In what is sure to be one of the greatest weekends of the sports year, the World Cup kicks off in Brazil at the same time that all of the golf world will be focused on the world-renowned Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina where the best golfers in the world will take on the second Major of the golf season in our nation’s Open Championship. The U.S. Open is always one of the most entertaining tournaments of the year as the PGA grooms the course and event to be one of the most difficult in the world and force players to focus on survival and scrambling just as much as they do going low and piling up birdies.
It shapes up to be a dream week of golf with an absolutely stacked field on a beautiful course and no clear favorite in the field. If you need a reminder of how winners can come from anywhere, all you have to do is look at last week when Ben Crane came out of nowhere to win the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
A surprise win like that usually makes for a low-scoring fantasy golf week and this week was no exception with delayed start times to rounds only adding to the difficulty. Ultimately, Hoochblues took the win for the week in our Fansided & Friends Yahoo! group (details to join here) with four players finishing in the top 15. Overall, Harbour Dogs maintained his lead in both the overall standings and the Spring segment of the competition.
This week, we get the added bonus of playing Best Ball over on ESPN, and you can join our Fansided group here if you want to compete in a one-week fantasy golf focus. In the standard Yahoo! game, here are my picks of the week for the U.S. Open.
Phil Mickelson: Mickelson is well-known for near-misses at the US Open and has a record six runner-up finishes at the second Major of the season. The first of his second place’s came at Pinhurst No. 2 when Payne Stewart won the day before Mickelson’s first child was born. There will be many echoes of that week this week, to be sure, but that wasn’t the last US Open contended at Pinehurst. The open returned in 2005, when Phil finished t33. Mickelson hasn’t had a great season, but a t11 last week in Memphis is reason to not count him out this week as Lefty looks to complete the Career Grand Slam.
Adam Scott: Scott hasn’t played a ton of events this year, but when he has played he has regularly been in contention including a win three weeks ago at Colonial. He followed that up with another top five at the Memorial the next week giving him eight top 25′s in nine events this season. The consistent Aussie has the game for this course and is playing too well to leave off your roster this week.
Other options: Could this be the year we get a Bubba Watson run at a traditional Grand Slam? Bubba’s a huge wild card since he is high-risk, high-reward–there’s no way to be sure how his unconventional game will fit this course even though he has been playing well on Tour this season. The anti-Watson is Matt Kuchar who is as steady as they come turning in top ten’s at almost every event he enters although there are legitimate concerns about his closing ability and ability to blast the ball high as this course appears to require. Another option who has quietly been putting together a consistent, solid season is former-Jayhawk Gary Woodland.
Jim Furyk: Furyk has had a season of near misses with seven top 20′s in his last eight tournaments including back-to-back runner-up finishes at the Wells Fargo and THE PLAYERS Championships. He has historically played well at US Opens and has the experience and game to contend anywhere as he navigates difficult courses. Last year he missed the cut and has alternated MC’s and top 20 finishes the last four years. He won the 2003 US Open at Olympia Fields and will look to be in contention again and finally convert his first win of the season.
Webb Simpson: Simpson won the US Open in 2012 and followed that with a t32 last year. He also had a strong finish in 2011 with a t14 at Congressional when McIlroy won which was Simpson’s first trip to the Open. Simpson has had a quiet season since winning the Shriners Hospitals Open back in October at the beginning of the wraparound year and following that with four top tens by February 2. He looks like he’s ready to step back into that form, though, with a t3 last week highlighted by a sizzling 66-69-66 finish in the last three rounds. He has been far from consistent this season but appears to be peaking at the right time and would be a popular Carolina connection if in contention on Sunday.
Jason Day: Day hasn’t played since the Memorial due to a nagging thumb injury. If he’s healthy, expect a big summer from Day which could start this week at the Open. He has the game that fits the course and the only thing that could slow him down is his injury. He’s a two-time US Open runner up and tailors his game for the Major Championships. Day will be in my lineup a lot the rest of the way, but I’ll start him on the bench to see how his first round goes for this tournament.
Rory McIlroy: Rory has put together a very nice season both in the US and on the European Tour. He just won the BMW Championship in England and has been in the top 25 in all nine of his PGA Tour events this season. His history at the US Open includes his win in 2011, a top ten in 2009, a pair of missed cuts, and a t41 last season. Starting Rory is a great option, but I only have three McIlroy starts left so I’ll see how he starts the week and insert him if he’s in the running.
Other Options: The B-List is stacked with really nice options including Jordan Spieth who is a very popular pick after a solid season and a good showing at the Masters. Last year’s PGA Championship winner, Jason Dufner was also in the top five in last year’s US Open and could contend if he can get his putter rolling as he’s shown signs of in back-to-back top 20′s in his last two tournaments. The defending U.S. Open Champ, Justin Rose is also on the B-List although that does mean a little bit less since this is a different venue. Rose is coming off a MC at the Memorial as well, but it’s hard to count him out since he’s typically such a steady option.
Jimmy Walker: Walker has been a little bit quieter lately after three wins early in the PGA season, but he’s still been putting up results and is coming off a top ten in his last start which was three weeks ago at Colonial. Walker has proven he can contend on tough courses with a win at Pebble Beach and top ten’s at TPC Sawgrass and Augusta National this year. Walker is the FedEx Cup Points leader, but he’s still being overlooked by many as a fantasy contender leading into this week which I think is a big mistake. I expect his name to be high on the leaderboard on Sunday and wouldn’t be surprised at all if his fourth win of the season is his first Major Championship.
Brendon Todd: If you’re looking for a player in his U.S. Open who is ready to make a splash, check out Todd who may be the hottest golfer coming into this week. In his last three tournaments, he’s been in the top ten each time including a win at the Byron Nelson Championship. He has virtually no Major experience, but his game seems to fit the course well which makes him an intriguing sleeper option if you’re looking to roll the dice on a player who comes in on a hot streak.
Other Options: Although I try to avoid him at Majors, Sergio Garcia is sure to be a popular choice and has been playing well. Fellow internationals, Graeme McDowell and Charl Schwartzel are also big names who seem to be on the leaderboard regularly in Majors and are good safe picks if you want to go a less risky route than Todd.