COMMENTARY | All eyes will be focused on the featured group of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott when (and if) they tee off on Thursday afternoon at Merion Golf Club in the first round of 113th US Open, but it's a less fawned over Englishman who could steal the show outside of Philadelphia.
Justin Rose, the 32-year-old fifth-ranked player in the world has a game custom-made for this year's US Open at Merion.
The classic track has been billed as being passed up by time and technology, playing under 7,000 yards -- the first US Open to do so since 2004 at Shinnecock Hills. And while there is a fair share of birdieable holes through the middle of the course, the closing stretch along with the majority of the par-3s are all the pros can handle. There's no doubt that an all-around game is necessary to tame Lady Merion as one must also possess the mental fortitude that is required around every US Open venue.
Rose has been on top of his game in 2013 and has the numbers to back it up. He is also near the top of a handful of statistical categories that have proven to be key to winning US Opens recently.
The obvious statistics that jump out at even casual fans are hugely important this week. For example, US Opens are known for their prodigiously thick rough. This week is no exception, meaning driving accuracy will be a priority. Rose ranks 1st on the PGA Tour in total driving, a combination of driving distance and accuracy.
From there, dependent upon the hole, two types of second shots will likely face the players if they find the fairway -- a long iron from upwards of 200 yards or a short iron/wedge from inside of 100 yards.
Rose ranks favorably in both statistics, a testament to his ball striking ability (of which he ranks 8th on Tour). From 225-250 yards, Rose ranks 5th on Tour with a proximity to the hole average of 42-feet-4 inches.
From 50-125 yards, he ranks 2nd with an average distance from the hole of 14-feet-3 inches.
Consequently, with a premium placed on hitting the greens from these positions, Rose ranks 1st in greens in regulation percentage from both outside 200 yards and inside 100 yards.
As we know, US Opens are often won by the player who can minimize the damage that comes from their loose shots. With that in mind, Rose's 62.25 percent scrambling ability ranks 7th on Tour.
All signs point to Rose being in contention over the weekend at Merion, but it could be an x-factor that could be Rose's best predictor of success.
"I am not young and naive anymore, but I am not a veteran either," Rose said ahead of the second major championship of the year. "I feel in my prime, to be honest.
"Adam Scott, for example, is a good friend of mine and a great player, obviously. He has just (won a major) and I feel I am in a similar mold. We have both got lots of experience under our belt and now it is time to capitalize upon it."
For Rose to capitalize upon that hard work, all he needs is a good putting week. The ball-striking and positioning are there, but the flatstick has been his bugaboo.
If Rose can continue to give himself chances and more looks at birdie, he could spoil Tiger Woods' quest for a 15th major championship and capture the first of his own.
Chris Chaney is a Cincinnati, Ohio-based sportswriter. He has written for multiple outlets including WrongFairway.com, Hoopville.com, The Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer and The Clermont (OH) Sun.
Follow him on Twitter @Wrong_Fairway.
- Sports & Recreation
- Justin Rose
- Tiger Woods
- Merion Golf Club
- Adam Scott