Form Guide - 2007 US Open
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2007 US Open | Preview | 12 Jun 2007
Oakmont Country Club, situated in the Pittsburg suburb of Oakmont, stages its 8th US Open in 2007 and, the way things appear at present, it may well prove to be the most demanding venue in US Open history.
Measuring 7255 yards the layout is the second longest in US Open history after Winged Foot’s 7264 yards in 2006, but those who have played the venue in recent weeks believe this will be an even more testing challenge than that offered last year when Geoff Ogilvy’s five over par claimed the title.
The firm and fast conditions, thick rough and perhaps most significantly, the contoured and fast greens that are likely to prevail for this year’s event, will ensure the tournament is an even greater battle for survival than has traditionally been the case at a US Open and a mature and tough mindset, in addition to outstanding golfing skills, will be necessary in order to be the last man standing on Sunday June 17th.
Woods described Oakmont Country Club, when playing it in recent weeks in practice, as the most difficult US Open course he has played and one of the most difficult courses he has played full stop. The two time winner of the event produced an impressive last round of 67 at the recent Memorial Tournament indicating that things are back on track for his attempt to take his number of major titles to 13. He might not have been at his absolute best in his most recent starts but no player will be better prepared for the task ahead. Three victories and his runner up placing at the Masters have been the highlights in season 2007 have him once again as the commanding favourite.
Mickelson has perhaps a cloud over his chances as a result of a recent wrist injury which forced him to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament. Four times a runner up in this event, he was looking a serious threat to win the US Open for the first time until that incident in Ohio. It might be that he can still do so but the juicy prospect of a Woods/Mickelson duel has been negated to some extent. Mickelson has, by all accounts, been given a clean bill of health and is ready to go but the injury has taken away some of the momentum he was building with his win at the recent Players Championship. He has a brilliant record in this event without winning, being four times runner up.
Furyk has not yet returned to his best form following a wrist injury. There have been glimpses of his very best in recent weeks including when runner up at the Crowne Plaza Colonial event but like Mickelson there is that cloud over his capacity to play at his peak this week, which he will need to do in order to win. Oakmont provides the type of golf course and conditions for Furyk’s game to excel, but the issue is whether he can be at his best.
Scott’s game, over the past twelve months, now possesses much of the consistency that had been missing in his earlier professional career. In that time he has developed into a player capable of winning at the highest level and his recent 5th place at the Memorial and 6th at the Players Championship tell the story of a player ready to contend in a US Open for the very first time. His record in this event to date has been very ordinary for a player of his class but there is now every reason to believe he can do well despite a rather surprising last round at Memphis where he turned a three shot lead into a nine shot deficit. He has a task to rebound from that but is better prepared to do so than even before.
Singh is playing the tournament in Memphis this week as his lead in to the Open and is having an average week by his standards. Singh has often finished inside the top ten at the US Open but his best was when 3rd at Pinehurst in 1999. Like Els he has been neither great nor bad in recent weeks although he did finish off the BMW PGA event in England and the Memorial Tournament with very impressive final rounds.
Els won at this venue when the US Open was last played here 13 years ago. He is the only Oakmont winner in the field. While he has not been at his best of late, neither has he been at his worst. His last round of 67 at the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago may give a clue to his readiness for what lies ahead. He might just be peaking at the right time.
Ogilvy has developed a reputation for playing the big events well in the last two years and this event is likely to be no exception. The defending champion was warming to his task when 9th two weeks ago at the Memorial but surprisingly missed the cut in Memphis by some margin although that course has never really been good to him. After being one of the more volatile players in his earlier professional life, Ogilvy has developed a far greater level of patience and the results are coming. If ever there was a virtue necessary to win this event, patience is it. He now knows he can win a major and although it has been 18 years since a US Open title has been successfully defended, he is not without a chance to do so.
Stenson looked on the verge of great things earlier this year when winning the Dubai Classic and the Accenture match Play in succession. While he has not played to that level since, he has continued to play solidly. He now has the golfing maturity and the credentials to challenge in a major championship for the first time, his previous best being when 14th at the PGA last year. He last played a tournament at the BMW PGA Championship where he finished 8th.
Donald has always given the impression that he has the game to suit major championship golf and he further confirmed that with his third placing at last year’s PGA Championship and a 10th place at Augusta National this year. Since Augusta he has continued to play well including when runner up in Dallas and 7th at the recent BMW Players Championship. It might be a little early to expect him to win this event but it would be no surprise to see him in the mix on Sunday.
Harrington continues to play only just below the level of those who are winning major championships but he has shown in previous years that the US Open and the style of golf required to contend is not beyond him. He has recorded four top tens in his last seven starts in this event including a best of 5th last year at Winged Foot. While there was not a lot of discussion about his late demise there, he dropped shots on the last three holes in 2006 to miss a playoff by two. His recent Irish Open win has him cherry ripe for this and although he has just missed the cut in Memphis, not too much should be read into that.
O’Hern may not be the longest hitter in the game but his effort at the longest ever US Open layout last year at Winged Foot was particularly impressive. He finished 6th and his last round of 69 was the equal best of the day. A very underrated player, O’Hern’s game is built around percentages and keeping the ball in play, hence his success on courses where those skills are important. He has played well enough in recent weeks to be a chance for another top ten.
Pampling has played this event on only three occasions making the cut just once when 32nd in 2006. He has found some very solid and consistent form in recent weeks and stands a very good chance of a much improved US Open Championship. His third place finish at the recent Memorial against a strong field and on a tough golf course will have given him great confidence for what lies ahead.
Cink appears to me to be well on track to perhaps even claim revenge on the debacle of a last hole disaster in 2001. He has played very solidly over recent weeks. Overall, Cink’s record at the US Open has been very good including that agonising three putt at the 72nd hole to miss a playoff by one in that 2001 event at Southern Hills. He is the grinding, ’no frills’ type of player who often does well at the type of golf required at the US Open.
Stricker has slowly returned to the form that saw him as one of the leading players on the PGA Tour in the mid 1990’s. He has climbed back from the wilderness to be amongst the top 25 in the world and his 6th place at Winged Foot last year and his 7th place at the PGA give an indication that his game is ready once again to compete at the highest level. He missed the cut at Augusta and has not been at his best in the last few starts, but his runner up placing at Quail Hollow last month offers a better insight into his chances this week.