Tournament: U.S. Open Championship, June 16-19
Course: Oakmont Country Club, 7,230 yards, par 70
Defending Champion: Jordan Spieth. Having just won the Masters in 2015, Spieth charged on the scene and hung around the lead through the weekend. Brendan Grace and Dustin Johnson seemed to be in control until falling victim to the Chambers Bay course, it’s broccoli greens, and their own nerves. Spieth finished just ahead of them, and was declared the winner when Johnson three-putted from 10 feet on the final hole.
Television: Thursday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (FS1), 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm (FOX); Friday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (FS1), 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm (FOX); Saturday 11:00 am – 7:00 pm (FOX) 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm (FOX Deportes); Sunday 11:00 am – 7:30 pm (FOX) 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm (FOX Deportes)
Fun Fact: The US Open was last held at this course (Oakmont) in 2007. The eventual winner was Angel Cabrera, a long-hitting Argentinian. Cabrera’s nickname is "El Pato" which means "The Duck". Who wouldn’t love that nickname?
Former 'Dawgs in the Field (Four): Harris English, Chris Kirk, Kevin Kisner, Bubba Watson.
It’s the annual rite of Father’s Day – the US Open. The 116th edition, first started in 1895, is the granddaddy of golf tournaments in these here United States. While The Masters has its prestige and tradition, the PGA Championship claims itself as "Glory’s Last Shot", this major is the oldest held on U.S. soil and has the most history. And it’s the most democratic…. anyone with a USGA handicap of +2 (I believe) can enter by advancing through a series of increasingly difficult qualifying tournaments. Of course if you’re in the top 60 in the world, or have won a PGA Tour event recently, you get exempted right away. And that’s where we are with our ‘Dawgs.
But first a word about the course. Tough. Okay, here are more words about the course. Phil Mickelson said it was "the toughest course in major history". Other comments are along those lines and includes terms such as "brutal", "impossible", and "are they freakin’ serious?". The course is on relatively flat farmland outside of Pittsburgh, mostly devoid of trees, but inclusive of many strategically placed bunkers. And the greens have been compared to Augusta National in speed (and maybe faster), but the difference is the long rough immediately off the putting surface. Augusta National is like putting on linoleum, but just off the green is short grass where you have a chance to control your ball. At Oakmont it will be more akin to "hit and hope".
The rough alongside the fairways is just as bad. Fairways are tight, and the grass gets longer the farther from the fairway. Essentially the first 5 feet off will have 1.5" rough, then 2-3" the next 10 feet, then 5+ inches from there. Hacking out with sand wedges will be a common sight, looking to advance the ball 30 yards with a full swing. The course also includes the "church pew" bunkers, which are avoided at all cost (see article picture).
The US Open has its share of carnage and I personally enjoy watching carnage once a year, but I’m probably in the minority. I don’t want it every week, but I don’t want to watch 30 mph winds blowing rain sideways in 48 degree temps on the Irish Sea more than once a year either. Nor do I want to see the best golfers play resort courses with ideal greens, manicured fairways, forecaddies, marshalls, yardage books more detailed than a Michael Crichton novel, and every other advantage every week. Give me variety, and keep my easily distracted brain entertained.
In summary there is a top notch field, an extremely difficult setup, and a major championship on the line. So let’s take a look at who we want to root for as they run the gauntlet of the 116th U.S. Open:
Bubba Watson: 7:51 am Thursday #1 Tee. 2 time major winner, 9 time Tour winner, and 4th ranked player in the world, Bubba is UGA’s most successful golf program alumni. If someone can be bit of an unknown quantity, it is Bubba from Bagdad (FL). He’s made all 10 cuts so far this season including a win and a 2nd place, and 4 top 25s. But he’s only played 10 times in 8 months. So while consistent, and consistently very good, the sample size is small. The mental game has typically been Bubba’s weakness, and this tournament tests the mental game more than any other.
Harris English 8:24 am Thursday #10 Tee. The 50th ranked native of Valdosta is a tall drink of water, especially when compared to the world’s top 4 (Spieth, McIlroy, Day are all under 6 feet). His game is rounding into form, with his last five tournaments having 4 finishes inside the top 50, 3 of them inside top 30, 2 of them inside top 20, and one of them a 2nd place.
Chris Kirk 8:35 am Thursday #1 Tee. Kirk is the 58th ranked golfer in the world, and has two top 10 finishes this season. He seems fully recovered from a wrist/hand injury about a year ago, and is universally regarded as having a solid all-around game. He will need it, and patience, this week. He tweeted earlier about this course being "brutally difficult, but fair."
Kevin Kisner 1:58 pm Thursday #10 Tee. The 26th ranked golfer, Kisner is actually having a down year compared to his breakout season in 2015. He comes into this week having missed the cut in 3 of the last 4 tourneys he’s played (the 4th was a top 10 against an average field). He has an average game off the tee, slightly better iron play, even better putting, and maybe the best nerves on Tour. That should make him a favorite this week.
There you have it. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. And I hope all my fellow Fathers out there will join me in tuning in and give a hearty….