will tee up at the US Open this week as the first European player since Nick
Faldo to turn up to a Major as the favourite.
Tiger Woods absent and most of the US contenders out of sorts, Luke Donald is
second favourite, suggesting that Europe has a great chance of bringing the US
Open trophy back across the pond for the second consecutive year.
Mentality looks at the prospects of the world's top 10 this week, and picks out
a few others from the field that could shine at Congressional.
best: T12 in 2006
US Open was always the tournament that seemed the best bet for a Major for the
Chicago-based Englishman, and it's a surprise that most of the bookies don't
have him down as a red hot favourite this week. His new aggressive approach has
meant more missed fairways, but with it has come - at long last - a thrilling
ability to finish off victories.
best: Third in 2008
to forget that Westy had a putt to join Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate in a
play-off three years ago, though he has since made that performance his blueprint
for the Majors: he has consistently fallen just short of the mark when the heat
is on. Because of that we'll only believe he can go all the way when we see it.
best: T8 in 2010
The German's unflappability seems tailor-made for US Open play, where turning
double-bogeys into bogeys is as important as turning pars into birdies. Yet he
has gone worryingly off the boil in recent months after enjoying one of golf's
purplest-ever patches in late 2010 and early 2011.
best: Fifth in 1999
high ranking says more about year-in-year-out-consistency than brilliance in
one-off tournaments, suggesting that his chances of winning will rely on him
peaking at the exact right moment - something that could be said of any
journeyman in the field. Given that he won at the Memorial, we're betting that
he peaked too early.
best: Runner-up in 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2009.
in action towards the end of last season - mainly due to family crises - but has
begun to hit top form again this year. Is his record of second-place finishes a
millstone or a spur? Our money is on spur for this proven multiple Major champion,
and if we were running a book he would probably be our favourite.
best: T6 in 2010
form over the past year or so has given Kuchar an incredible boost in the
rankings, but his accuracy off the tee and sixth-place finish last year suggests
that he is a solid shout for glory at Congressional.
best: Winner 2010
glory of G-Mac's annus mirabilis last year is a rapidly-fading memory after a
year in which he has struggled for any sort of consistency - as he showed at
Celtic Manor a few weeks ago by collapsing out of contention with a round in
the 80s. We'd be surprised to see him make even the top 10 at a track in full US
best: T10 in 2009
our money the final-round collapse at The Masters tells you all you need to
know about McIlroy. The kid is capable of superhuman feats of golf and is in
very decent form, but at this early stage of his career still seems strongly
susceptible to pressure when the spotlight is on him. But we'd almost see him
as the most likely winner in the field if can stay in touch (but under the
radar) for the first three days then turn on the style, as he did when winning
at Quail Hollow last year.
best: T8 in 2010 (after enjoying 54-hole lead)
the course measuring just over 7,500 yards Johnson will have a huge advantage
in that he'll be able to tee off with 3-woods and still have makeable shots
into the greens. Bad experiences at US Open and US PGA last year were dispelled
with a win just a few weeks later, and he is In great, if patchy form. Just as
likely to miss the cut as to lift the trophy.
a top 10 since his victory at the Volvo golf Champions at the start of the year,
and with just one top 10 in US Open conditions we just can't see it happening
Best of the rest:
Bubba Watson (World ranking 12, latest odds 50.1): One of
the best ball strikers of the last 20 years, the big-hitting left-hander's huge
distances should put him in the bracket with Johnson as a contender - if he can
keep his head. Two wins this season already suggest that he'll know how to get
the job done if he gets in the mix.
Ian Poulter (13, 50.1): His near-miss in The Open at Royal
Birkdale three years ago suggests he has the right Major mentality, but is simply
too prone to occasional blowout holes to last the distance - as a total lack of
top 10s in seven US Open starts suggests.
KJ Choi (16, 28/1): Still brimming with confidence
following his win at the Players Championship, but a terrible fit for US Open
conditions with his reliance on brilliant scrambling. The rough at Congressional
will just be too thick.
Jim Furyk (19, 60/1): One of the few US Open winners in
the field, Gentleman Jim's miserable 2011 form - then again, he has several
times bounced back from missed cuts to win the very next week. And crucially he
tied for fifth at Congressional last time the tournament was held here, back in
Ernie Els (23, 80/1): Won the US Opens in 1994 and 1997 -
the latter at Congressional - but it would need the most incredible feat of
nostalgia-fuelled golf since Ben Crenshaw won the 1995 Masters for Ernie to win
Justin Rose (29, 80/1): A terrific early-season run has
fizzled out into low finishes and missed cuts - and for a streaky player like
Rose, that doesn't bode well. Yet he has two top 10s in five attempts at the US
Open - though he has missed the cut every other year - suggesting that he has
the game to thrive if things somehow click into place.
Matteo Manassero (30, 50/1): Italian golf is riding a wave, and
the seemingly limitless confidence of Manassero, combined with his no-nonsense,
grinding style, could mean that this is the week that he announces himself in
the US as loudly as he has already done in Europe.
Sergio Garcia (76, 66/1): The Spaniard continues to be all
over the place with his scoring - and his putting - yet his ball striking is as
glorious as ever. Being paired with Miguel Angel Jimenez and Alvaro Quiros in
the first two rounds should help him, and has the ability to turn things around
following a missed cut at St Jude.