I love the U.S. Open golf tournament. For decades, it was my favorite major.
I still love the U.S. Open, for its challenge. I don’t like tournaments that can be over when the final group hits the 14th hole. Or that’s a virtual match play, as the Masters often is.
I like it when 2-over par wins. When a guy who gets 4-over in the clubhouse halfway through Sunday still has a fighting chance.
But the U.S. Open field hasn’t produced great champions in recent years. Justin Rose last year was solid. But Webb Simpson? Lucas Glover? Michael Campbell? Doesn’t do much for me when a guy I’ve never heard of wins my favorite tournament.
Of course, that’s golf these days. No Tiger. Phil’s getting older. Bunch of 20somethings that can really play. Every tournament is a crapshoot.
Here’s my prediction of the top 20:
1. Matt Kuchar: Finished in the top 10 in five of the last nine majors. He has been in the top 30 of the last four U.S. Opens. It’s time.
2. Jason Day: My favorite golfer. I hope he wins.
3. Brant Snedeker: Usually hangs around Majors leaderboards. That’s the best way to win one. Give yourself a chance to win many.
4. Lee Westwood: The best player who hasn’t won a major. Westwood has 11 top-10 finishes in the last 19 majors. He’s been in the top-25 of the last six U.S. Opens, including three top-10 finishes.
5. Hyung-Sung Kim: Never heard of him. But he’s from South Korea. All the Korean women win. Why not a man?
6. Graeme McDowell: I love the Irish. Even the Northern variety.
7. Phil Mickelson: I know Lefty hasn’t been playing well. But in the first U.S. Open at Pinehurst, Phil battled Payne Stewart to the wire.
8. Kevin Streelman: Just a guy. Which is as good a reason as any to pick him.
9. Francesco Molinari: What? You’ve got something against Italians?
10. Zach Johnson: Missed the cut at the Masters but was in the top eight at both the 2013 British and 2013 PGA.
11. Hideki Matsuyama: If the 22-year-old phenom wins, the Yankees will buy his contract for $100 million.
12. Justin Rose: Not since Curtis Strange in 1989-90 has a golfer won consecutive U.S. Opens. But it’s happened six times – Strange, Ben Hogan 1950-51, Ralph Guldahl 1937-38, Bobby Jones 1929-30, John McDermott 1911-12 and Willie Anderson 1903-05.
13. Martin Kaymer: In his last five majors, the German has tied for 31st, tied for 33rd, tied for 32nd, tied for 59th and tied for 35th. No one can maintain that kind of consistency. Kaymer will either miss the cut or challenge for the title.
14. Adam Scott: I would guess he’s the world’s best golfer, don’t you think?
15. Y.E. Yang: The original South Korean champion. The man who started Tiger Woods’ demise.
16. Aaron Baddely: An Australian-raised golfer who hasn’t made a majors cut since the 2012 PGA. Which means he’s a perfect candidate to win.
17. Jim Furyk: Tied for 17th in ’99 and tied for 28th in ’05, both at Pinehurst.
18. Luke Donald: Never won a major but spent 40 weeks in 2011-12 as the No. 1 player in the world.
19. Charl Schwartzel: Top-16 in three of the last four U.S. Opens.
20. Retief Goosen: Top-23 in four of the last five U.S. Opens. Plus he has two U.S. Open titles.