Who will win the 112th U.S. Open?

By Jason SobelJune 17, 2012, 4:44 am

SAN FRANCISCO – After 54 holes at the 112th U.S. Open, only two players are under par for the tournament - Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell. But in their rearview mirror sit 26 players within six shots of the lead. So, just who will ultimately be crowned champion at Olympic? Our GolfChannel.com team weigh in:

By JAY COFFIN

Graeme McDowell will capture his second U.S. Open Sunday at The Olympic Club and it will mark the third consecutive year that a man from Northern Ireland will walk away with the trophy.

McDowell seems at peace with the U.S. Open conditions as much as anyone else. He admitted Friday that it has not been fun this week, nor has it been easy but he’ll find a way to enjoy it when it’s all over.

Something about McDowell oozes clutch. Sure there have been a couple final-round collapses – the 2011 Players Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational this year going head-to-head with Tiger Woods are the ones that immediately come to mind – but there have been so many more clutch moments where McDowell has produced. It’s difficult to think he won’t show up with his A-game Sunday in sunny California.

The legend began two years ago at Pebble Beach where he won his first U.S. Open after outlasting Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els. Later that same year he drained the winning putt for Europe in the Ryder Cup in Wales. In December of 2010 he went head-to-head with Woods at the Chevron World Challenge and took him down.

Success in those three pressure-packed moments is all I need to believe McDowell will win this U.S. Open.


By REX HOGGARD

The line on Lee Westwood goes that despite that all-world ball-striking, until he began holing putts down the stretch in big events there was no reason to think he would magically start on any given Sunday.

On Saturday at The Olympic Club the Englishman took a monumental step in what will be his major breakthrough. As the world No. 3 put the finishing touches on what was already one of the day’s best rounds he stepped to his uphill 35-footer at the last hole and calmly charged the birdie attempt into the cup to cap a day’s best 67.

If victories are born from learned experience, both good and bad, count Westwood's 54th-hole crowd pleaser as a crash course in what he is capable of doing when it matters.

He will likely have to match that feat at some point on Sunday to shed his title as the best player without a major championship, but imagine how easy dinner went down on Saturday following his walk-off birdie.

They say Westwood is a bad putter, but you don’t climb to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a truly balky flat stick. Similarly, you don’t achieve greatness without a few bruises. Westwood has plenty of scar tissue, on Sunday it’s time for the long-awaited payoff.


By RANDALL MELL

Jim Furyk will win the 112th U.S. Open, but he will have to survive a battle with another master tactician, Graeme McDowell.

With those two paired as the leaders in the final round, Sunday could feel like a world-class chess match. This is Boris Spassky vs. Bobby Fischer good if you like to see master strategists maneuver.

Asked earlier this week how you manage through a U.S. Open, McDowell said: “You play Jim Furyk golf.”

Furyk vs. McDowell is classic U.S. Open fare, two guys built for this kind of Sunday scrum on a fast, firm and ferocious course. Furyk gets the slight edge here only because it seems difficult to imagine him retiring with just one U.S. Open title. Same goes for McDowell, but he has more time.


By JASON SOBEL

I’m taking Nicolas Colsaerts to win the 112th U.S. Open Championship on Sunday – mainly because I know nobody else will.

There’s something to be said for picking the underdog at a major championship. Entering the final round at Pinehurst in 2005, the focus was on Tiger Woods and Retief Goosen and Jason Gore. The name Michael Campbell was hardly uttered at all – and all he did was simply fly under the radar and swoop in for the title.

It takes more than obscurity to win one of these, of course.

Colsaerts has a major advantage in the fact that he’s one of the five biggest hitters in the elite professional ranks today. He has yet to play his best golf, posting scores of 72-69-71 so far. And in the fourth-to-last pairing of the final round, he can play relatively pressure-free while the majority of the focus rests on others.

More than anything, the Belgian fits the mold of recent major winners, from Geoff Ogilvy to Graeme McDowell to Charl Schwartzel. Those are all big names, you say? Well, they weren’t until they won their majors. It’s got to happen at some point. For Colsaerts, it just may happen on Sunday.

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."