Roundtable: Previewing the U.S. Open
7 Min Read
Written by Staff @PGATOUR
Winged Foot Golf Club
The year’s second major is here. What can we expect from Winged Foot? How about an old-school U.S. Open, where pars are worth their weight in gold and red numbers are rarer than Fred Flintsone’s Brontosaurus steak. PGATOUR.COM’s writers convened for a quick roundtable to make predictions and size up the upcoming U.S. Open.
1. Let’s get right to it. Who wins and what do they shoot?
BEN EVERILL: So many great options for a win. Bias has me saying Jason Day, but Jon Rahm appears primed for his major moment. I have a feeling there will be some tinkering with the course setup that gives a scoring window at some point. I’ll say 3 under is going to be there for someone.
CAMERON MORFIT: I’m going with a winning score of 3 over, which is high but would still be an improvement over the ’74 and ’06 U.S. Opens here. It’s supposed to cool off this weekend, which will probably make things slightly tougher and longer. Based on his wins at the Memorial Tournament and BMW Championship, on two of the hardest course set-ups we’ve seen in 2020, Jon Rahm has to be the favorite.
SEAN MARTIN: I think 1 under. There have been plenty of pictures and videos of the rough, but it’s always brutal early in the week. It’s a lot easier to cut it down than to grow it up. That being said, Winged Foot is a test all 52 weeks of the year. It’s hard to get an over-par winning score these days without wild weather and none of that is in the forecast. I’m going Johnson. His U.S. Open win came at one of the few venues that can challenge Winged Foot in terms of difficulty.
2. What is your ideal winning score at a U.S. Open?
BEN EVERILL: Ten over. Just kidding. But even par can be cool if the course isn’t overly tricked up. It needs to be done strategically, not by impossible pins. I love seeing the best have to struggle at this game like the rest of us do most of the time. Any other week, I like watching birdies but I’m comfortable with the U.S. Open trying to be the toughest test in terms of a course.
CAMERON MORFIT: Anything from 5 under to 5 over seems like a pretty epic struggle against the course and conditions, which I think is compelling. It’s sort of more fun when the course wins, though, so I’m partial to over-par winning scores.
SEAN MARTIN: I’m similar to Cameron. I think once you get higher than about 2 over par, though, the setup was likely too severe, if not controversial. I think between 4 under and even par is the sweet spot.
3. What do you expect from Tiger?
BEN EVERILL: I expect he will give it everything he’s got, but unless he is supremely accurate off the tee I can’t find the confidence to back him as a winning chance. I want to be gung-ho for him but thick rough and a sore back don’t usually mix. The same thing can be said about Jason Day so I guess I really hope Tiger can make me change my mind…
CAMERON MORFIT: Thick rough, cool weather, bad back – that doesn’t sound like a great combination. That said, he’s had some time to prepare for this, and he made an early scouting trip before THE NORTHERN TRUST. Woods is so golf-smart I imagine he will find a way to make the cut and finish somewhere in the top 25.
SEAN MARTIN: This is going to be a grinder’s week and Woods is the ultimate grinder. That being said, he won’t be able to play the hero shots from the rough that his younger counterparts will. He’ll be flirting with the cut line come Friday and I think he may just find himself on the wrong side of it.
4. Of the top 5 in the world – DJ, Rahm, JT, Rory and Collin – who do you expect the most out of this week?
BEN EVERILL: Rahm. Olympia Fields had a U.S. Open feel to it and the most impressive part of his week was not the incredible finish to win but rather his ability to bounce back from both an inauspicious start and also his mental state after a silly ball-marking penalty. He didn’t let either thing overly bother him, nor did he let DJ’s improbable putt shake him. That’s got U.S. Open champion written all over it.
CAMERON MORFIT: I just think this looks like a Rahm sort of week. Also, Thomas keeps saying how much he loves it here, so I’m wondering if he might do well, also. I want to like Morikawa but I really think this place favors a longer hitter. Rory said he hit 3-wood into a par 3 in a practice round. Not sure whether or not it was the third, where Billy Casper famously laid up.
SEAN MARTIN: DJ. I know it was last season that he was the hottest player in the world, but that was just eight days ago. He’s well-rounded enough to go 30 under at TPC Boston and force a playoff at a tough test like Olympia Fields.
5. Which player ranked outside the top 25 in the world has the best shot?
BEN EVERILL: Jason Day. When he is switched on, he loves the grind and thrives when pars are important. If he frees his mind and lets his natural game flow, he will be looking at bettering the five top-10s he had in a six-year stretch at this championship from 2011-16.
CAMERON MORFIT: Thomas Pieters is 77th in the world but has incredible talent. I also happened to watch him hit a gorgeous tee shot into the ridiculously long third hole today, which of course may mean absolutely nothing.
SEAN MARTIN: The defending champion, Gary Woodland, is 26th in the world. I’m going to take Viktor Hovland, who’s ranked 31st. He’s a great ballstriker, which is necessary here. His short game may be a liability, but he handled it just fine at Pebble Beach, where he was T12 in last year’s U.S. Open.
6. Give a reason Phil Mickelson CAN secure the career grand slam this week and a reason he can’t.
BEN EVERILL: Why he can’t win: There are a few but just see last week: Phil hit just 12 of 56 fairways at the Safeway Open. That won’t work at Winged Foot. Why he can: He’s Phil Mickelson and has probably the greatest short game of all time. That’s why he has six runners-up at the U.S. Open. He can recover better than most.
CAMERON MORFIT: Can: He just won on the PGA TOUR Champions, and said he’d been playing great before the Safeway Open last week. He’s also finished second six times at the U.S. Open, so he obviously knows what it takes. Can’t: There’s a reason why he lost it at the end so many times in this tournament, and it’s the same reason why he failed to mount a serious charge at the Safeway: He just doesn’t hit enough fairways.
SEAN MARTIN: I really can’t see a reason why he can, if I’m honest. His last top-10 in a major was his runner-up to Henrik Stenson at the 2016 Open Championship. It’s been seven years since his last top-10 in the U.S. Open. The only reason that he can is golf makes no sense and sometimes it allows the sentimental storyline to play out. I think of Tom Watson at the 2009 Open Championship and then last week, when the man who beat Watson, Stewart Cink, won for the first in 11 years with his son on the bag.