As the summer continues on, we find ourselves approaching one of the best golf events of the year — the U.S. Open.
This week, the USGA. returns to one of the true classic U.S. Open courses — Shinnecock Hills located on Long Island, N.Y. I have applauded the USGA for “breaking the mold” and trying new courses (and course setups) in recent U.S. Opens. But I have to admit, I am really hoping for an “old school” U.S. Open this week.
I want to see firm and fast fairways, rough that is so long and penal just off the fairway (I don’t want to hear “graduated” anything this week!) that players are tempted to come out sideways just to get the ball back in the fairway.
And rock hard greens that drive the players crazy.
Brooks Koepka was a deserving champion last year at Erin Hills. But let’s be honest, the course played 7,845 yards in Round 1 (that’s crazy long). And the winning score was -16. Sixteen under par on a 7,800+ yard golf course — of course someone like Brooks Koepka won the event!
It might be me, but I keep picturing Tom Lehman from the mid-90s grinding over shot after U.S. Open shot for four straight years. I remember watching the pros grimace in fear as balls missed the green by one yard, knowing the difficulty of getting up and down from 6-inch rough to short-sided pins on rock hard greens. Sixteen under wasn’t even a thought back then. And I hope it’s not this year either.
As in year’s past, I’m also going to make a few predictions. Sorry to my pick, as I’m 0-for, well, ever, in picking correctly. But here are my thoughts.
I don’t expect much from the current crop of young guns — Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, and the slew of under 25-year-olds doing well on Tour this year.
Yes, Thomas is number one in the world. And yes, Spieth already has a U.S. Open trophy in his collection. But I don’t think these guys have seen an Open set up like this one. Patience, shot making, and experience (hopefully) will mean more this year than swing speed. My pick — not relevant.
Rory has a U.S. Open under his belt as well, but that course played long and soft. I don’t think Rory does well this week on what should be a relatively short but fast track. My pick — Top 50.
Anyone with a current Instagram account knows Rickie got engaged this past week. He’s riding an emotional high, and while I think today’s pros do a good job at separating on- and off-course emotions, I think it’s a big hit or miss week for one of today’s top stars. Would be good for golf if he’s in it, but I just don’t see it happening. My pick — missed cut.
Big Cat is back. According to reports, he’s been to Shinnecock multiple times over the last month. And I truly believe his only real focus is on four tournaments a year. The U.S. Open at Shinnecock is special. And I think the overall tournament characteristics will play out well for a veteran. I think he’s in contention this week, but I don’t think he’s the veteran that gets it done. My pick — Top 10.
So if it’s not Tiger, which wily vet do I think will get it done this week? This is the last time I’m picking this guy in a U.S. Open, but I think the golf gods have a magical week in store for us and that we’ll finally see a U.S. Open victory for ... Phil Mickelson.
Phil has been playing well all year. He, too, practices (even during regular Tour events) all year for the majors. And the U.S. Open. At Shinnecock? Come on now, what better story line for Phil to complete his career grand slam than that?
How about these statistics for Lefty. Phil has six U.S. Open finishes of second or tied for second. Four of those six are on Long Island or in New York state. I remember the N.Y. fans at Bethpage going crazy for Phil.
They love him in N.Y. And he loves playing there. Shinnecock has hosted two U.S. Opens over the last 25 years. Corey Pavin won in 1995. Phil finished T4. Retief Goosen won in 2004. Phil finished T2.
Golf is ready for Phil Mickelson to join the exclusive club of career grand slam champions.
New Yorkers are ready to root him to victory.
Phil is playing well, punctuated by a WGC win earlier this year in Mexico.
Phil has a great history at Shinnecock.
And I think Phil is finally ready to claim his U.S. Open. It would be a storybook “finish” to one of golf’s greatest ever careers and a tournament the sport, the USGA, The PGA Tour, New Yorkers and the history books are ready for.
And so am I.
Go get ‘em this week Lefty!
Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at Jonah@thekarzmerinsurance.com.