Since golf returned after the coronavirus shutdown in mid-June, scores have been low. Solely twice did the winner fail to succeed in two-digit numbers beneath face worth. 4 occasions the winner was at the very least 20 beneath. At The Northern Belief, Dustin Johnson was 30 years previous. These guys simply do it. Effectively, the US Open does not make it simple. And Winged Foot actually does not make it simple.
However that is simply one of many large questions within the second main of the 12 months. Can Tiger Woods Discover His Manner? Does Phil Mickelson Nonetheless Have Magic? Who will shock and who will combat? Our specialists weigh:
1. Is there an opportunity Tiger Woods will emerge from his funk?
Bob Harig: I am undecided Winged Foot is the place to go to seek out your recreation. Although circumstances had been fully completely different, Woods missed his first lower in a serious as a professional in 2006 when the US Open was performed at Winged Foot, having not performed since his father Earl died. The similarity is an absence of competitors. Sure, Tiger performed within the FedEx Cup playoffs not too long ago, however there was a typical theme – and the lack to place 4 rounds collectively. Actually, on all 4 Woods begins for the reason that shutdown, it actually solely had one good day in 4. There must be quite a lot of enchancment in each side of his recreation for Woods to be aggressive this week.
Michael Collins: Tiger is not on a funk. It is in a spot just like the blokes on the backside of the highest 125 checklist, or from the Korn Ferry Tour. It does not get fixed begins, which implies it does not get constant outcomes. Ought to we anticipate large issues from this week? Completely not.
Ian O’Connor: Positive, there’s a likelihood. If Tiger Woods is upright, he has an opportunity. But it surely’s extra like a kind of Jim Carrey’s, “So that you’re telling me there’s an opportunity”. I feel Woods will win one other main earlier than he finishes, however almost certainly at Augusta and least probably at a US Open.
Nick Pietruszkiewicz: No, not on the winged foot. He has admitted that adjusting to life on the tour with out followers was tough. However neglect that he does not have 1000’s after each transfer – which is able to energize him and distract those that are enjoying with or round him – and as an alternative concentrate on his recreation. It has been a tough job for the reason that restart. Sooner or later, a part of his recreation disappeared – tee, brief irons, putter. And if you do not have some or all components of your recreation sharp, you do not wish to go to Winged Foot.
2. Phil Mickelson shall be paying quite a lot of consideration on his return to Winged Foot. So what is occurring? So-so week? Missed lower? Candidate?
Harig: Phil’s lack of type at common tour occasions doesn’t suggest he has to compete at Winged Foot, the place Mickelson was fortunate sufficient to compete in 2006 as he could not drive the ball in play for a lot of the week. That is nonetheless an issue in his recreation, and 14 years later, he is unlikely to have the ability to make up for all of the wayward rides with a near-perfect brief recreation. If the early scouting reviews are right, Winged Foot is a beast, with a rating round par being the successful quantity. If Phil can keep away from the massive numbers, he may need an honest week.
Collins: Missed lower ought to be lifelike expectation, however will anybody be stunned if a few of that previous Lefty magic stays within the tank for 2 or three laps. The most important hurdle for Mickelson would be the first spherical. If he can get by the primary spherical within the prime 25, he’ll make the lower – which for me is a win for Phil.
O’Connor: As a sports activities journalist, you are allowed to seek for the very best story out there, however not for groups or particular person athletes, proper? As a lot as I might like to see Phil arguing over the story on Sunday, I feel it is asking an excessive amount of. I say he does the lower, makes it just a little attention-grabbing on Saturday, however then falls off. And I hope he meets a driver on the 18th of all 4 days.
Pietruszkiewicz: How a lot enjoyable would it not be to see his title on the prime of the leaderboard late Sunday afternoon? However sadly it does not really feel doable. His T-71 on the PGA Championship and his missed lower at The Northern Belief that received him out of the FedEx Cup playoffs do not make me decide his probabilities very effectively. Positive, he lit the PGA Tour Champions on his debut to assert a win, however again on the massive tour final week on the Safeway Open, he was again to regular. Normally it does not work out with Winged Foot – and never with all of the US Open baggage that comes with the journey.
3. How probably is it that gamers will complain in regards to the setup or that Winged Foot is just too exhausting?
Harig: It is virtually inevitable. There may be certain to be one thing that’s overdone about Winged Foot, an already rigorous check that most likely does not require a lot further consideration to make it tough. All however one of many US Open performed at Winged Foot have made above common income, so there have to be some grumbling for positive. When tight, quick circumstances apply, it ought to be a reasonably wild experience.
Collins: It will likely be the identical share as individuals who declare the earth is spherical. (That is referred to as a joke grenade – wait Three seconds and it hits.)
O’Connor: There shall be some typical USGA issues, however hopefully not too many given the venue. Winged Foot is such a well-known place that it higher deserves it. As a customer, do you go to Yankee Stadium and solely complain in regards to the brief porch on the fitting? Or do you say, “Wow, I am throwing at Yankee Stadium?”
Pietruszkiewicz: That is just about assured. Solely as soon as within the 5 venues of the US Open was the winner beneath common when Fuzzy Zoeller shot Four beneath in 1984. The final time that championship was right here was in 2006 when Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie melted on the 72nd gap. Geoff Ogilvy gained by 5 over. The USGA likes to inflict ache. It is going to be painful this week. And players will not prefer it in any respect.
4. Everyone knows the favorites. Who’s your sleeper choose this week?
Harig: Matthew Fitzpatrick. Since returning to the competitors in June, he has quietly set a stupendous document. Whereas he missed three cuts, he additionally has 4 prime 15 finishes, together with three prime 10 finishes. His third place within the Memorial was the results of a closing spherical 68 beneath very tough circumstances. He was additionally the one participant who shot that day within the 60s. Fitzpatrick appears to have the power to grind it when it is not simple.
Collins: Michael Thompson. In case you bear in mind path Again then, Thompson ran the US Open on the Olympic Membership (the one which Webb Simpson gained) for a minute. A seasoned and battle-hardened man may shock lots of people this week at Winged Foot.
O’Connor: I’d have thrown a Scottie Scheffler at you if it hadn’t been unhappily withdrawn due to a constructive COVID-19 check. And I do not suppose Webb Simpson qualifies as a Sleeper, though you can also make a nuanced argument for it. I do know there’s completely no motive to go for Justin Rose as he has missed 4 cuts in his final six begins. However the US Open is all about tenacity, and Rose, who beat Phil at Merion, is a troublesome golfer. He is my abdomen sleeper.
Pietruszkiewicz: Effectively, I choose Viktor Hovland to win this factor. Does that depend? He performs effectively at USGA occasions, that a lot is evident. He will not be discouraged by the problem at Winged Foot. And already this 12 months we did youth work, and Collin Morikawa, 20 years previous, gained the primary main of the 12 months by dramatically successful the PGA championship at TPC Harding Park.
5. Who within the prime 10 on the earth ought to we be involved about this week?
Harig: Bryson DeChambeau. After a lot fanfare, Bryson all of a sudden finds himself in a tough scenario and takes 50th place within the BMW Championship. His 72-hole rating would have been 25th out of 30 on the Tour Championship. The final week has been notably fascinating as DeChambeau typically averted the driving force to seek out extra fairways and nonetheless had issues. Will he typically let go of the driving force’s winged foot? There is a advantageous line between distance and getting out of the tough at a US Open. It appears to be like like it may be a troublesome week for DeChambeau.
Collins: Collin Morikawa. His win on the PGA Championship was solely his second begin in a serious. He completed T-35 on his different large begin – final 12 months’s US Open at Pebble Seaside. However that is the issue. This time, Mom Nature is not going to inform the USGA what to do. It should attempt to brutalize golfers. Morikawa won’t ever have seen what was coming.
O’Connor: DeChambeau. It wasn’t way back that we questioned if he would simply win one of many three majors that shall be performed this 12 months. However DeChambeau missed the lower on the Northern Belief, completed 50th at BMW and bottomed out within the Tour Championship, so I believed this could possibly be a troublesome week for him. He definitely has the sport to win the US Open, however I feel it is extra probably that Winged Foot is exhibiting his sizzling mood.
Pietruszkiewicz: See if this sounds acquainted: DeChambeau. I do not just like the lengthy recreation at this venue – or I do not just like the US Open in any respect. Positive, if he swings on the fences and holds them within the fairway, he has an enormous benefit. But when he does not, he’ll get annoyed very, in a short time. And when he is annoyed, the massive numbers come. This does not look like the fitting main for him to interrupt by and could possibly be a brief week for him as an alternative.