We’re always excited when it’s a major championship week.
But there are times when those extra special weeks are even more extra special… this is one of those times, as the world’s best players descend upon iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links for the 119th U.S. Open.
Pebble is synonymous with the U.S. Open. There have just been so many great moments there, whether it’s Jack’s 1-iron, Watson’s chip-in, Tiger’s 15-shot victory and so on. You really can’t beat a U.S. Open at Pebble.
This time around, Brooks Koepka – coming off a fourth major win at the PGA Championship just last month – enters as the two-time defending champion. He’s arguably the hottest player in golf – certainly in the majors the last two years – and has a chance to join Scotland’s Willie Anderson in 1905 as the only player to win the U.S. Open in three consecutive years.
If Koepka is to match that feat, it won’t be easy.
It’ll be so difficult, in fact, that not a single one of our caddies have him pegged for the three-peat.
Here’s a look at the players they believe you should be keeping a close eye on this week on the Monterey Peninsula…
- Jim Furyk. “He’s a longshot, but because he’s the most accurate driver of the ball I feel he will give himself a shot at the belt! Playing Pebble Beach as many times as these players have, the one who drives it in the fairway will have the least amount of stress and that’s what you want in a U.S. Open. Furyk knows Pebble well AND is a former U.S. Open.”
- Henrik Stenson. “He’s another excellent driver of the ball so, that being said, look for him to put himself in position all week to keep hanging around. Come Sunday all you want is to be hovering around and it all starts with the driver this week.”
- Paul Casey. “Another great driver of the ball – see the trend I’m going with here? Keep your eyes on the best drivers this week. We’ve got some gnarly rough that’s going to play havoc on every player so the best drivers will have the best shot. That’s my take and I’m rolling with it!”
- Dustin Johnson. Dustin Johnson has played well many, many times at Pebble. Remember, he could’ve won this thing the last time it was here! One of the best players in the world and playing that way after finishing runner-up to Brooks at Bethpage (who I have to stubbornly forget to mention yet again). This track seems to require a bit of NorCal comfort. Shout out to Johnny Goodman!”
- Rory McIlroy. “A Sunday 61 and shot tracer looked like a video game. Great warmup event and he just dominates. Remember The Players was on a course that requires accuracy and his ball flight could really shine, especially if the winds are lighter. He has the nuts and pedigree to take on all the holes bordering on the Pacific – 4-10, 17, 18. Will still be buried below headlines of Brooks and some other guy.”
- Tiger Woods. “This is like Steph Curry at Oracle. Tiger has played the course for over four decades! Seems like he’s going to have to play his absolute best to win against a top-heavy and deep field. But if he’s chipping and putting well in Jim Nantz’s backyard, I think he could finish on top outright or survive the first condensed playoff in the championship’s history.”
- Jason Dufner
- Keegan Bradley
- Rickie Fowler
This week is, for sure, a wide-open championship. A wide array of player can win because, for the most part, guys will hit it to the same spots off the tee, with the exception of a few holes. There’s a max distance to hit it off the tee on so many holes, and whether you need a 4-iron to 3-wood, doesn’t really matter that much. In a nutshell, it’s not a bombers paradise. It’s a position-off-the-tee paradise.
So, what’s the deciding factor. It’s second-shot iron play. Pebble Beach is a second-shot golf course that’s second to none. So, distance control with your irons is crucial. On top of that, flight control with your irons when the wind gets up, is crucial.
To pick guys who’ll be thereabouts late Sunday with a chance to win, you need to look at players proximity to the hole on their approach shots… In that category, Dufner, Bradley and Fowler rank eighth, fourth and T51 (just 2 feet outside the top 10, which shows you just how good these guys are), respectively this season.
These three players stand out.