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2013 U.S. Open Staff Picks

Jun. 12, 2013     By     Comments (2)

The U.S. Open moves to historic Merion Golf Club, and we try to pick 'em.

Thrash TalkThis year's version of the U.S. Open moves to a very historic site - Merion Golf Club, site of the now famous Hogan two-iron into the eighteenth green. The U.S. Open has not returned to Merion because of the concern that the golf course was going to be overpowered by today's equipment, but now the wait is over, and we get to see how the USGA sets up the course for the players.

Despite his recent hiccup at the Memorial, Tiger is the clear favorite at this year's event. Matt Kuchar, the winner of the Memorial also comes in very hot and will sure to be a factor on Sunday as well. Rory McIlroy has been very quiet this season, but that might just be the quiet entry he needs to make a big impact on the tournament.

The big unknown this week seems to be the weather. There has been quite a bit of rain and the last time we had that at a U.S. Open Rory ran wild in the nations capital breaking all sorts of scoring records along the way. Lets see what the staff of The Sand Trap thinks will happen at this years event.

1. Who is your winner and why? If you pick Tiger who is your runner up?

Jamieson Weiss
I avoided potentially jinxing him with my Masters prediction, but I'm going with Tiger Woods at -10. He's the best in the world, simple as that.

Danny Ottman
I'll pick Tiger if he decides to leave the driver in the bag more often then not, and I think he will. Merion is a shot makers course and Tiger can do that. The debacle at the Memorial was just a freakish occurrence and Tiger will be on top of his game come Thursday. As a runner up I am going with Luke Donald. This is a shortish tight track and that suits his game. Maybe he can even break through this week and get that first major.

Tristan Hilton
It's hard not to pick Tiger… He has been on fire this year winning 4 times and returning to his previous dominance. The only thing missing for him this year is a major victory and it will come at Merion. As far as a runner up, it's hard to say, but let's go with Phil. Lefty seems to be a very streaky player and he seems to have made some progress this last week at the FedEx St. Jude, plus, nobody seems to finish in second more than Phil.

Dave Koster
Tiger. I'll keep picking him this year until he wins one. My runner up is a tie between Luke Donald and Steve Stricker. I think one of the shorter hitters may fare very well and both are good (if not great) putters that could do well on the slick U.S. Open greens.

Michael C. Hepp
I am having this massive internal debate between picking Rickie Fowler and Ryan Palmer. Rickie has had some recent success at Merion winning the Curtis Cup there just before turning pro, and if he were playing better I would pick him as the winner. But Rickie isn't playing that well, so in comes Ryan Palmer. He has had a number of close calls this season and has been around the lead for some time now. If forced to pick I will go with Palmer.

Mike McLoughlin
I'm picking Matt Kuchar to win. Kuch keeps it in play, hits a lot of greens and is a clutch putter. Also think he's got the right mentality for the U.S. Open, doesn't get too high or low and isn't intimidated by players that bomb it past him. My runner up is Tiger.

Erik J. Barzeski
Zach Johnson. He's not really been around, but what the heck - he won at Augusta in some wet conditions, and he's good with his wedges. Of course, now that he'll MC, I'm also picking Tiger to have a good week. He tends to do well when the pressure is on and the pressure is really on now to get number fifteen.

2. Merion has not been played in recent year's because the concern was that the modern equipment has made the course obsolete. Do you think this is a valid concern? What score do you think will win the event?

Jamieson Weiss
Length-wise, it's certainly easy to make the case that Merion is obsolete. The last time the U.S. Open was played at a course less than 7,000 yards was Shinnecock Hills in 2004, but Shinnecock is the type of course that has other ways to keep scores up. Merion is different in that if they don't want this to be a birdie-fest, we're going go see tiny fairways and firm greens. I have my winning score at -10 only because of the rain that the area has seen in recent weeks, otherwise I think it's a course that could protect par given the right tune-ups.

Danny Ottman
Merion is not a course that can be overpowered very easily so I don't see the concern. Possibly if a bomber was really on their game and hit it extremely straight this year then they could have a good run at it, but there are so many other aspects to this golf course. You can have a lob wedge in your hand at Merion and still not be able to hit it right at the flag. The USGA will have the course ready to go and it will be a stiff test of golf. I see the winning score at 277 (-3).

Tristan Hilton
No, I don't think it's an issue. In recent years, the USGA has done a great job setting up tough tracks that don't necessarily play at a massive yardage. The course is set to play just over 6900 yards at a par 70 so the length isn't too far off from the just over 7000 yard, par 71 set up at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. I still think par or something very close to it will be the score that wins the tournament unless Tiger (or somebody else I suppose) completely runs away from the field.

Dave Koster
We'll see if it is a valid concern. The U.S. Open has always placed a premium on keeping out of the rough and putting. In my own opinion, I'm not concerned. It's a course that the USGA will have set up U.S. Open style and ready to challenge all the players. I think that somewhere around -6 or -7 will win. Sure it's a bit lower than normal, but that's fine with me.

Michael C. Hepp
I think the score will be really low. I am going -14 because the course will be wet and the USGA has shied away from making the course too tough anymore. I do think they can make the course tough but in doing so they are going to play with the limits of what the course can do like they did at Shinnecock a few years ago. They have been wanting to avoid making the courses unfair in that way so I think there is not much more they can do to challenge the pros.

Mike McLoughlin
I think -6 will win it. While many of the par 4s are short enough to be played with a long iron off the tee followed by some kind of wedge, three of the par 3s are crazy long and most of the fairways have been pinched. There are two par 5s, but only one of them is reachable. Overall there are more scoring opportunities than last year but the last five holes at Merion are very difficult and will keep the scores from getting to double digits under par.

Erik J. Barzeski
It's a par 70. I see the winning score falling between -3 and -6. I'm liking -6, but players will want to make their birdies early as the finish is quite brutal.

3. Last year's winner Webb Simpson has not done a whole lot since his win last year. What do you expect from him this year?

Jamieson Weiss
I don't expect much from Webb. He's a nice player that should win the occasional tournament and stay snugly within the top 125, but I don't see him winning another major. I'll say he makes the cut but doesn't contend.

Danny Ottman
Bubba hasn't done much since the Masters either, I think all the hoopla can be distracting to a young Major winner. I don't see Webb Simpson even making the cut at Merion. Sorry Webb.

Tristan Hilton
He hasn't done a whole lot since his U.S. Open victory last year and that's exactly what I expect from him at this tournament, not a whole lot. I could see him on either side of the cut line and not be surprised by it.

Dave Koster
I think the course sets up well for him but I don't know about a repeat. He and Bubba have had post-major swoons that they haven't quite gotten out of. I think he'll make the cut but do no better than a top 20.

Michael C. Hepp
I expect him to make the cut but finish near the bottom. I do think that golfers who play well at USGA events tend to always do well at them, but I still think he is not in peak form and still on a high from last years event.

Mike McLoughlin
I don't know why but I think he'll actually play well this week. He's a tough competitor and he'll rise to the occasion. I'm predicting a top 20 for Webb.

Erik J. Barzeski
Absolutely nothing. He'll be closer to the cut line on Friday than the leaderboard.

Tiger Woods

4. Recently Tiger has employed a more conservative approach to his tee shots, do you think this strategy will pay off at this shorter U.S. Open track, and why or why not?

Jamieson Weiss
Because he fell off over the weekend, the way Tiger played Olympic last year has been lost somewhat to history. He seldom pulled driver, and that was at a mammoth course without firm fairways and greens. I think we could truly see Hoylake Tiger this week, and that is the type of gameplan that gives him the best chance to win number 15.

Danny Ottman
Tiger is disciplined if nothing else. I don't see him hitting driver a lot and he will do everything he can to keep the ball in play. This golf course demands the winning player to hit the tee ball where they can find it. Tiger knows that, and he will continue to be conservative and that will help him win.

Tristan Hilton
Most definitely. As long as the course plays like a typical U.S. Open course and doesn't get soft, playing 3 woods and 5 woods off the tee will only help Tiger. Nearly every time he gets it trouble it seems to be with his driver so if that stays in the bag he will be better off. He hits the ball plenty far to be able to hit a 3 or 5 wood off the tee and still have wedges and short irons into many of the greens.

Dave Koster
Absolutely it will pay off. I think you'll see a lot of 3 and 5-woods from Tiger and keep the ball in play. I think if he finishes in the top 20 of driving accuracy he'll do very well because the rest of his game (aside from the showing at the Memorial) is in great shape. Tiger lives for the majors.

Michael C. Hepp
Although I believe that Tiger's driving is one of his big areas of improvement, Tiger is nothing if not a grinder. I think this strategic way of playing the course will keep him in the hunt all weekend. I think his putting stats took a bit of a dip at the Memorial which is why I didn't pick him to win, but a more conservative strategy will pay off for him in my mind.

Mike McLoughlin
As we know the U.S. Open is known for its rough and this week is expected to be wet, making the rough even more nasty. So if Tiger keeps it in play I think it's hard not to say he'll be in contention. The softer conditions will make the course a little longer, his ability to launch his long irons gives him an advantage on the long par 3s. His distance control on his wedges has been much better but if he makes those short irons mistakes he did last year, those dinner plate-shaped won't be very forgiving.

Erik J. Barzeski
I think Tiger will be fine. He can let the shaft out with some control when he needs to, and he can hit his 3W or 5W off the tees - or 4-irons, for that matter - plenty of times. Merion is a course for thinkers - and Tiger's among the best at game planning and sticking to the plan. He's not good at adjusting, though - so if the weather turns Merion into a birdie fest, Tiger historically gets left behind.

5. Last year amateur Beau Hossler impressed everyone by being near the lead going into the final round. Who is your dark horse pick to surprise everyone at the event?

Jamieson Weiss
This might not be a total dark horse because he's played well in recent weeks, but I think Kevin Chappell has a good chance to contend. He has top-ten finishes in each of the last two U.S. Opens, and he played Merion back in 2005, when it hosted the U.S. Amateur.

Danny Ottman
How about David Toms? Would he even be considered a dark horse with his resume? I don't know but that is who I am going with. I don't think there is a sectional qualifier out there that has what it takes to conquer Merion, but I could be wrong.

Tristan Hilton
Dark horse picks are such a challenge to pick considering they are guys that come out of no where. How about we go kind of the opposite of last year and instead of an amateur surprising everybody it's an older guy. Let's pick last years US Senior Open Champion Fred Funk as the dark horse. The shorter layout should help and all of that and, well, it's a dark horse, it's not like I actually think he'll win.

Dave Koster
Ryan Sullivan. For no other reason than he's from my neck of the woods. He shot a 27 on the back 9 during qualifying at Woodmont Country Club. I'm hoping he can make the cut but with a hot streak like that you never know.

Michael C. Hepp
I am going with Branden Grace. He was super hot last year around this time last year and then cooled for a while. I think he is a grinder and will do well at a course like Merion.

Mike McLoughlin
I'll go with Michael Kim, one of the three Cal boys in the field. Kim won four tournaments this year as the Bears set an NCAA modern-era single-season record with 11 wins in their first 13 tournaments

Erik J. Barzeski
If we name someone, are they a dark horse? Ian Poulter. The darkest horse in the brightest clothing. No, Ian - I didn't get the picture. Could you please pose again?

Photo credits: © Eric Gay.

Discussion

  1. dvisser says:

    My pick is Graeme McDowell
    He is one of the best grinders in the world, see his win at pebble and second place at Olympic.
    He seems to be in good form this year and he is one of the straightest drivers on tour, which is a big help with the rough at Merion

  2. dc3032 says:

    Mike McLoughlin - Kuchar actually doens't "hit a lot of greens" relative to other pros... I think he's something like 68th in GIR on tour. He won't even contend at Merion.

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