US Open trophy and history on the line at Pebble Beach
Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Rory McIlroy obliterated the field on Sunday to capture the RBC Canadian Open. What was your take on McIlroy’s win and the tournament in general?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I can’t imagine a better week, and final result, for the Canadian Open! Clearly the new date has made a difference in player interest, and in some cases, players’ NEED to play to qualify for future majors. I was at the Open on Friday, was blown away with the condition of the course, the quality of the spectators (not one “Babba Booey” to be heard), the quality of play that I saw, and very impressed with the overall experience. Well done, RBC and Golf Canada!
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: Anyone not enthralled by McIlroy’s performance is comatose. When he is in full flight it is something magnificent to see. I wish he had shot 59 but that wasn’t to be. The tournament was extremely exciting and even though Canada has some boneheads yelling out stupid sayings at least we know we are part of the world culture. What was a good sign for Canadian golf was the size of the crowds.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): He’s so friggin’ good; I don’t understand how he doesn’t win every event he plays. Superhuman distance, pinpoint precision and mastery with the putter – all those tools and more were on full display over the weekend, and it was an absolute treat to watch. As for the tournament, I thought it couldn’t have gone better. There was a nice Canadian contingent in contention after 36 holes, a round of 60 by Snedeker, and the venue’s perfect conditions and strong variety of holes were apparent when watching the tournament from home. After a week of that caliber, I sincerely hope that Hamilton has secured its spot on the rotation of Canadian Open venues going forward.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): What an amazing week for the organizers at the Canadian Open. They couldn’t have asked for better weather, better fans and most of all, a better champion. It was an impressive performance from Rory, one that we have become accustomed to seeing every once in a while from Rory. When he gets hot and hits his driver the way he did on the weekend, he’s basically unbeatable. Let’s hope he can carry that forward for a few weeks on go on a bit of a run leading into the Open Championship in his home country. I was happy to be able to attend the Canadian Open on Thursday and loved seeing the pros playing one of the great courses this country has to offer. I’m really looking forward to another great field at another great course in St George’s next June!
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Rory showed why he’s the best in the game. Unfortunately, Rory is streaky, but when he’s on, nobody can beat him. This year’s version of the RBC Canadian Open was perhaps the best ever from almost every angle – the field, the course, the non-golf entertainment and the fans. The new date certainly added some lustre to the field, but McIlroy may have given the event more of a boost than anyone. He came, he won, and he acknowledged how important national open titles are to him – hopefully giving some other competitors a new reason to show up in the following years.
US Open week kicks off with a number of great storylines including a sizzling hot Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka going for three straight US Open titles, Tiger Woods looking to bounce back for another major, Phil Mickelson looking to complete his personal Grand Slam, the USGA set-up for a US Open and World #2 Dustin Johnson trying not to get lost in the excitement. That’s a lot to contemplate but is there another storyline we should be considering?
Deeks: Not really a storyline on the level of those you’ve mentioned, but I wonder whatever happened to Jordan Spieth? He hasn’t been playing all that poorly lately, but he’s certainly disappeared from “the conversation”. I’d love to see him return to form and win this Open. Then I’d really love to see McIlroy win at Royal Portrush!
Schurman: If Rory continues to play at that level it will be enough of a story! However, I like the Patrick Cantlay story. Or perhaps a Canadian winner.
Kaplan: Other than Jordan Spieth coming on strong lately, I think you’ve touched on all of them. There’s more than enough solid storylines right there to make for one heck of a week. In fact, I think we are in for a real barnburner at one of the most picturesque courses in the world. I can’t wait for the action to get underway.
Rule: The storyline I’m hoping doesn’t dominate this week is the USGA’s set-up and any rules infractions. The set-up of the golf course at the US Open always draws complaints and hopefully they set up one of the best courses in the world fairly, so it shows off the course well, but challenges the players the way a US Open course should. I don’t care if the winning score is 10 under or 10 over, as long as the course is challenging enough to let the cream rise to the top!
Mumford: In recent years, one of the top stories has been how badly the USGA can mess up the US Open. Not going to happen this year. Pebble Beach is idiot proof. There may be complaints because of the difficulty but it shouldn’t be a USGA stumble that causes any controversy. My missing storyline concerns all the players below the current top tier that are barely getting a mention once everyone deals with Koepka, McIlroy, DJ and Tiger. What about Molinari, Rahm, Rose, Scott, JT, Fowler, Fleetwood and DeChambeau? And Spieth? And Day? And Cantlay and Kuchar? Lots of major championship experience there. This field is too good and too deep. Length advantage has been minimized. Any one of those guys could win and there are at least a dozen more with a chance. This is a wide-open Open.
Pebble Beach in June is not the same as Pebble Beach in February. Everything will be firmer and faster for the US Open, which means the course will play shorter. The rough is deep and thick, so a premium will be put on hitting fairways, making it more like a traditional US Open set-up. As a shorter, finesse course, Pebble will bring more players into the mix. Who is your pick to win the US Open on Sunday? Who’s your sleeper pick?
Deeks: I’m gonna go out on a limb and pick Adam Scott to win. I just think he needs another major to reinforce his return to top-level play, and to legitimize his career. My sleeper pick would be a guy who knows Pebble pretty well: Tiger.
Schurman: I should have read all the questions before answering question #2. Rory has to be the favourite and my sleeper pick is Cantlay. BTW I don’t see where you recognized a person for correctly picking last week’s winner outright. No fallback and no alternatives.
Kaplan: How do you not take Koepka at this point? Until he show some signs of letting up in this event, he is the HEAVY favourite. Once again, I’m taking Patrick Cantlay as my sleeper—although with that recent win, he may have elevated to above-sleeper status over the last few weeks. Nonetheless, Cantlay is my sleeper pick for every major until he wins his first. Hopefully, that first win comes soon or else I’m going to look pretty silly betting on the wrong horse every time a major comes around.
Rule: I like Xander Schauffele to win this year. He’s been in the hunt the past two US Opens and has quietly played well this year. It’s time for him to break through! As for a sleeper pick, I will go with Brandt Snedeker if he qualifies as a sleeper! Although he’s only ranked 44th in the world, he’s won twice at Pebble before, and he typically plays well in US Opens, and he’s coming off a good week at Hamilton.
Mumford: If McIlroy can stay hot like he was at the RBC Canadian Open, then he will win. Otherwise, Koepka. My sleeper pick, that I once said would be my repeat pick for every major for the next ten years, is Jon Rahm. Come on Jon. You’re moving into overdue territory.