It’s that time of the year where the world’s best golfers look like amateurs as they take on the world’s toughest golf courses at the US Open. The winner of the US Open will most likely finish over par or just below it, a mediocre score at best, yet still find themselves a major champion. This year’s US Open will take place at the gorgeous Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, a links course in the Hampton’s that is known to be one of the toughest courses in the world. With a course record set at only -4, you can expect high scores all weekend and can expect the winner to most likely finish even par or slightly over, which is very uncommon in a professional tournament. Throughout this article, I will be showcasing golfers who are going to be the surprises of the weekend along with previewing the golfers who are coming into the weekend as the favorites. I will than predict a winner of the tournament to conclude the column. We will start however, with 3 golfers who are coming into the weekend with high hopes, but will disappoint in many ways and will not be playing come tournament’s end.
What can you say about Patrick Reed. The hot-headed green jacket winner from Texas is looking to win his second straight major this weekend and is going to need a lot of help doing so. As many of you know, Reed put on a dominating display this year at Augusta National, giving him his first ever major win and making him the current holder of the historic green jacket. A lot of times you will see golfers have disappointing outings in a major following a major win and there are a few reasons for this. One of these reasons is that after a player has won a major they become extremely confident. They feel that they are unstoppable and will take chances that they are not accustom to taking. With a course like Shinnecock, if you take just the slightest risk, you can find yourself in a heap of trouble as there are bunkers, roughs and fescue every which way you look. Another reason being that a major winner can disappoint in his next major appearance is because the expectations become way too high. To win a major takes great skill but to win two in a row takes something special and is a feat that most golfers are incapable of doing. For all these reasons, I think Patrick Reed is going to have a very mediocre performance this weekend at the Hampton’s and would not be surprised if he misses the cut.
I know what you’re thinking, but really, this one should not be that surprising. Rickie Fowler’s last major resulted in a second place finish at the Masters in which he had a resilient Sunday round and one that almost resulted in a comeback win. The belief that Fowler will not play well this weekend comes from the fact that Fowler loves the long game. He loves to hit a long drive followed by a long iron but at Shinnecock, there are times where you have to play conservative. If you overshoot by just the slightest you can find yourself looking at a disastrous hole and that is what makes this course so hard. Fowler is also fresh off a proposal in which he got engaged to his long time girlfriend, Allison Stokke. His mind is not going to be 100 percent on golf and to play well at a course as hard as Shinnecock is, you have to be completely dialed in. All these factors contributing, I expect a sub par weekend from the man with the bright pants.
I love Sergio Garcia, I do, but what I saw from him at the 2018 Masters was absolutely heartbreaking. Garcia entered the 2018 Masters as the defending champion. He got to host a dinner, coordinate other events and in many ways was an ambassador for the week. When it was time to play golf however, Garcia underperformed and did so in a big way. In the first day of the tournament, on the 15th hole par 5, Garcia had a disastrous hole, striking the ball into the water five consecutive times and finished the hole with a Octuple-Bogey (13 shots), one of the worst holes ever in Masters history. Garcia finished the tournament shooting a whopping 15 over par, sending him home after playing only 36 holes. The question for Garcia now becomes “How do I bounce back from such a horrific performance?” The answer is quite simple, you don’t. There is no bouncing back from this and Garcia is going to have to experience a lot of lows before he reaches any highs. I have Garcia missing the cut this week and shooting well over par as a champion just a year ago, is now in one of the darkest points in his professional career.
I remember watching a video on Vice Sports in 2016 about Kevin Kisner and remember thinking to myself, I want this guy to be my best friend. He did not play golf like your average professional golfer. He didn’t lose sleep over golf, didn’t let golf control his life, but rather just let the game of golf be played how it is supposed to be played, as a leisurely activity. An activity where you drink beer with your buddies and hit some balls. The ironic thing about it all is that Kisner happens to be gifted at the sport, so much so that he is currently ranked 30th in the world. Kisner has a phenomenal short game, an above average putter and is an overall well-rounded player. I am not saying Kisner can win the Open this weekend, but do not be surprised if he is in the mix come Sunday.
Bryson DeChambeau is a superstar in the making. At only 24 years old, DeChambeau has burst on the scene and has established himself as one of the world’s elite. DeChambeau is coming into the Open with a boat load of confidence as he is fresh off of a PGA Tour win at the Memorial Tournament in beautiful Dublin, Ohio. DeChambeau did not stroll to the victory however, as he clawed his way back into contention on Sunday and eventually defeated Byeong-hun An in a playoff. According to DeChambeau this was “The biggest win of my career, we felt it”, so you can only imagine the confidence he is feeling coming into the weekend. The thing I like so much about DeChambeau is how dominant his short game is and when the ball lands on the green it is essentially a gimme as Bryson is one of the best putters on the tour. If DeChambeau can stay out of the heavy rough that Shinnecock provides and come into Sunday in contention, there is a very good chance that we could be looking at our 2018 US Open champion.
After winning the PGA Championship in 2015, Jason Day was expected to be one of the next dominating golfers. Fast forward three years, and that championship is still the only major that he has won. Although he has collected his fair share of PGA tour event wins and is a top 10 golfer in the world, Day can be considered as somewhat of a let down in the golf world. That being said, Day is only 30 years old and has plenty left in the tank along with more than enough talent to take home another major. The thing I like about Day is when he gets on a roll and strings together a few productive holes, he has the ability to light up the leaderboard and take control of a tournament before you can even blink. Not many guys can birdie on 4 straight holes but when Day is feeling it, he can do it in his sleep. Shinnecock is going to be a course where if you find a way to string a few good holes together, you will put yourself in great shape and that’s why Day has to be the biggest dark horse in this entire tournament.
If you are a betting man, the safe choice coming into the weekend would be to bet on Dustin Johnson. This past weekend, Johnson dominated the Saint Jude’s Classic, shooting 19 under, giving him a runaway tournament win. The win also placed Johnson at the top of the ranks and Johnson now currently sits as the number one golfer in the world. If you come into a major ranked as the number one golfer in the world, you are going to be a favorite and are going to be expected to perform very well. The expectations are well deserved for Johnson however, as he is playing better golf than anyone on the planet right now. He is driving the crap out of the ball, hitting his iron shots exceptionally well and is putting out of his mind. The only time that I can remember Johnson playing this well in his career was last year heading into the Masters tournament. As you all know, Johnson was injured and had to take himself out of that tournament, so it will be interesting to see what he does this go around.
Jon Rahm is the most fascinating player on the PGA tour. The Spaniard has a fiery playing style that is unique and a personality that is a dime a dozen. I predicted Rahm to be a player to watch for in the Masters and after finishing 4th in the tournament and having a current ranking of 5 in the world, Rahm has found himself as a contender. There should be no more surprises of just how good this guy is. Rahm’s striking ability is something that an average golfer can only dream of. His mid range game is considered average which he makes up for with a lethal short game and has an above average putter. The only weakness that can be found in Rahm’s game is his temper which can be very flamboyant at times and is a major crutch to his game. If Rahm finds himself in trouble on the course or finds himself battling adversity, he has the tendency to get worked up and cannot get himself back on track. If he carries that temper with him to Shinnecock, he is going to have a long tournament as the course tends to get even the most fair tempered golfers very frustrated. That being said, if Rahm can keep his head on straight and can learn how to keep his eyes on the prize, he could very well be looking at his first major win.
Justin Thomas was my pick to win this year’s Masters tournament. It is safe to say that the prediction went to the waste side as Thomas finished the tournament in 17th place, shooting 4 under par for the weekend. Although his performance at Augusta can be looked at as a let down, Thomas still finds himself atop the leaderboard in the FedEx Cup standings, is the second ranked golfer in the world and has more than enough talent to take home a major this calendar year. The thing I like most about Thomas is that he is fearless on the course and walks around with an attitude of “I am the greatest golfer to ever play this sport.” Although some find his whole persona and attitude extremely arrogant and obnoxious, he is successful and at the end of the day he is the one making millions of dollars. With a course as demanding as one of Shinnecock, the winner of the tournament is going to have to go into as well as keep a confidence throughout the entire weekend. If they hit a bad shot, they need to know that they can bounce back. If they miss a putt, they need to know that they can knock down the next 3. Justin Thomas is going to have that attitude coming into this tournament and for that reason he has to be looked at as a serious contender to win this whole thing.
Jordan Spieth has potential to be one of the most dominating golfers we have ever seen. At the young age of just 24 years old, Spieth has already won 3 majors and is on the pace for many more. This year at Augusta, Spieth was just a couple of holes away from completing one of the greatest comebacks in the history of golf. Coming into the final round on Sunday, Spieth was 9 shots behind the leader Patrick Reed and was nothing but an afterthought of even being in contention to compete on the final day. Spieth however had other plans and had one of the greatest rounds in Masters history, shooting a -8, 64, just off the course record. Spieth fell just short of catching Reed and settled with a third place finish. The disappointing finish for Spieth can also be looked at as a positive, as the final round of Augusta gave him a boat load of momentum heading into the remaining 3 majors. Although Spieth has not been playing his best golf on the PGA tour as of late, major season is a whole different animal and Jordan comes out when the lights are the brightest. If he can knock down clutch long putts in which he has been known for in recent major success, he will bring home his fourth major trophy and will possibly run away with it.
The Tiger Woods return tour is in full force and the next stop takes us to the Hampton’s. Tiger was recently spotted docking his 20 million dollar yacht at the Hampton’s where he is going to spend the majority of his time in lue of the tournament. A quick reaction to that is one, that is baller as hell and two, there is not a more relaxed man on the planet right now. Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer of our generation and there is no doubting it. He has won 14 majors and has over 100 wins on the PGA tour. That being said, the last time that Tiger won a major, I was in elementary school. This is due to a wide-spread number of injuries that has plagued his career over the last decade. Woods is all healed up now thanks to a back fusion and is starting to play the brand of golf that we have come to know and love over the years. Woods is consistently shooting under par and just 2 weeks ago, Woods shot 9 shots under par at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio. For Woods to break his major drought he is going to have to do a couple of things. He is going to have to one, dominate the short game which when he was at his best, Woods had the most dominant short game of all time. He has to two, hit his drives exceptionally well because Shinnecock is an extremely long course and three and most importantly, Woods has to hit his putts if he has any shot of winning this tournament. During his comeback, the one weak spot in Woods’ game was his inability to make big putts and if you miss your putts at Shinnecock, you are going to have a long damn weekend. There is no player I would rather see win this tournament than Tiger Woods. It would be good for sports, good for the fans and overall be good for the sport of golf. The question now becomes “Does Tiger actually have what it takes to win another major?” The answer to that is, HELL FREAKING YEA. LETS MAKE SUNDAYS GREAT AGAIN!
2018 US Open Winner: Jordan Spieth