Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee makes his U.S. Open pick
The U.S. Open is not what it used to be — that is, the hardest test that the players faced each year. It is now more democratic in its punishments. In the last five years the winner has averaged right at 34th in fairways hit and a little better than ninth in greens hit. The five years before that, the winner averaged around ninth in fairways and sixth in greens. This change has given players a chance to win who under the old setups would’ve probably never been a factor, and as such makes it harder for the Hale Irwin types. You could also argue that it makes it more exciting, because recovery is now an option.
With all that said, though, Congressional might put a bit more bite back in the U.S. Open. It measures at a stout 7,574 yards, and the par-71 layout will be harrowing off the tee, especially on holes 6, 11 and 18. The sixth is now a great risk/reward par 5 that will allow for aggressive hole locations very close to the water. The 11th is a 494-yard par 4 with a creek running all the way down the right side that Tiger Woods played bogey, bogey, double bogey, bogey en route to winning in the 2009 AT&T National. The 18th is the old 17th hole, and a new tee will very likely leave the players with a mid-to-long iron from a downhill lie into a green heavily protected by water; this hole will make for a very exciting finish.
Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer will not be surprise contenders; everyone expects to see those two names near the top of a major leaderboard. But Rickie Fowler, Charl Schwartzel and Francesco Molinari might all surprise at the Open, because all are extraordinary shotmakers and seem destined for great things like Graeme McDowell was when he got to Pebble Beach last year.
In a bit of a stunner, Francesco Molinari could join his brother Edoardo, who won the 2005 U.S. Amateur, as a USGA champion by earning his first major victory at the 2011 U.S. Open.