US Open Form Guide
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2014 US Open | Preview | 09 Jun 2014
It will be a new look Pinehurst No 2 which greets the field for the 2014 US Open beginning on June 12th, the original Donald Ross designed layout undergoing a significant transformation in recent times under the design of Ben Crenshaw and his design partner Bill Coore.
Pinehurst gained fame as the venue for Payne Stewart’s US Open win in 1999 just four months before his tragic death and the victory of Michael Campbell in 2005 and is generally consdiered one of the finest courses in the USA.
The week following the Men’s US Open Pinehurst No 2 will also play host to the US Women’s Open in a unique initiative by the US Golf Association.
With Tiger Woods missing this week there is no obvious favourite although many have Rory McIlroy as the man most likely.
I take a look at the leading players and analyse their prospects
The 2011 US Open Champion was brilliant in his recent win at the BMW PGA Championship and has generally played very well this season. In his last seventeen starts worldwide McIlroy has been outside the top twenty only three times and amongst those there have been two wins and three runner-up finishes. His win in 2011 at Congressional was one of the most emphatic in the history of the event and he must be a great chance to win his 3rd major.
Scott’s record in major championship in recent times has been as good as anyone’s with seven top tens in his last twelve including his breakthrough victory at the Masters. His record at the US Open has been considerably below the average of the others however but he is playing with such confidence that he should improve on his previous best of 15th. Like McIlroy he is in great form.
Stenson is not quite at the peak he was at late in 2013 but he is not far short of it. Stenson does not enjoy a good US Open record but this is a layout that will not be typical of US Open layouts and that, along with several good finishes in recent weeks, gives him a chance.
Mickelson has one of the best US Open records of anyone despite never winning the event including six runner-up finishes. He has countless runner-up and third place finishes but the one title he perhaps wants the most has eluded him. His form of late has been a concern and off course issues have also been a distraction. Perhaps too inconsistent in 2014 for him to be backed with confidence although if he was to win then he would bring the house down as he is as American as apple pie. Runner-up here in 1999.
The defending champion was playing solidly enough until a surprising missed cut at the Memorial. Immediately prior to that there had been several strong finishes so don’t be surprised if he bounces back quickly.
Kuchar is arguably the best current player without a major championship to his name. As his game overall has improved so too has his record at the US Open, making his last four cuts with a best of 6th at the 2010 Open. Kuchar is seemingly in contention every time he plays and there is every reason to believe he will be again at Pinehurst.
Watson is now the world number three. A season consisting of two wins, twice second and third at his last start at the Memorial suggests he is in good enough form to contend for the title. He has only one top ten at the US Open, that coming behind Angel Cabrera’s win in 2007. The creative genius is perhaps lost on a typically one dimensional US Open layout but Pinehurst this year might offer scope for his vivid golfing imagination. A chance but I can’t get too excited.
Day has a great record already in his short time competing in the event having finished runner-up on two of the three times he has played the US Open. He chased McIlroy all the way in 2011 and then last year finished two behind Rose. Day has been plagued by a thumb injury in the last three months and has played only twice since his win at the Accenture Match Play Championship. He has done well enough on both occasions but despite his good record in this event he might be a little underdone.
Westwood is in good form with a 7th place finish at the Masters, a win in Malaysia and a 6th place at the Players Championship. He did miss the cut last week in Memphis but that can perhaps be overlooked. Westwood has yet to win a major but this might present one of his best chances. Westwood has typically played the US Open well, in fact he has been inside the top ten in three of his last six starts in the event.
Like Kuchar and perhaps Westwood, Garcia is considered one of the best players in recent times not to have won a major championship but he too stands a chance of a breakthrough here. He was playing beautifully this year until a withdrawal at the BMW PGA Championship with a slight knee strain but if he is fit and ready to go then he is not out of it. He was third at Pinehurst in 2005
Spieth is such an incredible talent that at some stage he will be winning majors. Nothing surprises with this guy, his runner-up finish on debut at Augusta National one of the great performances in that event in recent years. He also finished 4th at the recent Players Championship and was a solid 19th at last week’s Memorial. Has played the US Open twice for a missed cut and a 21st place finish but he is a much improved golfer now. Don’t discount his chances.
Matsuyama has always appeared as if he might be the first Japanese player to win a major and he took a step towards that with a win at the Memorial last week. Matsuyama played his first US Open last year and flashed home on Sunday with the equal best final round to finish 10th. Now that he appears fit and free of injury issues he could well keep his run going. His record in the majors he has played has been very good already and it would not be a surprise if he was not in the mix.
Johnson has had injury issues this season and does not appear to be playing well enough to win. Earlier in the year he was playing very well but not so much of late.
Furyk won this event eleven years ago but he is possibly playing as well now as he was back then. He has made his last twenty cuts and put together runner-up finishes at the Wells Fargo and Players Championships. He has five top fives at the US Open in addition to his win in 2003 and his recent form suggests, at the age of 44, he has a chance to become one of the oldest winners of the US Open (that honour goes to Hale Irwin).
Two majors ago, Dufner won the PGA Championship but as is his want he goes about his business in such a low key manor many would have forgotten. Dufner has been 4th in each of the last two US Opens perhaps further highlighting the suitability of his demeanour to competing at the highest level. Two starts ago Dufner was runner-up to Adam Scott at the Crowne Plaza and then was a solid 19th at the Memorial. More than capable of winning this.
Donald is returning to his best and although his record at the US Open is average he is playing well enough to change all that. A recent 3rd place at the BMW PGA Championship and a runner-up finish at Hilton Head tells the story of a man beginning to play the level that saw him as the number one player in the game two years ago.
McDowell has been a winner and runner-up at the US Open but I can’t get excited about his chances in 2014. Four top ten finishes this season indicates he is not a hopeless case this week but will need something very special and above the level at which he is playing now.
Stricker is amazing. On a very limited schedule to ensure his playing longevity, Stricker is still managing to produce some very good results including when 6th last week in the Memorial. Has a solid record at the US Open and not the least of chances.
Almost amazingly this will be Jimmy Walker’s first US Open since 2002 which is surprising for a man who leads the Fed Ex Cup points list in 2014 but it is a reflection on how well he has and is playing in 2014. He stood up to be counted at the Masters and the Players with top tens in both and is riding a high at present which could continue this week.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Jimenez is playing some of the best golf of his life right now even though he is into his fifties. An impressive 4th place finish at the Masters was followed by a maiden win on the Champions Tour and a win in Spain on the European Tour. That he could finish 4th at Augusta National suggests he is not exactly a forlorn hope of becoming the oldest player to ever win a major championship