A couple of days before The Masters, I correctly predicted that Jordan Spieth would win his first major championship. My classmates at the Golf Academy did too. It wasn’t that hard. Spieth entered the tournament red hot with a win and two runner-ups in his last three starts leading into Augusta.
The 115th U.S. Open at Chambers Bay feels completely different. Surprisingly, the Pacific Northwest has never hosted a U.S. Open. No one I have talked to seems to agree on who will win. Most people think it’ll be somebody we’ve never heard of. One of my instructors told me anyone could win and that the winning score would be over par. This course is Shinnecock on steroids. It features the three longest Par 4s in U.S. Open history! Even some of the players in the field are suggesting that it all depends on how USGA Executive Director Mike Davis sets-up the course. That speaks to just how unsure everyone is about this place. C’Mon! Is this the U.S. Open or the Mike Davis Open?
So who’s going to win? Your guess is as good as mine, but I can make a pretty compelling argument for the following players (in no particular order) just by looking at a few numbers:
Jordan Spieth – The winner of the year’s first major has more Top-10 finishes (9) than anyone else on tour. He hits it long enough, and it really helps that his caddy, Michael Greller, looped at Chambers Bay for a summer.
Sergio Garcia – It figures that a European player would be used to the links-style conditions of Chambers Bay. Maybe it’s this Spaniard. Garcia has made the cut in all nine PGA Tour events he’s played, and he can work the ball both ways, which will be a real advantage out here. He could do it. He already has four Top 25s in 2015.
Jimmy Walker – The most boring man in golf looks like Jim Carey, but lacks his side-splitting humor. No matter. Walker has been a cash cow in 2015 with two wins and six Top-1os in 15 events. The number that jumps off Walker’s stat sheet is this – he’s No. 1 on Tour in Strokes Gained Putting.
Rickie Fowler – Win his win at THE PLAYERS, Fowler validated his over-hyped career. Sure he missed the cut at the Memorial Tournament, but it was his first tournament played in the month since winning at TPC Sawgrass. Here’s the stat I like – Fowler is 23rd in Total Driving. At Chambers Bay, you have to be able to send it out there while keeping it in the fairway.
Rory McIlroy – I don’t know what to make of McIlroy. He’s fire one week and ice the next, but Chambers Bay feels like Ireland. McIlroy dominated the month of May with a pair of victories before stinking it up across the pond. The number I like when it come to Rors is this: he’s No. 1 on Tour in Total Strokes Gained, No. 1 in Total Driving, and No. 1 in the World. McIlroy is the safest pick of the bunch.
Keegan Bradley – I heard Bradley interviewed on Golf Channel. He said he thought Chambers Bay favored a long hitter. Bradley is 16th on Tour in Driving Distance, and he’s coming off back-t0-back Top 25s including a T8 at the Memorial. Bradley could be a darkhorse.
Bubba Watson – Bubba is 4th in Driving Distance and 4th in Total Strokes Gained. The only problem with Watson is that he hasn’t teed it up since finishing T42nd at THE PLAYERS. Is Bubba can get hot with the putter (he’s 39th on Tour in Strokes Gained Putting), he can win this year’s U.S. Open.