U.S. Open: The Challengers for Pebble Beach

U.S. Open: The Challengers for Pebble Beach

After this week, Pebble Beach will be the site and the course that host the most US Opens in history. Baltusrol Country Club may have held the coveted event seven times in their history, but it was played across three different courses.

A revolutionary public golf course that has grown to be one of the most famous and sought after in the world, Pebble Beach was founded in 1919 on the iconic Monterrey Peninsula in northern California.

The site’s panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and history of hosting the U.S. Open make it one of the most sought-after golf courses in the world.

The iconic and notorious 109-yard par-3 seventh hole has been re-imagined by several courses all over the world but never getting the nuances right of its essence. Some say that most indoor golf simulators, the daunting hole clocks the most mileage across the board.

There is no shortage of dramatic story lines on how the third Major of the year will unfold as Tiger Woods makes his return to the site of his 15-stroke testament of greatness in 2000.

A walk down memory lane, his 12-under-par victory was all the more spectacular since he was the only player in the field who was under-par. After his comeback win at the Masters but his dismal performance at the PGA Championship, will the Big Cat be ready?

In just the past week, news hit the media that Jason Day drew Steve Williams out of retirement and for those who is unsure of the Kiwi – he was Woods caddie that followed him through 14 majors.

“I am very disappointed with how this year’s progressed,” Day said. “I didn’t play well, and I need to improve that. I think Steve will take me to that next level, and I’m hoping that’s the case.”

Brooks Koepka aims to be the first golfer in our century to win three back-to-back US Open titles since Willie Anderson’s feat in 1903-1905.

Europeans will aim to break the curse of the past four years of not having a champion emerge from their continent since Martin Kaymer in 2014.

Part of the charm of playing on golf links is that, truly, it could be anybody’s day at any given time. Cross winds may come strong over the weekend but form and iron accuracy is still the core for scoring this week. Let’s get to our picks.

Patrick Cantlay

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Patrick Cantlay

With finishes of T-9 at the Masters and T-3 at the PGA Championship, Patrick Cantlay is my first pick of the crop. Surprised? Not really.

Cantlay just won the Memorial Tournament last week, firing an eight-under-par on Sunday to win the title by two over Adam Scott.

The UCLA graduate has been on hot form since the turn of the new year. He came in top-10 nine times in his last 14 appearances on tour, including three top-three finishes.

Back on California poa annua greens where he grew up in, Cantlay should feel more in confidence for the US Open as compared to his other two major outings.

Cantlay leads the PGA Tour in bogey avoidance this season, third in strokes gained, and wait for it – leads actual scoring average at 69.02.

If now isn’t the right time for the 27-year-old to burst into the scene, when is?

Brooks Koepka

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Red-hot Koepka

Big boy Brooks. As said in my two previous articles, Koepka will always be in my selection until at least he finishes outside of the top-10 in a major.

The irony though, the defending champion has more major wins than PGA Tour wins. It doesn’t matter for the current world number one, but not being on the promotional video for the US Open does.

FOX produced a commercial to promote the upcoming tournament, but failed to include the two-time reigning champion.

“I was just kinda shocked. Somebody probably got fired over it … or should.” he said. His omission from the video might potentially give him an extra factor on wanting to prove his doubters wrong.

Koepka’s peak in form is of no shock to anyone, and I expect him to make a strong appearance again.

Rory McIlroy

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McIlroy coming in with a win

The Northern Irishman won the RBC Canadian Open coming into this week and is red hot for the year with the exemptions of majors. With two victories and 10 top-10 finishes, it makes him an easy favorite for the tournament.

It’s been nearly five years since McIlroy took home a major title, and his history at Pebble Beach, where he’s missed the cut in two starts might be the only setback.

However, McIlroy has stated in an interview that he has a firm game plan, one which includes the exclusion of his driver – which has been touted as his deadliest club in his bag.

Apart from the second, ninth, 10th and the two par 5s on the back nine (14th and 18th), the 30-year-old insist that his driver will stay inside his bag.

“I just don’t think it’s worth it,” said McIlroy. “I’d much rather be in the fairway hitting a 7-iron in than trying to hit a driver right up there. The greens are so tricky and so small. So if you hit into the middle of them all, you’re going to have decent birdie putts anyway. This week is all about patience and just giving yourself looks and chances, playing from the fairway. If you go out and you try to overpower this course, it can bite you pretty quickly.”

Bryson DeChambeau

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The dark horse

Having gone nearly two months without making a cut, Bryson DeChambeau isn’t exactly in a comfortable position right now. He started the year on a hot streak, winning the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, his first on European soil.

But since then, his last ten outings has either missed the cut (3) or finished outside of the top-10 (7).

DeChambeau’s scientific ways to play makes him a perfect dark horse for the event, he still ranks in the top 25 percentile across the board for all major categories.

Pebble Beach’s unwavering toughness has not met someone like him yet, and with proper calculation, the Scientist could actually go on a run.

The single-length irons he uses makes every iron shot predictable and controllable under his circumstances. As seen in his win at Dubai, DeChambeau has every bit of capability to achieve that this week.

Paired with his unique putting stroke, it all adds up to a slight advantage for the 25-year-old.

 

 

 

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