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.
Phil Mickelson is the latest winner of a PGA Tour major and as such should be considered a favourite for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Phil has six runner-up finishes in the national championship and at age 51 is still looking for his first win. How do you rate his chances?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I understand his new health regime, refocus and repurpose, his stunning victory at Kiawah, and his knowledge of every blade of grass at Torrey Pines… but my hunch is he just won’t win. I suspect he’ll put a lot of inadvertent pressure on himself, shoot 75 in the first round, and maybe rebound into the top 10 by Sunday afternoon. But alas, no soup for Phil.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Mickelson will be lucky to make the cut this week, I hope he does, but he’s not accurate enough to stay amongst the leaders. There is only so much his short game will be able to save him this week too, eventually missed fairways will take its toll on Phil no matter how long his BOMBS are off the tee. Good Luck this week Phil.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Not to wish Phil any ill-will but lots of players would consider a 2nd place finish a successful week. He has to be rated highly based on his recent victory and this is a home course for him. Confidence and belief are two of the mysterious factors that muddy the waters. I think he contends early but be ready for lucky #7.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Not great. I know it’s a home game for him, but the PGA was a bit of an anomaly. He hadn’t had a top 20 in his last 16 starts on tour, and let’s be honest, the US Open puts a premium on driving accuracy, and that’s not Phil’s MO. I’d love to see him win, it would be one of the best sports stories of the century, but I’m not putting money on him.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It’s kinda shocking to realize that this is Phil’s 30th U.S. Open. Incredible. But for all his heartbreaks in the event, and his three tourney wins at Torrey, he hasn’t had a U.S. Open top 10 for a decade. Open set ups are not like PGA Championship set ups and aren’t set up favourable for guys eligible for the senior circuit. Though it would be a great Father’s Day present for a lot of us, this week Phil is a long, long shot.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Slim to slimmer. The pressure is on Phil as the PGA Champion and a three-time winner at Torrey Pines. But he’s 51 years old and rarely performs well when expectations are high. Still … Phil is full of surprises as we saw at Kiawah. So …maybe. But ….no way.
Lots of intriguing stories coming out of Torrey Pines this week. What’s the most compelling U.S. Open storyline NOT named Mickelson?
Deeks: What’s the status of Jon Rahm… in the field or shunned like a leper? Will Louis Oosthuizen have another oh-so-close finish? Will the hated Patrick Reed be in the mix? Is Torrey Pines really worthy of being a US Open course? Will Koepka and DeChambeau be paired together? Will I stay awake through the whole broadcast on Sunday? Take yer pick.
Loughry: The rough looks absolutely diabolical, this could get really interesting. It’s a US Open, and I love it when they put a premium on hitting fairways, as noted on this panel, I’m a big fan of testing all facets of the game, accuracy being one of them.
Schurman: The number of Canadians in the field has to get our attention. Not only that but the course is made for Corey Conners.
Rule: I guess you’d have to say it’s the Bryson/Brooks spectacle. Although I’m not a fan of either, the story has some intrigue. Especially if they are both in contention come the weekend, which is entirely possible.
Quinn: If it’s not Koepka and DeChambeau being paired, or the strong potential for one of the many young guns establishing the new world order, then it’s the course itself. Definitely the best muni I’ve ever played, it will be interesting to see if the USGA wants to identify the best golfer as one who shoots over par.
Mumford: I think the most intriguing storyline is the battle between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau and I’m not talking about the verbal spat on social media. Koepka and BDC are the two players best suited for a U.S. Open, both are mentally tough, and both have had success in the past. I would throw Jon Rahm into the mix based too on his recent play and success at Torrey Pines, but his mental toughness is an unknown until we see him get it done in a major. Still, I’d be surprised if the winner isn’t one of those three.
Who’s your pick to win the U.S. Open? And your sleeper pick?
Deeks: My considered pick is Xander Schauffele. No real reason. My sleeper pick is Louis Oosthuizen. I mean, come on, the guy’s gotta win something SOMEtime. My sentimental favourite would be McIlroy… I just want him to climb ever higher in the Game’s Elite rankings.
Loughry: Mickelson? Nope. I like Koepka, he’s had more time to heal, and he contended in the PGA just weeks ago, he’s accurate off the tee so I really like his chances this week. He’s also mentally tough, more so than most other players. Put him on your watch list, I think he’ll be there in the end. Under the radar, I’ll throw Hadwin in, he hasn’t played great sop far, but he could sneak a top 10.
Schurman: I think I just did that (above). I also like the newcomer Garrick Higgo. He looks sound in every part of the game and has a good swing. But I’m going with two who are ready. Louis Oosthuizen is built for these kinds of courses too and he is playing well. I also like JD. He played this week to get the rust off and showed lots of winning stuff. Of course, I have to choose Patrick Cantlay just because that’s what I have always done.
Rule: I like Xander Schauffele to finally pull out a major victory. It’s a home game for him, and he’s well overdue. My dark horse is Garrick Higgo, and maybe he’s not so much of a dark horse since he just won an event, but he’s not well known to many, having only had 2 PGA Tour starts to his name. But it’s not just his performance last week, he’s been hot for the past year, winning 5 times worldwide, including 3 Euro Tour victories, and he’s moved inside the Top 40 in the OWGR, so he could sneak up on people.
Quinn: If he can just avoid being tested for COVID again, Rahm has the game and the motivation to finally get a major — and he’s won at Torrey. It may be too much of an accurate term for him, and as much as I’d not like to see him win, Patrick Reed is the dark horse. Putting wins titles, and he can really putt.
Mumford: Brooks Koepka. He knows how to win majors and recently finished T2 at the PGA Championship. I think he’s pissed that he let it slip at Kiawah and will be laser focused on crushing skulls. He’s got a huge chip on his shoulder now and that’s when he’s most dangerous. My sleeper pick is Corey Conners. He was in the mix at Kiawah and just seems to get better every time out. Can’t quite say he’s due but he’s so steady that he might be able to sneak in if the leaders falter.