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Punch Shot: Top-10 player most likely to miss Open cut

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There are lots of serious contenders for the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. But who is more likely to go home early than be the last man standing? Our writers call out one top-10 player most likely to miss the cut this week.

By JASON SOBEL

I like Bubba Watson. Like him as a player, think he’s immensely talented and – if I had any say at all – he’d be Player of the Year right now.

But I don’t like him this week.

The U.S. Open is all about patience – and Bubba is about as patient as a honeybee in a flower garden.

Self-diagnosed with ADD, he’s often admitted in the past that he’ll hit certain shots on the golf course out of sheer boredom, just trying them to see if they’ll work. That sort of creativity can pay dividends at Augusta National, where he won the Masters two months ago, but it will likely be a punishable offense at Pinehurst.

Let’s throw in the fact that in his pre-tournament news conference, Bubba sounded like the course was already in his head. He sarcastically called it “fun” and politely referred to the greens as “unfriendly.”

He’s got the talent to win on any course, any week. But if I’m picking an elite talent to miss the cut this week, Bubba is my choice.


By REX HOGGARD

He’s the world’s top-ranked player. He’s rich, handsome, a newlywed and just weeks removed from an impressive victory at the Crowne Plaza Invitational.

And when the dust settles on Friday afternoon, Adam Scott will be heading home from Pinehurst.

As counterintuitive as it all may seem, the Australian’s history at the U.S. Open speaks for itself. In a dozen starts in the championship he’s never finished better than 15th place (2012) and he’s missed as many cuts (six) as he’s made.

There is no easy explanation, no clean example of why a player with as much skill and talent as Scott has come up so woefully short at such an important event.

Tee to green there are few in the game as proficient as Scott and while he’s not considered to be one of the game’s best putters, his green jacket from last year suggests he can perform on the most demanding putting surfaces.

As USGA executive director Mike Davis pointed out on Wednesday there are always horses for courses and maybe Open setups just aren’t Scott’s brand of vodka.

For all the reasons to think this week could be different, and there are plenty, Scott’s record speaks for itself.


By RANDALL MELL

Rory McIlroy is so hard to figure for this U.S. Open. It wouldn't be surprising to see him win in a runaway by eight shots. It also wouldn't be a stunner to see him miss the cut with another lousy Friday.

We’ve seen how McIlroy can hit the accelerator and separate himself in a hurry when his game’s all there. We’ve also seen of late how he can put it in reverse and back up in a hurry when he's off. There was that 77 in the second round of the Masters, that 76 in the second round of the Wells Fargo and that 78 in the second round of the Memorial.

In a severe U.S. Open setup at Pinehurst No. 2, McIlroy is the top-10 player who looks most like he’s playing on a tightrope.


By RYAN LAVNER

Sergio Garcia is hurting, and that’s before Pinehurst No. 2 inflicts any more punishment during this week’s U.S. Open.

The world No. 8 has a small edema on the top of his kneecap and also cartilage damage on the left side – the same injury that caused him to withdraw from his most recent tournament, the BMW PGA in Europe. It’s an unfortunate break for the still-majorless 34-year-old, who is No. 5 on the PGA Tour in scrambling and, if healthy, would seem a good pick for Pinehurst, which is so short game-oriented.

Though the heat and humidity may help Sergio’s balky knee, the restored No. 2 is not the easiest walk, and he easily could tweak his leg while hitting from one of the sandy areas. Sergio is not 100 percent. Thus, our hopes aren’t high. 


By WILL GRAY

Jordan Spieth.

I know, I know ... The Kid impressed at Augusta National, and he almost did one better last month at TPC Sawgrass. But Spieth also struggled in the U.S. Open last year at Merion, shooting rounds of 77 and 76 to miss the cut by five shots.

Spieth’s record this year has been stellar, but his results have come in spite of some questionable stat lines: He is only 93rd in GIR percentage this season on the PGA Tour, and ranks just 126th in fairways hit. While his putting stats are solid, overall, one potential flaw could be magnified at Pinehurst No. 2: He is 152nd on Tour in putting from 3-5 feet, missing nearly one out of every six attempts from that distance.

Spieth has shown us before that under the biggest lights, he can sometimes wear his heart on his sleeve. He did it down the back nine Sunday at the Masters, and it cost him a chance at a green jacket. The U.S. Open – especially one played here – is not kind to those who are short on patience, and Spieth could make an early exit as a result.


By JOE POSNANSKI

If Bubba Watson misses the cut this week - and I think that he will - he will become the first golfer in recent memory to miss the cut on a Tuesday. A lot of people came to Pinehurst feeling pretty good about Watson's chances: His Masters performance was so dominating; he can hit shots no one else in the world can hit; he seemed as likely as anyone to tame this wild Pinehurst No. 2.

And then the longest hitter in the world came into his press session and announced that he's planning to curb his aggressiveness. "I'm going to lay back and have a lot longer shots into the holes," he said. And though he gave his reasons, frankly, they didn't make much sense. Talk about being spooked by a golf course. This was LeBron James explaining that he wasn't going to drive to the basket, but instead set up around the three-point line and wait for teammates to pass to him.

If it works, hey, I'll give the guy all the credit in the world for outsmarting the course. But it won't work. And we'll have a weekend without Bubba.