Posted by: Jack Persons
Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 7:29 AM
U. S. Open Preview
By. Jack Persons
Alright. Let's talk about the Open. Next week. Olympic. All I can say is that th ecourse is unbelievable right now. I didn't get to play the course from January until May, and when I got back a beast was waiting for me. Keeping in mind that I've played the course all my life, and I'm not a hack, 78 feels like a pretty solid score out there right now.
Mike Davis and Company, aka the United States Golf Association, have worked their magic on the course. It looks completely different from last year. Fairways have been moved, tees have been added, and most importantly, runoff areas have been added to many greens. This last one is the most important, because it adds a risk-reward element to a handful of holes. If a competitor plays aggressive and fires at a pin near a runoff area, there's a good chance it will roll off the green and make bogey or worse a distinct possibility.
The same goes for the rough off of the fairways and especially around the greens. Even through it wasn't at it's full height as of last week, I've lost a small bucket of balls from missing the fairway by even a yard or two. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but in all seriousness you can't find a ball unless you're standing directly over it.
I've heard alot of people say the key to winning here will be the approach shots. I disagree whoeheartedly. With the rough as thick as it is and the holes as tree-lined as they are, the focus should be on the placement of the drive. A great example is the 4th hole, dogleg left, fairway sloping down and to the right. If a player pushes it out to the rough on the right, they're gonna have a heck of a time hitting the green, especially with an approach shot going back up the hill intothe wind. On the contrary, the player who hits an accurate drive will set himself up for an easy approach opf no more than a 7-iron or 8-iron to a back to front sloing green. The course itself isn't lengthy enough to put long irons in every player's hands for approach shots, ; the key will be to hit as nmany fiarways as possible. If not, then the participants will be looking at a lot more par putts than birdie putts.
As for picks, I'm still deciding as I write, but I do know that I have to follow the history of the previous Opens at Olympic. The O.C. (and I definitely don't mean Orange County) is an underdog venue, where the favorite unfailingly falls to a long shot.
The previous winners (and losers) of Olympic-hosted OIpens:
1955 Jack Fleck (Ben Hogan) playoff
1966 Billy Casper (Arnold Palmer) playoff
1987 Scott Simpson (Tom Watson)
1998 Lee Janzen (Payne Stewart)
Major titles held by these winners: 7
Major titles held by these runners-up: 27
So if we follow the trend, who is the favorite destined to falter on Sunday afternoon?
Definitely Tiger. On the heels of his victory at the Memorial, Woods automatically became the man to watch in foggy San Francisco. He's hitting the ball straighter, more putts are dropping, and he's back to his old clutch form. Why not pick him then? Because that's just not the way it works out at Olympic. I don't care if he has the lead for 63 straight holes, it just won't happen when he gets to the back nine of the final round. If I were to pick someone to beat him. I would say Matt Kuchar. This isn't really a no-name type of pick, but he's played great this year., he's never won a major, and he's been here before, playing the '98 Open as an amateur. In face he finished T14 and claimed low amateur honors at 9-over. As well, Lee Westwood is playing well winning in Sweden this week, so as he brings the mementum to the West Coast, this would be a great chance to get rid of the "Best Player Never to Hve Won a Major" title (he might be tied with Luke Donald.)
Hopefully I'll see some of you out there on site! I'll be the half-Asian one.
Jack Persons plays for the George Washington University golf team in Washington DC, is the reigning Olympic Club Junior Champion, and notably made it to the Finals of the 2011 San Franciso City Championship and writes for Golfweek Magazine.