The U.S. Open Winner Is ...

By Jason SobelJune 9, 2011, 9:11 pm

I know who is going to win the U.S. Open.

It’s simple math, really. An easy formula. Crunch a few numbers, calculate some averages and – voila! – there’s your next major champion.

It all has to do with recent history. The last year has seen a changing landscape in professional golf, with major titles no longer the entitlement of the elite.

A charmer from Northern Ireland, an up-and-comer from Germany and a pair of South African farmboys are currently the four reigning champions, each having “shocked the world” in the past 12 months. None were undeserving nor unqualified, but they were hardly household names when they claimed their hardware.

It’s led to a prevailing sentiment that majors have become anybody’s ballgame. So what is the prototype for winning one?

“There isn’t one,” said 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman.

“Anybody can win,” maintained 1997 PGA Championship winner Davis Love III.

“I can tell you what it’s not,” 2003 PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel said. “It’s not a seasoned, veteran player anymore.”

In the past, the quintessential major champion was a straight driver with a deadly putting stroke. Or a big bomber with a sublime wedge game. Or a Seve-like scrambler. Or, well, Tiger Woods.

Those days are over – for now, at least.

“We’re kind of removed from a decade ago, when Tiger was winning every major,” Immelman said. “At that point, everybody thought that you had to have 5 percent body fat and bench press whatever and hit a million golf balls.

“We’re at a point where there’s so many guys who have an opportunity to win. It’s amazing when you look at it – between the Westwoods and the McIlroys and McDowells, the guys we see contending all the time – they all have different actions, they’re all different shapes and sizes and heights. … I think that’s the fascinating thing right now that’s so nice for fans – everybody is a little different.”

With all due respect to Immelman and his fellow major champions, there still is a prototypical player for winning majors.

You just have to know the secret formula. (For my full list of top 25 finishers at this year's U.S. Open, click here.)

Actually, it’s not such a secret. It’s all about just examining the four current major champions and finding commonalities between them.

Graeme McDowell is 5 foot 11, 168 pounds. He was 30 years old at the time of his U.S. Open triumph, ranked 37th in the world and owned five international victories, but none in the U.S.

Louis Oosthuizen is listed at 5 foot 10 and a generous 170 pounds. He was 27 when he prevailed at St. Andrews, then ranking 54th with six international titles, but none in the U.S.

Martin Kaymer seems much bigger, but his bio numbers show him at 6 foot, 165 pounds. He was 25 when he won the PGA Championship and ranked 13th, with seven international wins, but – you got it – none in the U.S.

And lastly, there’s Masters champ Charl Schwartzel, who’s 5 foot 11 and 140 pounds soaking wet. At 26 and ranked 29th when he won, he owned six international victories, but – altogether now! – none in the U.S.

It only appears on the surface like there is no prototype for winning majors, but the statistics show it’s very much the opposite. All recent champions have been within two inches and 30 pounds of each other. They were between 25 and 30 years old. They ranked between 13th and 54th in the world. And perhaps most tellingly, they owned five to seven career wins, but never had any of ‘em in the good ol’ U. S. of A.

So here he is, folks. Your 2011 U.S. Open champion is … 5 foot 11 and weighs 161 pounds … 27 years old … ranked 33rd in the world … owns six career international victories … and has surprisingly never won on the PGA Tour.

Now all we’ve got to do is plug some players into our U.S. Open supercomputer and we’ll actually have a name for this predestined winner.

Let’s try Justin Rose. At 30 years old, ranked 29th in the world and with six international wins, he’s pretty close, but a pair of PGA Tour victories and his 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame means he’s too big to fill these shoes.

Next up is Robert Karlsson.  He’s never won in the U.S. and his world ranking of 23rd is close, but he’s too big, too old and has too many wins around the globe.

How about Alvaro Quiros? The long-hitting Spaniard is 28, ranked 24th and has five international wins with none in the U.S. Could be our newest major champion, but at 6 foot 3, 182 pounds, he’s another guy who’s too large to be in charge.

Check out Francesco Molinari. He’s 5 foot 8, 159 pounds, 28 years old, ranked 20th in the world and has two international wins. So close, but not victory cigar.

If there was only someone else in the Molinari family …

Well, there is. And he just happens to be your prototypical major champion.

Edoardo Molinari is 5 foot 11, the exact average height of the recent major champions. He weighs 163 pounds – 32 ounces heavier than we wanted, but hey, he easily could lose a few in the Congo heat. He’s 30 years old – close enough. He’s ranked 35th – close enough. He owns two worldwide wins and none on the PGA Tour – close enough and perfect.

If pure numerology isn’t enough to get you excited about Edoardo’s chances, there’s some personal history at work, too. He’s already a U.S. Golf Association champion, having prevailed at the 2005 U.S. Amateur on Merion, another difficult East Coast course. In his first U.S. Open start as a pro last year, he was T-16 at Pebble Beach entering the final round before an 8-over 79 pushed him down the leaderboard.

Perhaps more importantly is the fact that he fits the recent champion trend. An elite-level player who has yet to make a name for himself at a major, he’s just the type of guy who’s been winning these things lately.

See, there really is a prototypical major champion. For the upcoming U.S. Open, his name is Edoardo Molinari – and much like McDowell, Oosthuizen, Kaymer and Schwartzel before him, he’s about to “shock the world,” too.

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Spieth, Reed in different groups during Tuesday practice

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 12:38 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Tuesday’s U.S. groupings at the Ryder Cup may give a glimpse into what potential pairings we will see this week at Le Golf National.

In the day’s first foursome, Tiger Woods, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed played together. The second group included Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas; and the anchor group was Bubba Watson, Tony Finau, Brooks Koepka and Webb Simpson.

Whether those groups will make up captain Jim Furyk’s version of the team’s pods, however, remains to be seen. Given that half of his team has never played Le Golf National, Furyk said he tried to match players on Tuesday with those who had some experience on the course.

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“Today is really about trying to learn the golf course and hit some solid golf shots,” Furyk said. “There may be some pairings out there and there's some groups there isn't. Just want them concentrating on their own game right now. They are very aware of who they will be playing with this week and they are very aware of some of the options they have.”

Given the success of previous pairings and some relatively obvious choices, it seems there are some likely options for the U.S. Woods and DeChambeau have become regular practice-round partners and at the Tour Championship they experimented with the other player’s golf balls on Tuesday.

It also seems likely that Spieth-Thomas and Fowler-Johnson will be paired in some form this week.

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Le Golf National nothing like wide open Hazeltine

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 12:00 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The layout at Le Golf National has a distinctly European feel, and captain Thomas Bjorn hopes to keep it that way at the Ryder Cup.

Gone are the wide fairways and short rough of Hazeltine, where the Americans bombed and gouged their way to their first team victory in nearly a decade. This week players will encounter one of the tightest and most demanding tracks on the European Tour, where water lurks around nearly every corner.

“Well this is a tough golf course, to start with,” Bjorn said Tuesday. “I like the idea of a golf course that’s set up like a championship golf course. You’ve got to identify guys that are hitting the golf ball well. Identify guys that are playing good golf that week.”

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Unlike the other recent Ryder Cup host venues on this side of the Atlantic, Le Golf National is somewhat of a known entity in that it annually hosts the European Tour’s French Open. It’s a tournament that Ryder Cup rookies Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren have won each of the last two years, while teammates Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia both cracked the top 10 in June.

That should give the Europeans an advantage when it comes to familiarity, and Bjorn’s plans for course setup included a desire to ensure the experience factor for his players would still be relevant this week amid larger-than-normal grandstands.

“There’s guys on this team that have played a lot of French Opens. I don’t want them to show up and it’s a completely different golf course to what they are used to,” Bjorn said. “This is very similar to what it is normally.”

Despite the similarities in setup, there will still be plenty of adjustments for the American squad. Justin Thomas was the only U.S. player to make the trek for this year’s French Open, and captain Jim Furyk admitted that only six of his 12 players had seen the course at all prior to this week.

“We’re just trying to figure it out,” Furyk said. “Europe knows this golf course well. They have played the French Open here. We’re trying to figure out the setup and what they have in store for the week.”

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Bjorn '85 percent' done with Ryder Cup pairings

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 11:45 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Practice-round groups at the Ryder Cup typically give fans a sense of what to expect when the Day 1 pairings are announced on Thursday afternoon.

Though European captain Thomas Bjorn said that “not too much” should be gleaned from his groupings during the first official practice round on Tuesday, he also doesn’t want to waste valuable time as players get adjusted to Le Golf National and each other.

Here were the three practice groups for the Europeans:

  • Sergio Garcia, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose
  • Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Paul Casey and Thorbjorn Olesen
  • Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Ian Poulter and Tyrrell Hatton

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“You get some of the new guys out with somebody with a bit of experience so they can talk the way around," Bjorn said, "but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are pairing up together."

It's worth noting U.S. captain Jim Furyk made similar remarks, that each of his three groups had at least one player who had seen Le Golf National previously.

“I don’t feel like I’ve given away anything in what’s happening on the golf course today,” Bjorn said.  

Still, Bjorn said that he’s “80 or 85 percent” certain of the pairings he’d like to use this week.

“I’m pretty set in my mind,” he said.

Asked where he was in his own process, Furyk joked “86 percent” before saying that he has a “really good idea” of his plan for Day 1 fourballs and foursomes.

“I think coming in here we both were going to have a plan of exactly what we wanted to try to do,” Furyk said. “There’s always going to be a reaction to what you’re seeing on the golf course, what you’re feeling, options to branch off of, but I’ve got a really good idea of what I’d like to do for Day 1.”

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Six players named in the race for Tour Player of the Year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 11:26 am

The PGA Tour announced six nominees for the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award on Tuesday; although, to many, it won’t be a competition.

Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose and Justin Thomas have been nominated for the Jack Nicklaus Award.

DeChambeau won three times this season, including the first two playoff events; Johnson was also a three-time winner and had 12 top-10 finishes; Molinari had two victories, including The Open; Rose won the FedExCup, and Thomas had three victories. But if player reaction last week at the Tour Championship was any indication, they are all vying for second place behind Koepka.

Although Koepka only had two victories they were both majors, the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, after missing a good portion of the season with an injury.

The Tour also released the five nominees for the Rookie of the Year Award, although that race appears to be a foregone conclusion as well. Aaron Wise was the only member of the rookie class to advance to the Tour Championship and also won the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Voting for both awards ends on Oct. 1.