We've got a lengthy list of players in the Power Ranking for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 this week, so we won’t waste too much time in the intro. Feel free to browse back through yesterday’s power ranking for additional information.
One additional thing not mentioned yesterday that I came across when perusing U.S. Open history of late is the correlation with success at the longer venues such as Pinehurst (’05), Oakmont (’07), Torrey Pines (’08), Bethpage Black (’09) and Congressional (’11). For players that have never played Pinehurst, but have played the other three, I gave some degree of credence to how they played the other longer venues.
Here we go:
- Sergio Garcia – Ranks eighth in the world and touts a solid U.S. Open resume that includes a T3 at the 2005 Open at Pinehurst. Add to that, his stats line up incredibly well for this week’s venue. We know he likes North Carolina, as he is a recent winner of the Wyndham Championship. It would be nice if his recent form overseas was a little better, but a third-place finish at THE PLAYERS in his last U.S. start speaks for itself. I realize that he is getting over a slight knee injury, but the other factors make him hard for me to shake.
- Rory McIlroy – A good example of a guy that plays the longer U.S. Opens well, with a win at soggy Congressional and a T10 at flooded Bethpage Black. Rain could be a factor this week. Last four worldwide starts have resulted in T8, 6, win, T15. If he gets a B-plus effort from his driver and putter, he will be tough to beat.
- Adam Scott – The biggest concern in regards to the Aussie is his past record in the U.S. Open. In 12 starts, he’s made just six cuts with a T15 in ’02 the best. On paper he’s an excellent fit, and he has the class, form and everything else needed to win. He just has to snap his own USGA jinx.
- Matt Kuchar – He’s made five of his last six U.S. Open cuts, all going for top 30s. Bounced back from a shocking missed cut at Colonial with a T15 at Memorial. Having been one of the steadiest players all season, it would cap off a great few years if he could pick off a major.
- Phil Mickelson – That he doesn’t have a top 10 this season and his stats not showing any better than average would normally dictate a fade further down the ranking than this. That said, he’s been a great player in U.S. Opens for a bunch of years, only missing two cuts in 23 tries, and who can forget his runner-up to Payne Stewart at Pinehurst in 1999. Everybody is pulling for Phil.
- Steve Stricker – His last three PGA TOUR starts have resulted in a T31, T13 and T6 and he finished fifth at Pinehurst in 1999. He will be easy to overlook this week, but he has the game and the trend to have a big week.
- Bubba Watson – I’m beginning to be of the mindset that any course Mickelson has historically been successful on lines up as a nice fit for Bubba as well. It’s easy to forget, but Bubba had a shot at winning Oakmont before a bad final round, so U.S. venues aren’t impossible for him to navigate. If rain makes this course play longer than it’s listed, expect him to be on the list of guys that benefit. Finished third at Memorial two weeks ago.
- Henrik Stenson - Seems to be curving towards a peak with a T34, T7 and a fifth in his last three worldwide starts. Recent U.S. Open returns have been steady, making his last four cuts in the season's second major with each going for a top 30. He finished ninth at Bethpage Black in '09.
- Jim Furyk - Despite lacking length off the tee, he's a really solid long iron player. His U.S. Open record over the years is among the best, picking off a win and two runners-up. One of those second-place finishes came at a monster of a course (Oakmont '07). Recent form has trailed off a bit, but there's still plenty to like. Made the cut in each of the two Opens at Pinehurst (T17/T28).
- Hideki Matsuyama - Tied for 10th at Merion last year and enters this week fresh off a win at Memorial. While he may still need a tad more seasoning on the biggest stages, it would be unwise to write him off.
- Jason Day - He's played three U.S. Opens, finishing second in two of them. We can pretty much stop there. The only reason he isn't higher is that he hasn't had the chance to play himself into any kind of form due to a nagging injury.
- Webb Simpson - Gets a bit of a bump after finally returning to form last week in Memphis. While his win came on a shorter U.S. Open venue (Olympic), he had a T14 at a longer and soggy Congressional and a T32 at Merion. He'll find extra motivation with this one taking place in his home state.
- Bill Haas - Statistically, he doesn't have a true weakness. His form is trendy, with a T26, T21 and T8 in his last three starts. The only reason he isn't three or four slots higher is his overall U.S. Open record. He's made just two of five cuts, with a T23 in 2011 the best. Look for a career-best this week.
- Brendon Todd - The first U.S. Open rookie on the list, he ranked the highest of everyone in my statistical breakdown. His form is excellent, backing up his win at the HP Byron Nelson with a T5 and a T8. The two concerns are distance off the tee and his overall class, with the latter being the bigger concern.
- Graeme McDowell - There are reasons to fade him a little further, namely current form and length, but his overall record in the U.S. Open demands some respect. He's 7/8, with a T2 in 2012 joining his win at Pebble in 2010. Of note, both of those were rather short U.S. Opens.
- Charl Schwartzel - He's 6/7 in U.S. Opens, with a T9 in '11 the best. Trending well with two top 11s in his last three starts.
- Jason Dufner - His putter is scary, but has back-to-back T4s in the U.S. Open and is 5/7 overall. It's worth stressing that those T4s came on much shorter layouts.
- Lee Westwood - Hard to place him after a sloppy missed cut in Memphis last week. At 12/14 with five top 10s in the U.S. Open, he can't fade any further.
- Luke Donald - He's a case of a guy with solid U.S. Open record on shorter courses and a poor one on the longer layouts. Minus the length challenge, many facets of his game would theoretically play well at Pinehurst.
- Jordan Spieth - This is his third U.S. Open, with a T21 at Olympic preceding a MC at Merion. He's a great scrambler and an above-average putter, but he can find trouble tee-to-green which could prove problematic. Still, this is probably too low for a player of his pedigree.
- Billy Horschel
- Paul Casey
- Justin Rose
- Jimmy Walker
- Ian Poulter
- John Senden
- Dustin Johnson
- Martin Kaymer
- Keegan Bradley
- Zach Johnson
- Matt Every
- Kevin Na
- Graham DeLaet
- Chris Kirk
- Bo Van Pelt
I also want to direct some attention to several players that play almost exclusively in Europe. I didn't include them in the power ranking because there aren't enough common courses and the stats aren't apples-to-apples for me to adequately compare them to the PGA TOUR regulars.
- Victor Dubuisson - The guy kept getting up-and-down out of cacti in the Match Play, so there's no reason he can't handle some native area at Pinehurst No. 2. Add to that, he tied for second at the Nordea Masters in his last start.
- Stephen Gallacher - T5 at BMW and T2 at the Nordea Masters in his last two starts. That works.
- The Most Interesting Golfer in the World (M.A.J.) - He has a win and a T5 in two of his last four worldwide starts.
- Shane Lowry - A runner-up and a T25 in his last two starts.
- Joost Luiten - He's on fire. For starts, posted a steady T26 at the Masters back in April. Since then, he's trended into this event with a 4-T12-3 run on the European Tour.
- Francesco Molinari - T24-T7-MC in last three starts, but owns more U.S. experience than many of the other Euros.
Want a few dark-horse candidates? Consider Billy Hurley III and Luke Guthrie.
We will return tomorrow with a look at the one-and-done. Until then, best of luck to all!