Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Jay Busbee and head writer Shane Bacon take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. And today, since it's a major, we welcome in the third man, Jonathan Wall. Suggest a future topic by writing firstname.lastname@example.org, or hit us on Twitter at @jaybusbee, @shanebacon and @jonathanrwall. Today we kick around that little tourney that's starting this week up D.C. way.
Bacon: It's the toughest golf tournament in the world to win. It makes the strongest minds in sports want to fling their clubs in a lake and take up fly-fishing. It brings in tall rough, slick greens, and fluffy bunkers. So who has the best chance to win the first U.S. Open without Tiger Woods since I was in third grade?
Wall: While I'm sure network execs will miss Woods, this field is loaded with talent that should still make the tournament must-see TV. I'd even go so far as to say this is one of the most wide open U.S. Open's I've seen in some time. I hate taking chalk in majors, but it's impossible to not think Luke Donald is ready to win a major. The guy hasn't finished outside the top 10 since a missed cut in his first event of the year. He's long enough off the tee to contend, and has the short game to handle the concrete greens I'm sure we'll see over the weekend. Call me crazy, but I like my chances with the chalk.
Busbee: We're at a transitional point in golf, where you can't point to any one player and say that this is his time, this is his moment. That said, you want the guys who have the guts to drill a 15-foot money putt while also having the sense to keep the ball far from the lethal rough. At the moment, Steve Stricker fits that description best, but would you bet your house on him winning? Your car? Your lunch? Maybe your lunch, if it was a sandwich. No knock on Stricker, it's just that this field is brutally difficult to handicap. Mr. Bacon?
Bacon: I said on XM Radio two weeks ago that I liked Graeme McDowell and I don't see any reason to change that. He's proven in tough conditions, has won it before and is as good a pick as any at this point.
Not to get sidetracked, but is this the most open major championship in terms of picking a winner since '96?
Wall: I think that's definitely the case. You don't need to look any further than the incredible 11 playoffs in 25 tour events to see how even the playing field is at the moment. I've seen so many picks to win this week that I'm convinced that you'd have a great shot at picking the winner out of a hat. I think it just goes to show you how things change when Tiger Woods isn't in the field.
Busbee: But even if he was in the field, he'd only draw betting money, not real legit interest. I think we're going to see an event much like last year's, where someone is going to go out fast early and put up a huge lead that won't hold, and someone else is going to slow-and-steady his way to the trophy. So, my question: Think we'll have a first-time major winner this week?
Bacon: One-hundred percent. I think we will see a Stricker/Donald/Westwood/Watson (Bubba, not Tom) type take down this U.S. Open, just because it'll be so tough. My guess ... Luke Donald. I just think he's playing the best, and I like to go with the best player before a major. Mr. Wall, your pick?
Wall: I laid my cards on the table a little earlier in the discussion, but I'm going to stick to my guns and stay with Donald. As Bacon mentioned, he's playing better than anybody on the planet at the moment, and you have to like his chances at a course that definitely suits his high ball and consistency off the tee.
While we both like Donald, I'm going to guess Busbee is going in a different direction with his pick.
Busbee: I'll take the field! Can I do that? No? All right, then I'll go elsewhere. I'm taking Matt Kuchar this time around. I think the time's right, I think his game and his mindset are set up well for this event, and I think the Open trophy will return to the U-S-A! after this weekend.
And now it's your turn. Who's your pick for this weekend? Go!