Punch Shot: Who will win the 113th U.S. Open?

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 16, 2013, 1:53 am

ARDMORE, Pa. – Phil Mickelson is searching for his first U.S. Open victory and leads by a shot over Hunter Mahan, Charl Schwartzel and Steve Stricker entering the final round at Merion. Will Mickelson finally win? If not him then who? The GolfChannel.com weighs in.


At the risk of souring your morning Froot Loops, Phil Mickelson will not win the U.S. Open. Until he actually wins an Open, I’m going to believe he won’t. So I’ll go with Charl Schwartzel, who is a shot behind Mickelson and the only other man in the top 15 (besides Phil) who has won a major championship.

Schwartzel, you may recall, birdied the last four holes of the 2011 Masters to win the green jacket. Stud players like Adam Scott, Jason Day, Tiger Woods and Luke Donald came from everywhere attempting to win that tournament but it was a calm, cool and collected Schwartzel who threw the biggest haymaker of them all down the stretch to slam the door shut.

I'll admit, the stage is set for Mickelson this week more than ever before. Sunday is his 43rd birthday, he had the drama early in the week when he flew overnight from California to make his first-round tee time and we are, after all, in Phil-adelphia. But we’ve seen this move before, we know how it ends.

Schwartzel has made 12 birdies this week, which are tied for most in the field with Donald, Day and Morgan Hoffman. He’s only a shot behind, has the firepower, has the demeanor and already has a major win.

Sunday at Merion, Schwartzel will pick up his second.


Steve Stricker breaks through and wins the U.S. Open with his marvelous wedge game and putter.

At 46, he becomes the oldest winner of the U.S. Open, surpassing Hale Irwin, who was 45 when he won at Medinah in 1990.

Stricker will win because he’ll make the fewest mistakes Sunday. He’ll make ball-striking mistakes, everyone will under major championship pressure at Merion, but he will erase them with that short game of his.

Stricker writes his own special Father’s Day winning story. He cut back his schedule significantly this year so he could be with his wife, Nicki, and their two daughters back in Madison, Wis.


This is Phil Mickelson’s time. I mean, if for no other reason than the law of averages.

There are two ways to view Mickelson’s career at the U.S. Open. Either he’s been a terrific competitor at this event who on five separate occasions was beaten by just one other player in the field, or he’s the consummate underachiever, flailing and failing every single time he’s had an opportunity to win.

Put me down for the former. You can’t finish runner-up at a tourney five times without being a great player. Sometimes players need to experience the lowest of lows at a tournament before finally achieving the highest of highs.

Mickelson knows all about that. The man who shed himself of the Best Player To Have Never Won A Major label almost a full decade ago now has an opportunity to shed himself of another unenviable label.

It’s his time. He’s going to win the U.S. Open. Finally.


This is not 1999 Phil, when destiny dealt him a wet and wild heartbreak, or 2006 Phil, when his U.S. Open title caromed off a corporate tent and into major championship lore, or even 2009 Phil, when all of greater New York City couldn’t will him to a title. This Phil is different.

This Phil showed up, albeit a tad jet-lagged following a cross country odyssey in his quest to win “Father of the Year” honors, with no driver in his bag and no delusions of grandeur.

A five-time runner-up at his national championship, this Phil arrived in Philly with a plan to hit fairways, at whatever the cost, and greens and shrug off the inevitable bogey because, after an extended scouting trip last week to storied Merion, a birdie was waiting just over the next hill.

When he bogeyed two of his first five holes on Saturday he didn’t send caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay scrambling to the players’ parking lot to fetch his driver, he waited and played eight of his last nine holes in 3 under, shrugging off a closing bogey as a cost of doing business on the East Course.

This Phil Mickelson has gotten sideways at the U.S. Open in the past trying to do too much, but on Sunday at Merion he is poised to do just enough to finally put all those heartbreaks behind him and hoist the one trophy that has truly eluded him.


Steve Stricker.

As writers, we always root for the best story. On Sunday, that would probably be a Phil Mickelson win, because he’s an arthritic Hall of Famer who turns 43 on Sunday, and because he’s been a five-time U.S. Open runner-up, and because it’d be a fitting end to Father’s Day, after his cross-country flight Wednesday night to attend his daughter’s eighth-grade graduation. I get it.

The next-best story? That’d be a Steve Stricker victory. After all, he cut back his schedule this year to spend more time with his family. He resurrected his career after a few dark years. The City of Brotherly Love could weep right along with the Strickers.

And that could very well happen Sunday. No one in the top 10 on the leaderboard has better ball-striking splits through three rounds than Stricker, who is tied for eighth in fairways hit and T-2 in greens. That he is currently T-37 in putting actually makes me even more encouraged. When U.S. Open pressure begins to overwhelm the field on a (finally!) firm-and-fast Merion, I’ll take my chances with one of the best putters on Tour in the past decade-plus. 

Getty Images

Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

“While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

“What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

“I'll just say that we're going through the process,” Monahan said. “Once you get into a legal process, and you've been into it as long as we have been into it, I think it's fair to assume that we're going to run it until the end.”

Getty Images

Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

Getty Images

Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

Getty Images

Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

Speaking with Matt Adams on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, Davis didn't mince words regarding his perception that increased distance has had a negative impact on the game of golf, and he reiterated that it's a topic that the USGA and R&A plan to jointly address.

"The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

Davis' comments echoed his thoughts in November, when he stated that the impact of increased distance has been "horrible" for the game. Those comments drew a strong rebuke from Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who claimed there was "no evidence" to support Davis' argument.

That argument, again reiterated Tuesday, centers on the rising costs associated with both acquiring and maintaining increased footprints for courses. Davis claimed that 1 in 4 courses in the U.S. is currently "not making money," and noted that while U.S. Open venues were 6,800-6,900 yards at the start of his USGA tenure, the norm is now closer to 7,400-7,500 yards.

"You ask yourself, 'What has this done for the game? How has that made the game better?'" Davis said. "I think if we look at it, and as we look to the future, we're asking ourselves, saying, 'We want the game of golf to be fun.' We want it to continue to be challenging and really let your skills dictate what scores you should shoot versus necessarily the equipment.

"But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."