Form Guide - 2006 US Open
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2006 US Open | Preview | 13 Jun 2006
The AW Tillinghast designed early 1920 classic, is one of the most demanding golf courses in the US, especially when combined with what will be a tough US Open style set up. Tiger Woods was moved to say in recent weeks that he considers it “the toughest Member’s Golf Course he has ever seen and the greens just brutal”.
The West Course, as the Championship course at Winged Foot is known, has been tinkered with in recent years by the modern day golf course architect, Tom Fazio, but it still carries the characteristics that have made it such a famed course over such a long period of time. It measures 7264 yards (6660 metres) and has a par of 70.
It will call on all the skills demanded of a US Open Champion. Tight fairways, severe rough, deep bunkers and undulating quick greens are the physical issues to overcome but so to will the mental aspects on a golf course where a potential birdie can become a double bogey in a heartbeat. The winner at the end of this week will feel like he has been 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali when Ali was a World Champion.
Woods has to overcome a break from tournament golf of nine weeks and the fact that he will be playing for the first time since the passing of his father. Woods is an exception to almost every rule but these will be two large hurdles to jump if he is to contend here. He has won previously after a long break, more especially in 2003 when he won the Buick after a break of similar length, but many of his main rivals had played little in that time also. If he is able to win it will be arguably his greatest victory. The odds are stacked against him but this is Tiger Woods. He has been twice a winner and has not been outside the top twenty in his last nine starts at the US Open.
Mickelson has a very good record in US Open golf for one who has for so long been perceived as not the most accurate of hitters. Even before he began a more conservative and strategic approach to his game a couple of years ago however, Mickelson was compiling a good record in this event. He has been three times runner up at the US Open but now he is looking for his third consecutive major championship after his win at the 2005 PGA and the 2006 Masters. There will be many to suggest he can add this to his growing list of achievements at the highest level. He has had reasonable if unspectacular tournament at the Barclays Classic in his lead up. He has every right to be the favourite.
Singh appeared to reverse his recent ordinary form with a brilliant win at the Barclays last week after several weeks struggling to contend. The closest he has come to winning this event was in 1999 when third behind Payne Stewart at Pinehurst. His good week at Westchester brings him right back into consideration but his sometimes suspect driving accuracy will need further improvement if he is to avoid the pitfalls of Winged Foot.
Els has a good US Open record and if he was playing better at present he would be one of the first to be considered. His problem is that he is not and really hasn’t been for a few months despite the fact that he continues to make cuts. His last round of 81 at the Memorial gives little assurance to those who would like to see him win his third US Open. Els maintains that that round was not as bad as it appeared and took last week to work on his putting as much as anything else. He is upbeat about his chances but it is hard to be convinced.
Goosen has been very solid in recent weeks apart from an ordinary tournament two weeks ago at the Memorial. Somewhat of a US Open specialist, Goosen has twice been a winner of the event and last year led into the last round at Pinehurst only to fall apart on the final day. His unflappable demeanour will perhaps be his greatest ally in a week where his capacity to put adversity behind him will be nearly as important as the all round game he possesses.
Furyk put a scare into those who fancy his chances at Winged Foot when he withdrew from a Skins event last week with a back complaint and then the Barclays Classic. That is a concern given that demands of the US Open week ahead of him. If he is at 100% health then he could well succeed around a golf course that will very much suit his game but he will need to be if he is to be a contender.
Toms has had the occasional good week at the US Open and in many ways has the game and attitude to do well in this event. He had a solid week at the Barclays Classic. It would perhaps be a surprise if he was to win but a top ten finish is well within his capabilities.
Scott is finally developing the consistency that, to a large extent, has been the missing ingredient in his game. He has now had four very good finishes in his last four events in the US. He was very good last week when runner up at the Barclays his putter letting him down at a crucial moment in the last nine holes. His record in the majors has been ordinary at best but he is reaching a stage in his game and his maturity that might just see him better his previous best in a Major championship, namely when 9th at the Masters and the USPGA. His putting is the one area of his game in which he will need a week out of the ordinary if he is to contend. Changes made to his swing earlier in the year now appear to be taking effect and he is better prepared than ever to do well in a major.
Garcia withdrew from last week’s Barclays Classic citing back problems. He hopes to be right for this week but that he was forced to do so is a concern for his fans. Garcia has a pretty good record at the US Open including when third last year but there appear to be too many ’ifs and buts’ about his health at present. If fully fit he can contend, if not then he has no chance.
Howell is perhaps the most improved golfer in 2006 amongst the leading players. His recent win at the BMW Championship against a strong field highlighted where he is at with his game right now. His two visits to the US Open have been disasters but he is such an improved player now, and with some good performances in the US behind him, that a much improved showing would not surprise. He had a solid lead up last week at Westchester and is now inside the top ten players in the world.
Jose Maria Olazabal
Olazabal is an old war horse who plays well in the big events. After several good finishes earlier in his career at the US Open he has not been so good in latter times mainly because of his wayward driving. It is an area of his game that has improved this year and his form has improved as a result. He was 7th at the Players Championship, 3rd at Augusta and 11th at the Memorial, all good enough to give him some hope here. He was disappointing at the Barclays but could well turn that around this week.
Donald, on the surface, would appear to have many of the attributes and skills to do well in a US Open. He has a calm demeanour and possesses a very accurate game. His putting this season has not been good and he will need to have an exceptional week if he is to contend, but he is a young player who will win a major one day. His very good well last week at the Barclays gives further hope for his admirers
Clark is an understated and underrated player who just keeps producing good tournaments, especially on tough golf courses. It is hard to imagine he is the 14th ranked golfer in the world but such has been his improvement this year. He is a real grinder. He finished runner up at Augusta this year. His lack of length may count against him on a golf course that will play to its full length, but his accuracy and short game will keep him in it for a long time. He had an ordinary week at the Barclays but not too much should be read into that.
Ogilvy has found a level of maturity and consistency in his game in the last eighteen months that was previously missing. He produced two very strong performances in majors last year when fifth at the Open Championship and 6th at the PGA. They gave every indication that he was about to go to another level and he did just that when winning the Accenture Match Play earlier this year. If he can stay patient and tolerate the mishaps that will come his and every player’s way at Winged Foot, he can contend. He had a nice lead up at the Barclays’ when 18th.
Campbell has a poor record at the US Open as he struggles a little with his accuracy. He has a solid short game however and is a very good iron player. He is having a good year in 2006 and has shown in the past that the big stage holds no real fears with wins at the Tour Championship and a runner up placing at the PGA Championship. Not one I would expect to win but he has a chance to have a good week.
Campbell arrived at this event last year in better form than is the case in 2006. He deserves consideration because he is the defending champion but it is hard to get excited about his chances of repeating what was a brilliant win in 2005. He missed the cut at his last start in Wales although that was a venue that was not exactly a good guide to what might happen this week. His 5th at the British Masters and 12th in Ireland in earlier weeks might be a better guide but it is hard to be convinced.
Appleby’s record at the US Open is very ordinary for a golfer of his standing in the game. He has missed six of his last seven cuts in the event but there is something about the way he is playing right now that indicates that record might just take a turn for the better. His 18th place at the Barclays last week was a good lead up.
Ames has surprisingly played in only two of the last eight US Opens and was 9th at Shinnecock. He missed the cut at his most recent start at the Memorial but his form prior was very good including his great win at the Players Championship. In theory his game should suit the set up at Winged Foot this week. He is solid in most departments of his game.
Immelman is now developing into the sort of player most felt he would earlier in his career. He has had a great run of form in recent weeks in the US and although he has not played many majors, he is at another level with his game now. He is the fourth South African in the field who could be a chance to do well. He was 13th last week at the Barclays.
DiMarco has a solid record at the US Open but his recent form after recovery from injury is his biggest concern. His last few weeks have been a little better but it is hard to imagine that improvement holding up for 72 holes this week.
Pampling has missed the cut at both his US Opens but such is the improvement in him and his current good form that he seems now capable of marked improvement in this event. His putting has been his big improvement in 2006 and if he can find a way to hit more fairways this week then he could well improve on his previous best finish in a major that being when 5th at Augusta last year.
Davis Love III
Love has put together a lot of very solid, if unspectacular tournaments, in recent weeks. It should be remembered that he is the only player in this field to have won around Winged Foot when claiming the 1997 USPGA Championship. He has not exactly been playing like a major winner in recent times but neither has his form been all that bad. He has not won this event but has often contended. He might just surprise.
Harrington has been playing well of late and has played well at the US Open in previous years. He was perhaps a little disappointing at this week’s Barclays tournament as the defending champion but he arrives at Winged Foot with several good tournaments earlier in the year.
Poulter had a very good week at the Barclays last week and is a very good driver of the golf ball. He has had a good run of form in the US this season and while a win would be a big surprise, another good showing seems likely given his current form.
O’Hern has not played a lot this year but when he has he played reasonably well. He was 19th at the US Masters. His game should be suited to US Open style courses with its leaning towards a very strategic style of approach. He is a great at plotting his way around a golf course and his amazing accuracy from the tee and to the greens will stand him in very good stead this week.
Allenby’s best finish in a major came at this event two years ago when 7th at Shinnecock Hills after a recording the best final round of the day. He has been a little in and out with his form in 2006 and it is hard to get a line on just where he is at with his game at present. His recent back problems are a further concern. Allenby is one of the best driver’s of a golf ball, which is going to be a great asset, but given the unknowns about him at present, I can’t get excited about his chances.
Hensby is having a tough year after a breakthrough season in 2005. He was third at Pinehurst last year and put up a brilliant showing at Augusta this year after an opening round of 80. He has already proven himself to be a big event player but on his current form he is hard to like as a serious chance.
Green continues to play well in European Tour events. He made the cut at Pinehurst last year when in the middle of a very good run of form and qualified to play here a week ago. Nice tidy and classy player who could make the cut. He finished off his preparations with a last round of 63 in Austria last week to finish 4th.
Green has surprised many with what has been a stunning start to his USPGA Tour career in 2006. This will be another milestone for him having qualified to play his first US Open just a week ago. In fact this will only be Green’s second major championship having played in the British Open in 2001. Given what he has achieved already in 2006 it would not surprise to see him make the cut.
Goggin had a great week at the Barclays when 9th and has bobbed up with the other good weeks this year now that he is back on the USPGA Tour in 2006. It is a bit much to expect that he will contend at Winged Foot but that he has a start in the tournament indicates the progress he has made of late.
Hend has done well to get a start in the event when qualifying last Monday. Without status on the PGA Tour in 2006, he has also struggled in the events he has played on the Nationwide Tour and so to get to the US Open is an achievement in itself.
Tataurangi has done marvellously well just to make it through the gruelling 36 hole qualifier. He has displayed glimpses of his former glory since returning to competitive golf six months ago. Given where he is at with his comeback, if he was to make the cut this week he could be very satisfied.
Photo – Anthony Powter