I do this with every major championship. But this time, I’m coming off a win of my own, having picked Trevor Immelman correctly to prevail at the Masters.
Immelman won’t win the U.S. Open, but there are plenty of others who won’t either. Here’s a look at who I think can win, who won’t win, and who will win.
Who Won’t Win
Phil Mickelson +9 Duh.
It doesn’t matter how many Colonials or Hartford Opens or even Players Championships Lefty wins, he’s simply not the same player in majors since his disaster at Winged Foot.
This was the U.S. Open that wasn’t supposed to get away. Tiger Woods is coming off knee surgery, it’s Lefty’s home course and he’s thrived on Torrey Pines in the past.
But then, like he has almost every major lately, Lefty overthought things.
Two years ago, it was two drivers at Augusta, though that led to a win. This year at the Open, it was five wedges and a 3 wood.
And a 9 on the 13th hole.
You know what, Phil? Play the darn golf course. Play golf. Just play. Leave the weirdness at home, and get back to where you were when you decided to scale back your game, not change how it’s played.
Brandt Snedeker +4 He’s become my favorite player on Tour, and even though he had the low round of the day on Saturday, he’s just too far back — and too late starting in the afternoon now — to make a charge.
Sneds would need another 68 to get into the thick of things, and maybe his experience at the Masters this year helps. He did go from tied for 65th and making the cut on the number up to tied for 16th to start Sunday, but it won’t happen. Nice run, though.
Davis Love III +3 At one point Johnny Miller said Love was “swinging really well.” The problem was, Love really wasn’t. He was missing fairways and greens and making a bunch of 5-footers for pars.
Then he stopped making them. That’s what the Open does to you after a while.
D.J. Trahan +1 He’s right there, nobody’s talking about him and he keeps hitting all the shots.
But even though he’s won on the PGA Tour this year, he hasn’t faced this kind of pressure yet.
Camilo Villegas +2 Not yet, but maybe soon. I don’t think this guy’s a flash in the pan.
Hunter Mahan +2 See above.
Who Can Win?
Rocco Mediate -1 The Open means more to him than any other tournament. Outside of Woods and Mickelson, he’s been the crowd favorite. And at 45, he’s been around and knows this is a lark.
He’s stayed loose, even when things were going bad. He was 4 over on on a three-hole stretch late in his round on Saturday, but came back with a big birdie on 17 to right the ship. He’s right there, and he’s not supposed to win. Sometimes that can go a long way.
Miguel Angel Jimenez +2 He seemed to play better than his 74 on Saturday. The consummate grinder on the golf course, it’s no wonder Jimenez seems to pop up in majors. Another guy who’s been around a while and won’t get rattled. He could be this year’s Angel Cabrera, but he needs an under par round to do it.
Sergio Garcia +3 He’s had back-to-back rounds of 70 and he won at The Players and contended last week in Memphis. That all suggests that his first-round 76 was the aberration.
Garcia has melted down on Sundays in majors before — including just last year at Carnoustie — but eventually he has to get it figured out. Few will talk about him coming into Sunday’s round, which should help him. He may need a 68 to do it, but it’s in front of him.
Geoff Ogilvy +1 He double bogeyed the 14th but came right back with a dart on 15 for birdie, completing a stretch in which he birdied three out of four holes. He’s streaky enough to get it done, just like he did at Winged Foot when Lefty served it up to him on silver platter.
Lee Westwood -2 He’s one shot back of the lead and he’s a big-time player. Westwood ascended to No. 4 in the world ranking in 2000 before his game collapsed, but he’s built it back up and he’s a solid round away from possibly winning his first major.
Westwood has the game — he’s straight, he has a solid putter and his short game on Saturday was impressive. He’s kind of reminiscent of Colin Montgomerie. Westwood has won 27 times around the world, 18 times on the European Tour. His winning would not be a surprise.
Who Will Win?
Tiger Woods -3 Of course.
What a round. His second double bogey on the first hole to start a round. His second eagle on the par-5 13th. He rips four straight drives wildly to the right — and eagles one of the holes and birdies another on a ridiculous chip. He limps after bad holes, strides after good ones.
And still he’s going to win.
After his second knee surgery, Woods came to Torrey Pines for the Buick Invitational and won. He’ll do it again after his third scope.
Maybe it’s karma — how else do you explain the 70-footer on 13, the one-bounce chip-in on 17 or the bomb on 18?
By saying he’s the best to ever play the game, that’s how.
Looking hard at it, the course is made for Woods, which is why he’s won there six times. Two reachable par 5s in the last six holes give him a huge advantage. Unless he misses every fairway, it’s his tournament to lose.
Remember, he’s never lost a major when holding at least a share of the lead after 54 holes.
He’ll make it 14-for-14 today.
And he’ll make me 2-for-2 this year.