UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wa. — Here’s how the four Golferswest.com writers predict who will be hoisting the U.S. Open trophy Sunday night at Chambers Bay (and five reasons why):
BOB SHERWIN – PHIL MICKELSON
1. After a number of futile attempts, he won the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield. He finally figured out links golf. Chambers Bay is a pure links golf course.
2. It will take plenty of delicate wedge shots off the hardpan firm-and-fast surface to nudge the ball closer to the pins. Is there anyone better, ever, than Mickelson with a wedge in his hands?
3. He’s long, maybe not as long as those limber kids, but length may be nullified by the extended Chambers rollouts.
4. He’s as motivated to win his career Grand Slam as he is dedicated. USGA official Mike Davis said the winner will be the one who has studied and played the course extensively beforehand. Mickelson was one of the few players who did that, spending two days here and hours on the various greens to understand how they roll.
5. Those four solid reasons above, plus I got $100 on him at 18-to-1. You bet he should win.
JIM STREET — JUSTIN ROSE
1. As a former U.S. Open champion, winning the title two years ago at Merion (Pa.) Golf Club, the England star knows what it takes to win a Grand Slam event.
2. Familiarity with a links-style course fits perfectly into his creative capabilities. He can approach the tricky Chambers Bay greens either high or low, which gives him a huge advantage.
3. His demeanor works well on a course that has been bad-mouthed by some of his competitors. Sure, the greens are treacherous, the ball could take funny bounces, and who the hell knows how the all-fescue layout will play, but Rose never seems to be bothered by tough breaks.
4. He comes into the U.S. Open on his best streak of the season, winning the Zurich Classic in New Orleans with a 22-under 266 a few weeks ago and finishing second (losing in a playoff) in the Memorial in his last outing.
5. Trust me, when it comes to predictions, rarely am I wrong :). So, take it to the bank: The next U.S. Open championship trophy will, for the third consecutive year, travel over the pond to Europe early Monday morning.
KIRBY ARNOLD — (SEE BELOW)
Predicting a U.S. Open winner is so easy, former baseball writers can do it. As the third man in on this, I choose to concoct a greater challenge – much the way USGA boss Mike Davis has created an Open setup unlike any other.
Before I spoil things for everyone and tell you who’ll win, here are five other predictions for what will unfold this week at Chambers Bay:
1. Sergio Garcia already has lost the tournament without realizing it. Today, he Tweeted a few photos from his first look at the course. If Sergio hasn’t seen Chambers Bay until this week, he has no chance. The course offers too many humps and bumps — not to mention the flexibility in how it may play drastically different from one day to the next depending on how tees and pins will be placed – for someone to arrive on tournament week and figure it out in a couple of practice rounds.
2. The first bitch award will go to Johnny Miller (thought I’d say Ian Poulter, didn’t you?). Miller isn’t part of the FOX TV coverage, but you know somewhere he’ll have a snide thought about some part of the course, the setup or the whole darned thing.
3. Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez will be paired in the final round. Actually, I have no idea how either of these guys will play. But wouldn’t it be awesome to see them go head-to-head on Sunday after their match play blowup a few weeks ago? Not only would I love to see them together, I yearn for a juicy rules quandary to get them both really riled.
4. Everybody talks about what a physical challenge this will be for the golfers. Forget the golfers. I feel for the caddies who’ve got to make that eight-mile mountain climb each of the next four days (and maybe a fifth if there’s a playoff Monday). I predict there will be at least one relief caddy needed.
5. True fans of Tiger Woods will be at the tournament on Thursday and Friday, knowing there’s little chance he’ll be around for the weekend.
And now, my pick to win the tournament: Dustin Johnson. He has:
1. The length.
2. The wedge game.
3. The patience.
4. The success on links-style layouts.
5. The hunger to win.
CANDACE OEHLER — RORY MCIIROY