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114th U.S. Open Preview

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114th U.S. Open Preview
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Justin Rose defends his title this week at the 114th U.S. Open at recently redesigned Pinehurst No.  …

114th U.S. Open


Pinehurst Resort and Country Club

Course No. 2

Pinehurst, North Carolina

Pinehurst Course No. 2

Yards: 7,562

Par: 70 (35-35)

Greens: Penn G-2 Creeping Bentgrass; 6,388 square feet on average.

Stimpmeter: whatever the USGA can crank it up to without being ridiculous

Rough: There isn’t any

Bunkers: 111

Water Hazards: There is one pond that probably won’t come into play on No. 16

Course Architect: Donald Ross (1907); R.T. Jones (1974); Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw Redesign (2010)

Purse: $8,000,000

Winner’s Share: $1,440,000

FexExCup Points: 600 to the winner

Defending Champion: Justin Rose claimed his first major victory at Merion as he defeated Phil Mickelson and Jason Day by two shots

Dates:  June 12-15

Notes: The top 60 and ties will advance to the weekend. It used to be the top 60 and any player within 10 shots of the lead. The latter no longer exists as of 2013. If there is a playoff, it will 18 holes of stroke play beginning Monday morning.

Recent History Lessons

After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 22 of 30 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd and Ben Crane have won for the USA.

Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Matsuyama joins Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer is flying the flag for Europe with his victory.

S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd and Hideki Matsuyama are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had nine in 30 events so far in 2014. #onpace Troy Merritt gave it a go this week but came in solo second.

Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys

Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33) and now Crane, 38, add to the prime-timers trophy case.

Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer (29), Brendon Todd, 28 and Hideki Matsuyama (22), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.

Australian John Senden, 42, won at Tampa Bay for the only W for the “Old Guys” this season.

Pay Attention: It’s FREE!

Francis Ouimet, 1913, was the last player to win in his first U.S. Open.

The last amateur to win was John Goodman in 1933.

In the last four years, three winners have been foreign-born. There have been 28 international champions and eight in the last 15 years.

Justin Rose became the first Englishman in 33 years to win last year. Tony Jacklin in 1970 was the last Englishman to win.

John J. McDermott was 19 years, 10 moths and four days when he lifted the trophy in 1911. He’s the youngest champion.

Hale Irwin was 45 years and 15 days when he won in 1990. The oldest champion was entered into the field that year as a special exemption by the USGA. They were quite right.

There are 21 multiple champions. This week, two of them are in the field as Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, both South Africans, have both won twice. They look to join Tiger Woods and Hale Irwin on three titles. They’ll need two more to join Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Willie Anderson who all have four.

Woods won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 shots. That’s the largest margin of victory in an major.

Rory McIlroy had it to 17-under-par in 2011 at Congressional. He finished on 16-under setting the record for the lowest tournament score.

The lowest round ever fired in U.S. Open play is 63. Johnny Miller might remind you of this during the telecast as his won him the 1973 edition at Oakmont. His 63 is the only one ever fired on Sunday.

Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf and Vijay Singh are the other three players to turn it that number as well.

The largest Sunday comeback is seven shots accomplished by Arnold Palmer in 1960 at Cherry Hills.

Curtis Strange is the last player of six to defend his title. He accomplished this feet in 1988 and 1989.

Only five players in the field this week played “old” Pinehurst in 1999 and 2005. Stewart Cink, Jeff Maggert, Jim Furyk, Justin Leonard and Phil Mickelson hold this distinction.

Phil Mickelson has six seconds. That’s the most all time.

The last player to win with a birdie on 72nd holes was Bobby Jones in 1926.

No player has won multiple majors in the same year since Padraig Harrington in 2008. Think about that for a minute.

Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson are the only players on TOUR with multiple victories in the 2013-14 season. All three players are in the field this week and are ready to go.

This Will Win You a Bar Bet

Robert Garrigus is one of only eight players to post all four rounds in a U.S. Open under par. The others are Sam Snead, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino, Tony Jacklin, Lee Janzen, Curtis Strange and Rory McIlroy.

Please Remember

Only eight players have won on TOUR the week before a major and then went on to win the following week.

Byron Nelson: 1945 Chicago Open; PGA

Ben Hogan: 1946 Winnipeg Open; PGA

Sam Snead: 1949 GGO; Masters

Art Wall: 1959 Azalea Open; Masters

Lee Trevino: 1971 Canadian Open; The Open Championship

Sandy Lyle: 1988 GGO; Masters

Phil Mickelson: 2006 Bell South; Masters

Tiger Woods: 2007 WGC-BI; PGA

Phil Mickelson: 2013 Scottish Open; The Open Championship; Mickelson has won all five majors when he's played the week prior.

Please note none of these players went on to win the U.S. Open as their encore.

Past Champions Since 1999

1999 Payne Stewart

2000 Tiger Woods

2001 Retief Goosen

2002 Tiger Woods

2003 Jim Furyk

2004 Retief Goosen

2005 Michael Campbell

2006 Geoff Ogilvy

2007 Angel Cabrera

2008 Tiger Woods

2009 Lucas Glover

2010 Graeme McDowell

2011 Rory McIlroy

2012 Webb Simpson

2013 Justin Rose

Note: Payne Stewart (deceased), Tiger Woods (injured) and Michael Campbell (injured) are not participating this week.

Inside the Ropes

Pinehurst No. 2 has hosted just about everything there is to host in the world of golf. This North Carolina resort is anything but a traditional resort course as it has hosted the 1951 Ryder Cup, 1936 PGA Championship, two U.S. Amateurs, two TOUR Championships, 1989 Women’s Amateur, 1966 Western Amateur, 1994 Senior Open and the prestigious North & South Men’s Amateur since 1901. In its totality, Pinehurst No. 2 has hosted the most championships of any course in the U.S. A.

In 2010 Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were hired to bring No. 2 back to the design that made Donald Ross, the original architect declare, “the fairest test of golf I have ever designed”. Over the years Bermudagrass had spread all over the track and hid the original routing. It didn’t help that deep rough and green everything was the style at the time. The grass covered the original sand swept areas that made this course one of the best Ross ever designed. Coore and Crenshaw were tasked with restoring it to what it looked like back in the heydays of the 1930’s and 1940’s when Ross lived just off the third hole. They used aerial photos from that time period to bring the course back to its original style and design.

All 18 holes received attention during the restoration and some received more than others. Fairways were expanded and tees were added. All the rough on the course was REMOVED. Gone. See ya. I bet the players who teed it up here in 1999 and 2005 wish that would have happened sooner! Removing the rough and reintroducing the native sandy areas and wire grass matched what the original No. 2 looked like. The removal of the rough was not just for the U.S. Open as the design team eliminated over half of the irrigation that served to keep the course green. Native areas would grow and develop based on what Mother Nature would provide.

If that wasn’t enough, they planted over 200,000 wiregrass plants, eliminated overseeding protocols in the winter and making bunkers look like they did 70 years ago. The “rough” is now considered the plants that are growing in the sandy areas off the fairways that are no longer watered. It’s natural selection at its best.

Gamers, the good news is that they only fiddled with two greens, No. 15 and No. 17 were flattened and smoothed in spots to add extra pin placements. Guys who have played here in the past will still have their experience on how to handle the toughest part of the course, the green complexes. But, from the tee box, it looks and feels like a very different track. Instead of staring out at lush greenery, tall wiregrasses and sandy mounds have taken over causing the players to adjust their bearings off the tee. The course, as of Monday, was a lovely combination of brown-green-brown from tee-to-green. Mother Nature has cooperated and No. 2 should be playing firm and fast in the fairways and it could resemble an inland links course.

The better news is that the fairways have been widened up to 50% so getting the ball in play won’t be as challenging as most traditional U.S. Open setups. But, and there’s always BUT, the players who choose to hit fat part of the fairway will be left with longer irons into the diabolical, upside-down bowls that Pinehurst No. 2 is famous for. Those who choose to bomb it will find those fairways neck at about 300 yards in most places. On either side of those necks will be wiregrass and sand. Hit the target and a shorter iron can be used to stick the ball on the minimal landing areas on these greens. It’s classic risk-reward.

A U.S. Open should make players think and this again will be the case this week. Multiple players have commented that playing in gnarly rough only gives one option moving forward: pitching out. With the wiregrass and sandy areas, players now have to decide how good the lie is, how far they can advance it or just take the medicine and pitch it out. This decision is vitally important because of the green complexes. The wrong lie can lead to the wrong side of the green and crooked numbers will start popping up. Hitting GIR is important this week but with the false-fronts, run-offs and small landing areas, MISSING GIR on the proper side is just as important. Missing in the correct place will give players a better chance to save par and get out.

The decisions made this week from these areas will be just as crucial as having an excellent short game so I’m looking for experienced, big-time players that are mentally and physically tough enough to handle this test over four days. Patience will be just as much of a factor as finding fairways and GIR. I’ve read from multiple players that there is absolutely no reason to go flag hunting this week as the reward does NOT outweigh the risk. A birdie saves you a shot; a double-bogey adds two.

This is why I enjoy the U.S. Open. It’s a completely different test than Augusta where the attacking, scoring player is rewarded. It’s completely different than The Open where the subtlety of links golf must be mastered all while fighting the British winds. The PGA is probably the dullest major for me. I’d love to see it return to stroke-play into match-play but I’ll save that argument for a different day.

The days of balls buried in the Bermudagrass and pitching out sideways are over and a “new” day dawns this week at Pinehurst No. 2. New tee boxes have been installed on 13 holes, including one on No. 6 that makes an already difficult par three stretch to 250 yards. Those extra tees added over 300 yards to make it 7,562 yards from the tips. It will be the second-longest open after 2008 Torrey Pines (7,643). It will have the two longest par fours in history, Nos. 4 (529 yards) and 16 (528 yards). Brown is the new green. I’m not sure Donald Ross would have envisioned the length but from the reactions of the players and media who have been on it recently, it’s going to be an excellent setting for our national championship.

Call to Order

Here they are, ranked for your pleasure.

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Adam Scott (A): His best finish was T15 in 2012 at Olympic Club and it is quite surprising that’s he’s only cashed in six of 12 of these in his career. I choose to live in the now with the 2013 Masters champion as he’s been dominating just about everywhere he tees it up. In his last 13 majors, he’s hit the top 25 ELEVEN times. Of those top 25’s, seven have been in the top 10. I’ll take the best ball-striker, for my money, in the world to continue his reign as world No. 1.

Rory McIlroy (B): The 2012 champ has shown he already has what it takes to rock it out at this level as he has won both of his majors by EIGHT SHOTS EACH. Sure, he’s just as capable of 65 as he is 80 but I LIKE the fact that he has never seen Pinehurst No. 2. He won’t have any demons or bad memories (see: Augusta) and I would be shocked if he wasn’t contending at the end of the week. He tore up new Congressional. He tore up Kiawah. I’m on board. He’s finished the last two majors in the top 10 as well. #choochoo

Phil Mickelson (A): He looks to complete the career grand slam this week at a course where he lost to Payne Stewart in 1999. If premium short game is required this week there aren’t too many in the same category as the man with six seconds at this event. He said many moons ago, before he won a major, that he would win plenty of them. He’s said that he wants to win more than one U.S. Open. The stars should align this week but he’ll have to be ultra-sharp to take down the two dudes above him on this list. He knows this victory cements his place EASILY in the top 10 of “best ever” lists.

Bubba Watson (A): The only man who has a chance to win the grand slam THIS year has been torrid this entire season. His second green jacket was his second victory of the season and he also has a pair of T2s and a solo third his last time out at Memorial. Don’t overlook the Memorial performance. Watson had struggled on that track and had a chance to win in the final six holes on Sunday but just missed out on the playoff. I know some styles of courses suit certain guys in certain ways but the absence of rough this week should favor the long-hitting lefty. Don’t forget he’s already learned a painful lesson at Oakmont in 2007 that he can learn from. I’m playing the form card here over the recent U.S. Open results.

Jason Day (B): I speak for most gamers when I wonder aloud what an injury-free season for Day would look like. After winning the WGC-Match Play he ran into thumb issues and has only played twice since. But, he’s played 14 majors and made 11 cuts. In six of those he’s finished in the top 10 and that includes three seconds and a third. In three U.S. Opens he’s finished T2, T59 and T2. Last year he entered Merion on a four tournament streak that included only one top 25. #biggamehunter His excellent short game doesn’t hurt this week either.

Matt Kuchar (A): Speaking of excellent short game, Kuchar is definitely in that conversation. The quirkier and harder the course, the more Kuchar stands out as he’s sixth in scrambling and seventh in total putting. Check this out: in his last 17 majors he’s made 15 cuts. He has six top 10s and his WORST finish is T28. Read that again. No, go ahead.

Jim Furyk (B): With zero victories since his 2010 TOUR Championship, Furyk has frustrated only the pickiest of gamers as he continues to rack up high finishes. He’s 16-of-19 at the U.S. Open with six top fives that includes his 2003 victory at Olympia Fields. This season has proven again that he’s pure class as he’s racked up five top 10s in 12 weekends and hasn’t been cut. Oh, he leads the TOUR in scrambling as well.

Sergio Garcia (C): He’ll have good memories of No. 2 as he was T3 here in 2005. The Spaniard is nasty around the greens and can paint fairways and GIR with anyone. His last time out he WD with a knee issue after one round at Wentworth. He tweeted out on 30 May that his doctor said his knee was reacting well to treatment and that he’d be ready to go for this week. The Golf Channel is reporting Tuesday that he’s still in pain. He’d love to get his name off the “best player not to win a major” as he tees it up for the 63rd time in a major. He’s played the weekend in 12 of 14 starts and has eight top 25’s, plus four of those in the top 10.

Justin Rose (B): The Golf Gods will note that he assessed himself a one-shot penalty last time out at Memorial that led to his MC. That MC broke a streak of T14, T8, fifth and T4 so I’m not worried about ONE MC. The defending champ from Merion is playing well and will need a big week with the flat stick to join Curtis Strange and the gang as repeat champions.

Dustin Johnson (B): Name a major he HASN’T contended in. Go ahead. In 2010 he was one bad decision from winning the PGA at Whistling Straits. Earlier that year he was the 54-hole leader heading into the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach before he fired 82 to finish T8. He opened with 67 at the 2013 Masters as well and finished T13. He’s been around the block. He’s second in the all-around ranking and has the power to overcome any distance set-up. He’ll win this week because I’m not playing him in the GC game like I did the last two weeks.

Jordan Spieth (B): After finishing as the low amateur (T21) at Olympic Club, Spieth MC at Merion last year. His entire focus this season has been improving his play in the big events and it has shown. He was T2 at Augusta and T4 at the players. Throw in a T5 at WGC-Match Play and that’s a tidy hat trick of payments. Spieth is a super short-game player and is wise beyond his years. Remember he hung out with Ben Crenshaw before the Masters? I would think he’s probably picked his brain a few times on this redesign!

Jason Dufner (B): Here’s a guy who will push the limits of the fairway necks this week as he said he’ll be loading driver as often as possible. After his display in dissecting Oak Hill, another Ross course, last summer, I can hardly blame him. The 2013 PGA champ has a top five finish in a major in the last four years. His last two U.S. Opens have seen him finish T4 and T4. Temperature goes up, Duf shows up and it’s going to be hot and humid this week in North Carolina!

Charl Schwartzel (C): He’s played the weekend at the U.S. Open in four straight and last year began Sunday one shot behind Phil Mickelson’s 54-hole lead. His 78 saw him crash and burn to 14th. He adds that to T16 and T9 for a very steady return in three of the last four years. In seven of eight weekends he’s finished T19 or better including T8 last time out at Memorial.

Lee Westwood (A): His record in majors covers just about everything besides the top prize and that will work for fantasy gamers. He has had no less than TWO top 10s (out of four events) in the majors in every year since 2009. Think about that for a second. He has 12 top 10s in his last 20 majors. That includes two seconds and six thirds. He’s 12 of 14 in U.S. Opens and that includes nine top 25s and five top 10s. His three worst finishes are T36, T36 and T33. His worst finish in the last four years is T16. Gamers know that Westwood can struggle with chipping and putting but there is no question he shows up for the greatest test of golf almost every year. Hitting as many fairways and greens that he does minimizes his scrambling deficiencies for me.

Graeme McDowell (C): With nine cuts made from 10 events in 2014 on TOUR, McDowell has rewarded investors with five top 10s as his steady play continues. If there is one person in the field that is upset that the fairways have been widened, it’s probably G MAC as he thrives on driving the golf ball. He’s also proved that his excellent short game holds up in these conditions as well evidenced by his 2010 win at Pebble Beach and his T2 at Olympic Club (he really likes the Bay Area) in 2012. His run of T18, WIN, T14 and T2 was busted with a MC last year at Merion.

Ernie Els (B): When great U.S. Open players are mentioned, I find it weird that Ernie Els fades to the wayside, at least here in the States. It seems that Mickelson’s six runner-up finishes are more important than Els’ two titles (1994, 1997). It seems that the “Big Easy” is “old” and not as competitive as Mickelson. Els is barely a year older than Mickelson. Weird. Els has played 21 of these and seen the weekend 17 times. He has finished in the top five seven times and the top 10, 10 times. Don’t forget he’s also won two Open Championships so he knows how to work the ball into and around “linksy” courses as well.

Hideki Matsuyama (B): He played in three majors last year as a 21-year old and finished T10 at Merion, T6 at Muirfield and T19 at Oak Hill. Those were his first tries at the U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship. He won two weeks ago on TOUR as he outlasted Bubba Watson and defeated Kevin Na in a playoff at Muirfield Village. The field is lucky this week that this event isn’t being played at a course with “Muirfield” in the name! He’s 23rd in scrambling and 12th in the all-around so I know those results from last year weren’t a fluke. He’s legit.

Bill Haas (B): After WD at RBC Heritage, Haas has started ramping up his game up at the right time entering this week. His last four starts have been T44, T26, T21 and his first top 10 since March, T8 with a closing 68, at Memorial his last time out. As I’ve mentioned before, Haas will par courses to death and this week would be an excellent time to execute plenty of pars. His record in majors isn’t where he wants it to be but with Scott Gneiser on the bag, he hopes to get some major help. Gneiser was on the bag for David Toms win in 2001 at the Atlanta Athletic Club.

Webb Simpson (B): Another North Carolinian like Haas, Charlotte resident Simpson played himself into contention last week with T3 at FESJC. Simpson, the 2012 champion at Olympic Club, finally broke out of a slump as that was his first top 10 in seven events since February. It’s remarkable that he’s in the top 10 in the all-around (seventh) but only has one top 10 in his last six. Form is temporary, class is permanent and he proved that with his closing 68 to win in 2012.

Just Missed

Luke Donald: His weakness has been spraying it off the tee so he’ll be excited to see massive fairways this week and any wayward iron shots won’t bother one of the best short-game players in the world. Donald hasn’t had much U.S. Open success but did find T8 last year at Merion, his first in 10 tries.

Henrik Stenson: With his ball-striking prowess, I would have figured he would have been more proficient in the U.S. Open but his majors of choice are the PGA and Open Championship. In his last four U.S. Opens he’s finished ninth, T29, T23, DNP and T21 last year at Merion. That’s a very solid record. His only start in the States in the last six weeks was T34 at THE PLAYERS but he was T5 at Wentworth in late May and fifth last week in a light field at the Nordea Masters in his native Sweden.

Ian Poulter: He lit up TPC Southwind last Sunday for a final-round best 64 to jump into the top 10 (T6) for the first time on TOUR since November. Poulter is reputed as having the game for big events but he hasn’t found a top 10 in 10 tries at the U.S. Open. The good news is he’s made seven cuts and loves a proper grind around the greens. He’ll be an excellent complementary piece for weekly players this week based on his form and short game.

Billy Horschel: I can’t call the man who finished T4 last year at Merion wearing squid trousers a sleeper this week. Those who read this column know that I have been keeping a close eye on Horschel over the last few weeks as he has started to turn his game around. Yes, he isn’t making very many putts but he’s hitting tons of fairways and even more greens. He was T26 at THE PLAYERS, T15 at Memorial and T6 in Memphis last week. He’s obviously moving in the right direction. He’s third in ball-striking but it’s his short game that is keeping him on this list this week. He’s also fearless which could have some repercussions this week! He’s a great compliment in a weekly lineup as well with a premium player.

Jimmy Walker: He will benefit from the widening of the fairways as well as being one of the best putters around. In his first trip to Augusta he finished T8 so I’m not deterred by his lack of experience at Pinehurst. He also is a GIR machine which will come in handy this week. He has three top 10s in five starts since Augusta so he hasn’t looked like cooling off.

Stephen Gallacher: He closed 68-66 at Wentworth for T5 and 65-68 to reach a playoff at the Nordea Masters (P2; Jaidee) in his last two starts. Hot golf is hot golf and the Scotsman will know a few things about playing a links-style course.

Chris Kirk: This is only his fifth major but I’m more concerned about his current form entering this week. He shot 67 on Sunday at THE PLAYERS to finish T13. He missed a 10-footer on Sunday on No. 18 to finish T14 at Colonial. He opened with 66 and closed with 68 to finish T4 his last time out at Memorial. He’s made 20 cuts on the bounce, is in the top 20 in scrambling and is a solid bunker player.

Brendon Todd: With finishes of WIN, T5 and T8 in his last three outings, I’m willing to look past his experienced on this stage as well. He isn’t the biggest hitter but he’s sixth in total putting, eighth in scrambling and 11th in adjusted scoring. He’s a rank outsider based on reputation and lack of experience but he’s a cool, steady customer.

Jonas Blixt: Can you name the only player to finish in the top five in the last two majors? Yep. Blixt was fourth at Oak Hill last August and T2 last April at Augusta. He’s played his last NINE majors rounds at par or better. His short game and putter keeps him in the conversation the longer the weekend carries on. Huge risk, massive reward this week for gamers as Blixt has been all-or-nothing since last summer.

John Senden: With T30, T10 and T15 in his last three, Senden looks to continue to build on his excellent 2014. He should play great this week because he MC for me as my OAD last week in Memphis. It’s just how the universe works. Anyhow, one MC is his last 10 isn’t going to sour me on the Aussie who has found magic in the flat stick. Hell, he MC last week with 67 on Friday so it’s not time to sleep on him.

Long Shots/Sleepers

Bo Van Pelt: He heated up around this time last season and finished T21 at Merion. In 2014, BVP is heading in the proper direction as he racked up T26 at THE PLAYERS, T14 at Colonial and T19 last time out at Memorial. He’s made six of seven cuts at U.S. Opens so his game is suited to this test.

Miguel Angel Jimenez: Ah, the great argument of where he should be placed this week. Some folks are high on him. Some folks are higher on him. He’s MC in six of his last eight U.S. Opens, including his last four. His two weekends went for T16 and T6. This sounds like his current run of form in 2014. He was fourth at the Masters and then won his next time out at his home country’s open. He followed that up with getting married and T35 and T70. Last week’s T5 at the Lyoness Open was a perfect tune up. Hale Irwin is the oldest winner at 45. The Mechanic is 50. He won’t lead the line and I’m not overbidding/overpaying for him either. #ageist

Retief Goosen: The two-time champion has found a bit of form on TOUR which makes me take a little harder look this week. He also shot a million here in the final round in 2005 with Jason Gore but the easy-going South African has a couple of these under his belt. He’s played six weekends on the bounce on TOUR and was hovering around the lead last week before 75-72 weekend sunk his chances. His experience, temperament and ability to put difficult greens intrigues me this week.

Joost Luiten: After winning twice last year on the European Tour the 28-year old Dutchman found himself moving up the OWGR. In 2014 he’s found T13 at WGC-CC, T26 at Augusta after closing with 67, fourth at the Open de Espana, T12 at Wentworth and third last week at the Lyoness.

Bernd Wieseberger: He has finished T2 and second in two of his last five starts over the last two months including a playoff loss last week at Lyoness.

Scott Langley: Believe it or not, this will be his fourth U.S. Open in the last five years for the 25-year old. He’s made the cut in his first three so that tells me he’s a grinder and his game is suited for such a challenge. He’s 14th on TOUR in scrambling and 47th in strokes-gained putting this season.

Fade

Keegan Bradley: He’s 30-OVER in his only four rounds in two U.S. Open appearances. He has one top 25 finish in his last six on TOUR, T8 at a  birdie fiesta in New Orleans. Too many better options to “hope” that he breaks out this week.

Hunter Mahan: Another American with Ryder Cup aspirations that are slowly slipping away, Mahan hasn’t fired since he hurt his hip in Orlando in March. He has two rounds in the 60s on the weekend in 2014. They both came in the same tournament, WMPO, in the first week of February. I would be surprised that this would be the week that it all comes together. His best finish in his last seven was T26 at Augusta.

Angel Cabrera: Just stop it.

Zach Johnson: A month ago I thought this would be a great chance for Johnson to contend for another major championship. But after just one top 25 in his last seven TOUR stops and a U.S. Open record that involves nothing better than T30 in 10 starts (4 MCs), I’m gone.

The Man with His Own Column

Brandt Snedeker: He admitted in interviews this week that his 2014 has been very disappointing and I don’t think there are ANY gamers out there who would disagree. Instead of dismissing Snedeker in the FADE column, where he has been the landlord for much of the spring, I find it interesting that he changed putters and brought in Payne Stewart’s old caddy for some help about Pinehurst. Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results so I view this as a step in the right direction. This is the first time in eight years that he’s going with a new putter and Stewart’s old caddy has come in to help with the nuances of No. 2’s greens. I’m not saying this makes Snedeker a contender this week but at least it is SOMETHING for season-long owners. Weekly owners will remind me that he’s never finished worse than 23rd in five U.S. Open weekends out of seven attempts. Remember, he’s had nothing better than T37 since the end of March.

Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week

The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.

Frys.com: Hideki Matsuyama, T3; Brooks Koepka, T3; Max Homa, T9.

SHCO: Ryo Ishikawa is only 22, don’t forget, T2; Chesson Hadley, T5.

CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!

WGC-HSBC: Jordan Spieth was 17th. Tommy Fleetwood (T18) is only 22 and plays in Europe. Matsuyama WD with a bad back.

McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek

OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.

HTOC:  Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.

Sony: Hudson Swafford and Will Wilcox both finished T8. Both played on the Web.com Tour last year and are rookies on TOUR this season.

Humana: Patrick Reed won. He’s 23. You need to pay attention.

FIO: Ryo Ishikawa, 22, bagged another top 10 finish. That’s his sixth in his last 10 events on TOUR or the Web.com Tour. He’s an alternate this week as of Monday afternoon.

WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama is 21. In 11 events the last two years, he’s hit the top 25 in NINE of them, including T4 last week. #ALLRIGHTYTHEN

Pebble Beach: Er, Jordan Spieth, T4. Patrick Reed, 23, finished T13 and he’s won twice since August. Golf is good hands, again.

Riviera: Harris English won’t be 25 until July. He was T10; Spieth was T12.

WGC-Match Play: Victor Dubuisson is 23 and was second. Jordan Spieth was T5. #youthmovement

Honda: Russell Henley is now the fourth player on TOUR under 25 with two wins. He joins Patrick Reed, Harris English and Rory McIlroy in this very elite club of pups.

WGC-CC: Patrick Reed is 23. He’s now won three times in eight months on TOUR.

Puerto Rico Open: Rookie Chesson Hadley, 26, took home his first title on the big boy circuit.

Valspar: Chesson Hadley backed up his first win with T14 on a tough, tough Copperhead Course. Scott Langley, a second year player from Illinois (see above) was third.

API: The young Japanese lad Ishikawa racked up another top 10 (T8) this week. Yep, he’s still just 22.

Valero: He’ll be remembered for all of the wrong reasons but Andrew Loupe, 25, finished T4 in only his eighth start on TOUR. #slowgolfclap

Shell Houston: Russell Henley’s T7 shows him heating up before heading back for another crack at Augusta.

Masters: That Jordan Spieth guy was T2.

RBC Heritage: John Huh, T3, is a TOUR winner but is only 23 years old. Remember?

Zurich: The winner was 22-year old Seung-Yul Noh. He fits this column to a T.

Wells Fargo: Defending champ Derek Ernst was T30. He’ll turn 24 on May 15.

THE PLAYERS: That pesky Spieth was tied for the 54-hole lead and finished T4.

HPBNC: T16 was the best the youth could muster with John Huh, who turns 24 on Wednesday.

Colonial: Second-year player David Lingmerth poked his head up again with T5 to lead the youngsters. Hideki Matsuyama, who co-led after 54-holes, finished T10.

Memorial: Matsuyama must be a quick study. He was the 54-hole leader at Colonial yet finished T10. He took it deep this week with his first victory on TOUR, in a playoff, nonetheless. #impressive

FESJC: Brooks Koepka continues to rack up non-Member points and his T19 this week added to that.

Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon

Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 6 ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.

Coming Wednesday

And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at the U.S. Open and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.

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