This Open is wide open

The 111th U.S. Open begins this morning at Congressional Country Club. Here's what to expect:

Wide open

Tiger Woods is out because of injury, and Steve Stricker is the highest-ranked American in the field. Most experts (read: golf media) are calling this one of the most difficult ones to predict in years.

Europeans (Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer) and South Africans (Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen) have been getting the most ink in the last couple of years, while Americans have been shut out since Phil Mickelson won the 2010 Masters.

Weather

U.S. Opens on the East Coast are known for being sweltering affairs. So far this week that hasn't been the problem, but there is rain in the forecast for the opening round. If that's the case, it could make an already long (7,500 yards) layout play even longer and eliminate some of the shorter hitters in the field.

A wet course would seem to play into the hands of guys like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson or Lee Westwood. Short knockers like Luke Donald or Jim Furyk would be punished.

Intangibles

The U.S. Open is more about patience than anything else. Keeping mistakes that lead to big numbers is a must (see Johnson at Pebble Beach last year), and birdies will be hard to come by.

Golfers who start their rounds on No. 10 will face a daunting task right off the bat: the par-3 requires a lengthy tee shot over water. There is no bailout area, even in the nation's capital. Charley Hoffman dumped two balls in the water Wednesday during practice before finally taking an extra club and getting the third one on the green.

Does anyone really want to lead going into Sunday? With recent failures by Johnson, Nick Watney and Rory McIlroy, it might not be preferred. But I suppose it beats being out of contention.

And the winner is ...

Scott Michaux is going with McIlroy as his winner, Steve Stricker to place and Luke Donald to show.

Me? I'll take Lee Westwood to win, Phil Mickelson to show and Retief Goosen to place.

 

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