2005 US Open Form Guide
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2005 US Open | Preview | 14 Jun 2005
The 2005 US Open will be played over one of the great courses in the game, Pinehurst #2, in the delightful golfing township of Pinehurst in North Carolina. The course plays host to its second US Open having staged the event six years ago when Payne Stewart held out Phil Mickelson by a stroke.
While it has played host just the twice in its almost 100 year history, it is no reflection on the quality of the course. It’s suitability in terms of the incredible US Open tournament logistics are one factor. A change of the greens from Bermuda to Bent grasses in the mid 1990’s was also an important requirement if the USGA were to take the tournament there for the first time in 1999. The course was tested first by the USGA when they staged the US Seniors Open in 1994 then held the US Open itself in 1999.
The Donald Ross design was opened for play in 1907. It would be hard to find a player who does not speak highly of Pinehurst #2, the main reason being that it tests every aspect of a player’s game.
In 1999 Payne Stewart beat Phil Mickelson with Tiger Woods third and while the course did not breathe quite the same fire that it is likely to in 2005 (rain softened the course a little prior to the 1999 event), there was still only one player under par at the end of 72 holes. That Mickelson, Woods and Singh were so close that year reflects that it is likely to require a golfer with a great deal of imagination, especially with his short game, to succeed here. With the ’crowned greens’ shaped so the ball will run away from the edges, a potent short game will be necessary from the shaved surrounds to save par as often as is required in a US Open.
Woods is back to world number one this week and is still the golfer most will expect to contend here. He is perhaps not quite the dominant figure he was when finishing in a share of third here in 1999, but with his brilliant short game, which will be such a factor here, and his amazing tenacity he might just outlast many others. He comes off a good week when bouncing back for third at the Memorial after missing the cut in Dallas. He has already played twice here in the past week and will be as well prepared as anyone for this.
Singh shared third here with Woods in 1999 and despite a less than impressive US Open record in recent years he had shown a capacity to do well in the US Open prior. He comes off a missed cut himself at the Memorial but that was after a two week break which for him must have felt like an eternity given how much he plays. By the time he gets to Pinehurst he will have had another chance to get his game back to where it was ago month ago at this week’s Booz Allen where he has made the cut. He and Stewart were the only two players to shoot two rounds in the 60’s in 1999 so he does have a comfort zone with the course.
Els first won this event at the age of 24 and then again at 27. I don’t think too much should be read into his missed cut here in 1999 although it was somewhat unexpected. He has developed the ’feel’ side of his game more in recent years and certainly this will be very much a test of feel. His form is certainly not as sharp as it was a month ago but a 7th placing at the Booz Allen event shows that he can still contend. He will no doubt be keen to erase the memories of a rather horrible last day at last year’s US Open when he shot 80 after being very much the contender heading into day four. It is difficult to not see him being a factor but how much of a factor is the question.
Mickelson missed winning his first major here in 1999 by the length of a twenty foot putt made by Payne Stewart at the 72nd hole to edge him out. Like Woods, Mickelson has spent time at Pinehurst of late getting the feel for the course once again and working on the short game skills so necessary here. There are few with the imagination and associated skills around the greens that Mickelson possesses. He has been six times inside the top ten at the US Open including three times runner up. There is a lot to suggest that this could be Mickelson’s year. He finished 29th at the Booz Allen but only after a poor final round of 74.
Goosen has become somewhat of a US Open specialist having won twice in the last four years. Much of that comes from his unflappable nature and calm demeanour riding the good and bad that comes with US Open tournament golf. He missed the cut here in 1999 but he is a much more highly credentialed player now and of course knows he can win a US Open. His form has been solid this year.
Furyk is in fine form right now and as a golfer who is in many respects the quintessential US Open style player, possessing a game built around accuracy, he deserves to be considered as one of the leading chances. His win at Olympia fields in 2003 was as emphatic as it was impressive and in his current form he must rate a strong chance of being in the mix on Sunday. He was 17th here in 1999 and finished 39th on the weekend at the Booz Allen after a final round of 74.
Garcia has not quite delivered, in terms of major success, what he promised when he burst onto the major golf scene in 1999 with his runner up placing to Woods at the USPGA. He has however, played reasonably well at the US Open making all five cuts, the best a 4th in 2002. Garcia’s win at the Booz Allen suggests that he could well be in contention this week.
Scott’s second place in defence of his Booz Allen title shows again that he seems destined to win majors in his career. There is a question mark over his ’major’ performances to date however with just two top tens in sixteen starts at the highest level. Three missed cuts at the US Open in his three starts to date hardly gives any real confidence in his chances at Pinehurst.
DiMarco was playing the best golf of his career a month ago but in his last two starts the form has fallen away a little. He finished in equal 13th at the recent Booz Allen after a slow start and has not missed a cut at a US Open in four starts. I can’t get too excited about his chances but there are many who will no doubt.
Toms has found his way back to form after a horror run for a couple of months. His last three starts have seen him in contention each week and he did not play the Booz Allen in order to focus on the US Open. He has had just the one top ten at the US Open and missed the cut here in 1999.
Donald has the perfect percentage based game for US Open golf. Interestingly for a golfer at his level in the game now, he has played just the one US Open when 18th at Bethpage in 2002. He is number one in scrambling averages on the USPGA Tour suggesting that the short game skills he will need to do well here are very much part of his game. There is so much to like about Donald’s game and swing that if he was to contend it would be no great surprise. Many expect him to be doing so before too long.
Harrington missed the cut at the Booz Allen this past weekend and has had a neck injury and personal issues to contend with of late. If he was at his peak he could do well and in fact has a good US Open record with three top tens in five starts. His most recent form, apart from his missed cut at Congressional, has been promising and he has now won in the US with his victory earlier this year at the Honda Classic so has that behind him now.
Perry should have done better in US Opens that his less than impressive record suggests. He was 3rd in 2003 but that aside there is little to get excited about. He has become such a good driver of the ball however that his chances may improve this year although, even despite two wins, his putting is not as sharp in 2005 as it has been previously. He has not played here previously.
Leonard, despite just missing the cut at the Booz Allen, has a genuine chance of doing well here. He played well in 1999 and his recent win in Memphis indicates that he is close to his best form. I think at the longer odds that are available for him he has some value. He is a big event player with already one win in a major and three times runner up including at the PGA last year when beaten in a playoff.
Davis Love III
Love seems to be bringing a little improvement to his game. He was 12th here in 1999. He finished in equal 2nd at the Booz Allen but without a win in nearly two years, even if he does get into contention, it will be interesting to see how he handles things down the stretch. His US Open form has not been as good as it should be for a player who has won 18 times on the USPGA Tour.
Cink will long be remembered for blowing a great chance to win this event in 2001 and his recent form suggests he will struggle to make amends in 2005. He has missed the cut at the Booz Allen. He is one of the great putters on tour but it is a bit hard to see him winning.
Verplank has played in 13 US Opens but his best finish has been only 10th. He did finish 17th here in 1999. He has played very well in recent weeks including six top twenties in his last seven starts which is the sort of good, solid, consistent form you would expect from a potential open winner.
Bjorn has worked his way back up the world ranking in recent months and showed with his win at the British Masters that his game is close to its best. He has played well at the US Open in recent years with four top tens including twice second. He was 30th when the event was last played here.
Appleby finished in equal 7th at the Booz Allen after a third round 65. He has missed the cut in five of his last six US Opens so there is not a lot to breed confidence in him on that record. He has played reasonably well in recent weeks but his Open record is the query.
Couples’ good tournament at the Memorial last week, when second, followed two good weeks in Asia. There has been the occasional good finish at the Open in the twenty one starts he has had although he did miss the cut here in 1999. That he was able to beat all but Bart Bryant at the Memorial indicates he is close to his best form but his less than impressive record on USGA set ups is of concern.
O’Hern has taken his game to another level over the last twelve months and has made a huge move in the world ranking. While he has won only the one event, his game is built around percentage play and minimizing mistakes which is a good recipe for US Open golf. This will be his first US Open but he showed at Augusta that he can handle debuts well. He finished in 6th place at the recent Memorial which indicates he is not out of his league here.
Lehman certainly has the game for the US Open as his fine record in the event would suggest. He has not missed a cut in his last eleven starts in the event and although he has yet to win he has finished 2nd once and 3rd twice. He seems to be returning to the Lehman of old this season with two runner up placings including that at the Players Championship. He was a little disappointing when missing the cut at Congressional but he did shoot 68 in round two and missed by just one.
Lonard is playing perhaps the best golf of his career at present, despite just missing the cut at the Booz Allen, and with a game suited to the test that is US Open golf, me must be a place prospect. His best finish in four starts at the US Open was 11th in 2002 after a last round 67.
Allenby finally started to play well again last week after a struggle with an allergic reaction to what he thinks might be spicy foods. It was causing an almost arthritic like cramping in his hands but that may now be behind him it appears. Like his fellow countryman Appleby, he has not featured in US Open finishes apart from his 7th place last year at Shinnecock Hills when he recorded the best last round on Sunday. That 7th placing has been his best in all majors to date.
Maggert has an almost uncanny ability to play well in this event even when his general form has not been all that good. He has recorded six top tens at the US Open including a 7th place at Pinehurst in 1999. He might again pop up and run into one of the top five placings here.
The other Australasians
Pampling just keeps getting better with experience. His 5th placing at Augusta was particularly impressive and there have been some good solid finishes on the USPGA Tour since. He has only played one US Open, missing the cut at Olympia Fields, but he is a far more complete player now. He finished 7th at the Booz Allen.
Leaney shocked the golfing world when finishing second to Jim Furyk two years ago but in many ways his game is built around US Open type play. He just missed the cut at the Booz Allen event but prior to that there was a sign that his game was on track with several good solid finishes. He has a game built around percentages but his putting has let him down this season. If he can have a good week on the greens then he has a chance to be the leading Australian once again.
Ogilvy has developed a level of consistency this season which had been the missing ingredient in his game. His win in Tucson will give him a greater belief in his ability to contend at this level. In his only US Open start in 2003 he missed the cut but he has developed into a much better and smarter player in 2005.
Parry has plenty of US Open experience on his side in fact twelve starts but quality has not matched quantity at this event for him. He has not missed a cut this season in nine starts on the USPGA Tour and won the Heineken early in the year in Australia which is all good form. On a golf course like Pinehurst where a deft short game such as he possesses will be imperative, he has a chance of leading the Australians home.
Hensby’s game seems to have gone off the boil a little since his brilliant showing at the Masters when he finished 5th. He is now a USPGA Tour winner and that alone puts him on another level to many here. This will be his first US Open.
Campbell is on the comeback trail and has played well over the past two months. He qualified last Monday in Surrey to gain his place in the field. After one very good showing in 2000 at Pebble Beach he has struggled in this event. He has not had a good relationship with golf in the US and there will be much interest in his homeland as the only New Zealander as to how he goes.
Elkington has found form at the right time with his good week at the Booz Allen event and in qualifying for this event last week. He has certainly played better this season and although he does not have an outstanding record at the US Open, he has missed only two cuts in ten starts.
Green, like O’Hern, has made huge strides in his last twelve months and his effort at the Memorial when 8th was very impressive. He has yet to play in a US Open so this will be a learning experience for him although he has been playing well again in 2005, not missing a cut this season.
Conran did well to get a start via qualifying in Japan and being his first US Open start he can expect to learn from the experience.
Allan qualified for Pinehurst for the second time in his career having done so in 1999 also. He finished 42nd but while his form has been a little better of late it is hard to imagine a great week for him.
Walters made it into the field via final qualifying and did well to do so. He has missed the cut badly this past week in Illinois but perhaps the thought of his first major experience is occupying his mind.