The U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2: A Summer Staple

As the summer heats up, so do the storylines when it comes to the 114th United States Open Championship. With the recent headlines of insider trading on the game’s most lovable player, Phil Mickelson, the split between longtime power couple Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki, and the disappointing, but expected, absence of Tiger Woods due his recovery from back surgery, the buzz off the course might be thicker than rough on the course this year.

Nevertheless, once play starts, the attention and focus is sure to remain on the ever-changing leaderboard.

As with all US Open venues, Pinehurst No. 2 is guaranteed to challenge (and even frustrate) all the players in the field, from the top players to the unknown qualifiers. As if getting to the green won’t be tough enough with the heavy roughs and narrow fairways, this Donald J. Ross designed course, known for its heavily undulating greens, will undoubtedly produce three putts galore, especially if the North Carolina sun heats up – drying out the greens.

So, with that said, let’s put on our fortune-teller hats and predict who might have the best chance of lifting this year’s coveted U.S. Open Championship Trophy.

The Master: Fresh off his second Masters victory in April, Bubba Watson has been off to a great start in 2014.  If he can control those monstrous drives and sink a few longer-than-usual putts, he is certainly a strong candidate to win his third major in two years.

The Next Big Thing: At a mere 20 years old, there’s no arguing that what Jordan Spieth has already done on tour, in such a small amount of time, equates to something quite amazing. If he can start strong on Thursday and Friday, and keep his emotions and youthful competitiveness under control, he may be a name we see atop the leaderboard on late Sunday afternoon.

Rising Star: Hideki Matsuyama hasn’t quite made a household name for himself.  However, after just recently winning the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, and receiving some high acclaim from the Golden Bear himself, Hideki may just be that unassuming player who quietly and meticulously goes about his business climbing to the top of the board each day, and then sitting atop before you even realize it.

The Holy Grail: Phil Mickelson has made it no secret that he desperately wants to win that missing major, a U.S. Open Championship. He’s been oh-so-close.  Sometimes so close it’s been painful to watch the heartbreak.  Combine this immense amount of pressure he puts on himself every year, and the lingering pressure of a federal investigation, and Phil will either rise above or crumble.  And for all of us who will be watching, it will either be very exciting….or painfully heartbreaking.

The Field: As with all predictions and expectations, there is an entire field of other players who have just an equal shot of winning this major as the “favorites”.  As with every tournament, and more specifically major championship, the leaderboard will flip, and then it will flop. Unknowns will rise and then fade fast, while big names will stumble and then climb.

Whether it’s one of the predicted favorites or a newcomer, what we can predict with 100% certainty is the fact that, on Sunday, we will be glued to our televisions rooting for a spectacular finish to what could be considered the most spectacular major of the year.

(posted 6/9/14)

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