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.