It's Father's Day, and almost as importantly, it's U.S. Open Sunday! In just a few hours, during primetime on the East Coast, we'll have our 2010 U.S. Open winner. Will it be Tiger Woods, reclaiming the title he's held several times before? Will it be Phil Mickelson, shrugging off a decade of Open disappointments? Will it be Dustin Johnson or Graeme McDowell, or will someone completely out of the picture as Sunday dawned — like Ryo Ishikawa above — have the round of his career?
As Sunday's rounds begin, here are some storylines to keep an eye on as you try to judge who will end the day as our newest major champion:
Early birdies. The course is set up to reward strong play early. If you want to make a charge, you need to start it from the first tee. Conversely, early bogeys will bring down the curtains on your day before the turn.
Nerves. This close to a major, everybody gets a little nervous, but some less than others. Tiger Woods, for example, has been in this position more than almost anyone else in history. What's going to happen to a lesser-known if he's standing on the 18th with a one-shot lead?
Mother Nature. The world's best golfers can shank it into the ocean just like the rest of us, and the wind can play havoc with even the simplest of shots. How well the leaders play that wind — or how poorly — will go a long way to determine who'll be standing at the end of the day.
Tiger's charge. Like every NBA team down by double digits, you know Tiger's going to make a run. But will it be enough to close the gap between him and Dustin Johnson? Or will the charge itself make Johnson flinch? Tiger has never come from behind to win a major; is this the day that changes?
Phil's birdies. Unlike Tiger, Mickelson has come from behind to win majors. Also unlike Tiger, Phil only has four of these bad boys, and zero U.S. Opens. If he wants to end that streak, he's going to have to gun it right from the start, and he's also going to need some of that stupid-good luck.
Johnson's lead. Dustin Johnson has played well at Pebble under better conditions than these. Can he translate that familiarity and comfort over to U.S. Open-level fierceness? He's good enough to win this, talent-wise, but whether he can stay mentally in the mix is still a question mark.
17 and 18. Two of golf's most beautiful concluding holes, the par-3 17th and par-5 18th could well determine the course of this championship. Will a golfer win on these last two holes — or give a championship away?
All the talk's over. Here we are. Who's going to take it?
- Tiger Woods
- Dustin Johnson