'Dawgs on Tour: "Superunknown" Edition (aka The US Open)

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in 120+ years, the US Golf Association is holding it's flagship event in the Northwest of these here United States. With little history, and the first time the USGA is using this particular course, there are lots of unknowns. And this course is apparently unique even amongst such singular context. Here's a nugget for you: in an area known for lush foliage and giant trees, there is only one tree on the course. And it's not even in play.

Chambers Bay is near the Puget Sound and apparently drains very well. With no trees, we can expect firm conditions, which is what the USGA loves (hellooooooo Shinnecock!!!). And the USGA loves to "protect par" - this means that they don't like players shooting 5 or 7 under par, and like a cumulative 4 day total of somewhere very close to even par. That means you see more 78's and 80's than 65's or 64's. So the greens will be fast, the pins will be tucked, and the ball will run out when you would rather have it stop. The course layout is unique in that you can still hit driver and be aggressive, but that you can get in trouble even without trees. The greens have severe slopes too, so you likely hit away from the pin and let gravity feed your ball closer to the hole. They have multiple tee boxes, so they can change the length of the hole severely from day to day, even going so far as to change hole #1 from a par 4 to a par 5 and back again. These are big fairways, but going off the fairway is trouble with your lie and stance and ability to control ball flight. It's not the US Open setup we've had the past 20 years, but that's a good thing.

The field will be the strongest or 2nd strongest all year, as most everyone WANTS to play in the US Open for the prestige. It's one of the four majors and usually considered the toughest all year. So all of the top 10, 25, and pretty much 50 will be playing, with some sectional and regional qualifiers playing in the field. As far as qualifying, this is truly an "open" tournament... if you have a USGA handicap (available from your local muni) and your handicap is 1.4 or better, you can enter qualifying and your play will dictate if you make the field. Truly a meritocracy. Kinda like the Heisman, BCS Championship, and SEC representative in the Outback Bowl.

Here are the ones you want to root for. I would make a statement about who has the best chance, but the course is being presented as so unpredictable that I can't tell you much at all.

Erik Compton. 118th in the world. Solid game, and with two heart transplants, has the inner fortitude to stand up to pressure. Placed 2nd at last year's US Open.

Brian Harman. 89th in the world. He hasn't done well lately, but he did make it through the qualifying rounds. Not a big hitter, and maybe being a lefty gives him an advantage (I'm reaching here). He's only played the US Open once, and he missed the cut.

Russell Henley. 56th in the world. Very feisty, very competitive, very streaky. Has all the talent, but hasn't quite put it all together this year so far. Was tied for low amateur in 2010 Open while still at UGA.

Chris Kirk. 16th in the world. He's made 3 US Open starts and T28 last year. Won last month, and is highly ranked and has all the shots. We'll see if he's prepared.

Kevin Kisner. 55th in the world (was 250th+ earlier in the year). One of the hotter golfers around, he has some top 5 finishes and playoff experience. A lot of his peers are saying he has ice in his veins. That could come in handy.

Lee McCoy (amateur). Tremendous junior season for Coach Chris Haack, top 5 ranked collegiate golfer and All-American. Won 4 times this season with a great scoring average. A mediocre NCAA performance, but got better every day (came up just short).

Brendon Todd. 48th in the world. Played the US Open last year for the first time and T17th. Some good finishes so far this season, and pretty steady. I just don't know if he has enough splash factor to make a big move.

Bubba Watson. 4th in the world, but was 2nd earlier in the year. He's played in 8 US Opens and his best finish is a tie for 5th in 2007. Mercurial. Big hitter, the Bubba. Goes off and whacks one in a 10,000 foot crevice at the base of this glacier. Okay, he's not Carl Spackler. But he hasn't played much competitive golf lately, and he's famous for complaining about USGA conditions and setup. If he can get past himself, he can get past anyone in the world.

So we have 7 alums, and one current Georgia Bulldog making up the 144 player field. And to view aforementioned Bulldogs, don't go the normal Golf Channel/CBS route. Oh no. Without recounting all the greasy details, Fox acquired the rights to the USGA events starting this year. The good news is that they will provide a ton of coverage, and you don't have to put up with Johnny Miller talking about Oakmont 30 years ago. The bad news is that there will be an animated graphic of a golfer on steroids who will brandish his trapezoid at you before and after every commercial break. But here's how you can see it on TV:

Thurs/Friday: Fox Sports one(1) 12:00 pm - 8:00 pm EDT, and 8:00-11:00 pm EDT on Fox proper.

Sat: 2:00pm - 10:00 pm EDT Fox and Sunday 2:00 pm - 10:30 pm EDT, also on Fox.

There's an App for iOS and Android, as well as some limited coverage at Sirius/XM has some radio coverage too (I'll help find it if you want it).

This is the championship of the United States, and I'd like to see some Red & Black win it for the Red, White & Blue. Go 'Dawgs!!!!

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