Pinehurst is a bit of a mystery, or at least a riddle – and that’s reflected in the fact our senior staff’s picks range from young up-and-comers to players at their peak including Adam Scott and Bubba Watson to wiley veterans.
Which style will prevail? Read on to find our experts’ reasons behind their picks, and see which strikes a chord.
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David Dusek, senior writer
Winner: Adam Scott. Pinehurst is going to demand outstanding iron play, and the World No. 1 can hit ‘em high and far and accurately. The Aussie has the majors figured out, and with Steve Williams on his bag, he’s ready for anything Donald Ross, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore can through at him.
Player to watch (outside the top 50): Billy Horschel. A co-leader after 36 holes at last year’s U.S. Open at Merion, Horschel’s quietly getting his game back in order. Horschel tied for sixth at last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic and tied second for the week in greens in regulation (70.83 percent).
Low amateur: No one. A week from now, we’re going to be debating if Pinehurst No. 2 is as tough as Oakmont, which as of now holds the distinction of being the most brutal U.S. Open venue. I don’t see any amateurs making the cut.
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Nick Masuda, Director of Digital
Winner: Jordan Spieth. Yes, I know he is 20. Yes, I know this is only his third U.S. Open. Yes, I know that he has let opportunities slip at both the Masters and Players this season. But what is more important to know is that he has been in position. And he’s a quick learner. Golf needs a big story, and a 20-year-old winning America’s national championship would suffice, don’t you think.
Player to watch: Brooks Koepka. He has the game to set himself up with wedges into Pinehurst’s greens, as he is silly long off the tee. If he finds fairways, he could be quite dangerous.
Low amateur: Robby Shelton. All right, so maybe there is a theme here: the young guns doing well when experience is supposed to mean something at the U.S. Open. I was tempted to go with Matthew Fitzpatrick or Cameron Wilson here, but watching Shelton on the back nine in his final match at the NCAA Championship showed me the kid can handle pressure.
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Jim McCabe, senior writer
Winner: Jason Dufner. Only one man can say he was top five in each of the last two U.S. Opens: the quiet guy from Auburn. He was T-4 at The Olympic Club in ’12, T-4 a year ago at Merion, and arguably no one has a demeanor more suited to the national championship than him.
Player to watch: Justin Leonard. If you’re looking for a long shot, why not go really long? The veteran from Texas is No. 175 in the world order, but he has shown a steadiness to his game this season. For good vibes, he was T-15 here in ’99 and T-23 in ’05.
Low amateur: Cory Whitsett. Put an asterisk next to it, if you want, because he’s only hours away from being a professional. But the big, strong lefty is in great form, coming off a sparkling collegiate season, and primed for great things.
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Alex Miceli, senior writer
Winner: Adam Scott/Bubba Watson. I’m conflicted. Both had a chance to win at Memorial and didn’t get it done; yet it was nothing more then a bit of bad luck for Scott and pulling the wrong club for Watson. Both also left Columbus feeling good about their games. I’m breaking the rule and picking both.
Player to watch: Paul Casey. He has worked to return to form and is in the mix in almost every tournament he plays in. It wasn’t that long ago that Casey was in the top five in the world.
Low amateur: Matt Fitzpatrick. The U.S. Amateur champion is playing in his last event as an amateur. Fitzpatrick’s long game is solid and it will depend on his short game. If he brings his short game from The Country Club, he will be fine.
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Jeff Rude, senior writer
Winner: Steve Stricker. Have to chip and putt well (making stuff from 5-10 feet) on Pinehurst’s turtle-back greens, and that’s Stricker’s specialty.
Player to watch: Jonas Blixt. This guy has one of the best short games around. He’s not the straightest driver, but there’s some room off the tee.
Low amateur: Matt Fitzpatrick. He’s turning pro after the Open. Good chance the U.S. Amateur champion will end his amateur career as low amateur in Open.
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Adam Schupak, senior writer
Winner: Jim Furyk. The 2003 U.S. Open champ has rediscovered his love for the game this season. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a perfect 12-for-12 in cuts made with five top-10 finishes. Even without any rough, driving will be at a premium at Pinehurst and Furyk is as accurate a driver of the ball as they come (11th in driving accuracy this season). Still, there will be a lot of missed greens and Furyk ranks first in scrambling this season. Plus, he switched last month to a counter-balanced putter and it has become friend, not foe. Furyk checks all the boxes for me and has shown he still has the game to win a second major title.
Player to watch: Billy Horschel. He displayed a U.S. Open-style game last year at Merion when he hit all 18 greens in regulation in the second round. At No. 90 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, his season has been underwhelming so far but his recent form is encouraging (T-6 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic and four rounds at par or better). When he’s “on” his ball-striking is top-10 on Tour. I have a feeling his putter is starting to behave too.
Low amateur: Cameron Wilson. I’ve been following his career since he was competing in the Met Junior (my dad once handed him a runner-up trophy there). Winning the men’s individual NCAA title was no fluke. He was overshadowed by Patrick Rodgers at Stanford but Wilson, who got into the U.S. Open as an alternate, has a chance to show the world just how good he can be.
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The 2014 U.S. Open field according to the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings: