his profile may fit the U.S. Open even more than The Masters. He's not a long hitter, but he can shape and control his iron shots and has a great short game. He handles pressure well and wants to be great. He might be my favorite to win this week.

3. Matt Kuchar isn't particularly long, but he's a grinder who hits it straight and should win a major somewhere, someday. If the course is brutally tough, Kuchar could be the kind of guy to play it safe, make a million pars, and watch everyone else fall off.

4. Sergio Garcia. No, I don't really expect him to win, but if this becomes a chipping contest requiring creativity, it will play into Garcia's deft hands.

5. Phil Mickelson.  There is no good reason to pick him based on the way he's playing now, but if he plays well in the first round while adapting to his new putter grip, he could ride a wave of emotion through Sunday afternoon.

6. Luke Donald. Another guy I don't expect to win who is well-suited for the course and its demands.

7. Steve Stricker. The Wisconsinite is a great putter. That alone could give him a chance.

8. Adam Scott. Not because this is necessarily a great course for him, but because he's a wonderful player in his prime.

9. Graeme McDowell. McIlroy called this course ``linksy,'' meaning like the links courses he plays back home in Northern Ireland. McDowell, another Irishman, has the guts and game to make a run at another major.

10. Jim Furyk. He has a quintessential U.S. Open game.

11. Jason Day. He's actually one of my favorites this week. Hits it long and high and has a great short game. He's in my top three, with Spieth and McIlroy.

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I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 and on 1500ESPN at 12:15 tomorrow and Friday from Pinehurst.

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