For the first time in U.S. Open history the Pacific Northwest’s, Chambers Bay will play host to golf’s 2nd of four majors of the year. Opening in 2007, Chambers Bay is characterized by its remarkable length (second longest in U.S. Open history), elevation change, and general links style architecture. Its layout is more characteristic of a British Open, and is far from most courses regularly played on the PGA tour. It reminds particularly of Wisconsin’s very own Whistling Straits, which served as the site of the 2010 PGA Championship and will host it once again this coming August. These types of courses favor those who can rip the ball off the tee, and hit greens in regulation, but of even more importance is course knowledge, which will tie directly into proximity to the hole off of approach shots. Many players have had negative reactions toward the courses tremendous difficulty level, but come tee-off on Thursday they will have to hide their animosity and mentally endure the bad holes that are bound to occur. With that said, here’s a look at the field and who I think will come out victorious.

The Favorites

Rory McIlroy (5-1)

The #1 golfer in the world has been in a bit of a slump as of late. He has missed two cuts in a row on the European tour, but with the confidence that McIlroy has in his game we should expect nothing but excellence from him. The 2011 U.S. Open winner’s game fits perfectly with this links style, kill the ball off the tee layout. While many players will be hitting lower arching 5 and 6 irons on their approach shots, McIlroy will have a tremendous advantage in hitting delicate, controlled 7 and 8 irons into Chambers Bay’s difficult greens. With two wins and a top 5 finish in McIlroy’s last 3 major appearances I absolutely love his chances to come away with his second U.S. Open victory.

Jordan Spieth (8-1)

With 6 top 3 finishes in his last 10 PGA Tour starts, its safe to say that the reigning Master’s champion has been on a roll as of late. He has risen to #2 in the official world golf rankings and is nipping at the heels of Rory McIlroy to top the rankings. Although Spieth cannot hit the ball nearly as far as guys like Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, he more than makes up for that with his putting and strokes gained from tee to green. Statistically Spieth ranks number 1 in putting average and #3 in 3-putt avoidance, both of which will be crucial with the enormous and sloping greens of Chambers Bay. Enhancing Spieth’s chances even more this week is his caddy Michael Greller who calls Chambers Bay his home course. This local knowledge is immensely valuable and could give Spieth that competitive edge that leads to his second major in a row.

Phil Mickelson (14-1)

Fan favorite Phil Mickelson enters this week on a hot streak in hopes of finally capturing the last leg of his quest for a  grand slam with a victory at the US Open this week. This is a title that has evaded Mickelson for the past 20+ years where he has had countless near misses and this may be one of his best chances at coming out triumphant. Lefty has three top 5 finishes in his last five starts, and has all of the tools in his bag for success at Chambers Bay. If Mickelson can get his putts to drop, and can keep his drives in play, I see no reason why Lefty wouldn’t be atop the leaderboard come Sunday.

Guys to Watch For

Billy Horschel (50-1):

With three top 15 finishes in a row, the 28-year-old, University of Florida alum seems poised to break out with his first victory at a major. He is very streaky, but when he is on his game, he is undoubtably a top 5 player in the world. Horschel is a GIR machine and if he can hit solid approach shots, he is certainly someone to look out for. The only issue with Horschel is that his game is not particularly suited for Chambers Bay. He seems to struggle on links style layouts missing the cut in the Open championship the past two years, but with the way he’s been playing, I think he’ll be able to overcome it.

Brooks Koepka (60-1):

Not many people are familiar with the 25-year-old American golfer, but after this week they certainly will be. Koepka was the winner of the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this year, and is coming off of a 3rd place finish at the St. Jude classic this past week. He is similar to Horschel in that he is not the best model of consistency, but as the number 10 ranked player on tour in driving distance, he can bomb the ball of the tee. To top it all off, Koepka is the 8th ranked putter on tour. This is a lethal combo for a course like Chambers Bay that emphasizes driving distance and strokes gained putting. He should definitely be on people’s radar for this week.

My Pick For the Week

Zach Johnson (70-1) 

This pick runs contrary to my continued emphasis on driving distance, where Johnson ranks 171st on tour, at Chambers Bay, but sometimes the greatest challenges bring out the best in a golfer. My belief in Johnson stems from his consistent solid play his past 3 tournaments where he has 3 top 20 finishes as well as in his past. In the 2010 PGA Championship, Johnson faced a Whistling Straits course that does not match with his style of play by any means, however he managed to finish T3 with Rory McIlroy. On top of that, Johnson has had great success on links style courses in The Open Championships finishing in the top 10 2 out of the last three years. ZJ is certainly someone to look out for come the weekend.

Bold Predictions 

  • After struggling for the past couple of weeks, I look for Tiger Woods to get his game back on track and advance at least to weekend play.
  • Long Hitting, PGA Tour Rookie Tony Finau (second cousin to Jabari Parker) will finish in the top 5.
  • Look out for a little known South Korean golfer named Byeong-Hun An who comes fresh off a six stroke victory at the European PGA Championship to qualify for the US Open.

References

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/golf/2015/06/16/rory-mcilroy-us-open-chambers-bay/28823167/

http://www.pgatour.com/players.html

http://www.denverpost.com/sports/ci_28317831/courtship-chambers-bay-at-us-open

http://www.cbssports.com/golf/eye-on-golf/25216042/here-are-15-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-2015-us-open