PGA Tour Preview: The US Open at Oakmont

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The Hardest Course In The United States?

Oh, good ol’ Oakmont Country Club just outside of beautiful Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Host to eight (will be nine) Men’s US Open Championships, two Women’s US Opens, three PGA Championships, five US Amateurs, and three NCAA Championships.  A timeless course known for its trees, its huge reduction in trees, absurdly fast greens, and some big sand trap known as the “Church Pews” Bunker.  Based on social media the last few weeks, the rough looks to be brutal, especially in front of the green at 17, and the greens have picked up speed since players began heading to Pittsburgh in April and May of this year.  Scared may be the wrong word to use, but if I had to play at Oakmont this week, I’d be terrified.

The 7,255 yard Par 70 course might be the toughest challenge the Tour faces this year, and for good reason: the US Open is generally the hardest, highest scoring event of the year.  In order to win at Oakmont, players are going to need to be long and accurate off of the tee, and have pin-point accuracy into the greens.  Oh yeah, and once they get to the greens, they will be rolling at about a fourteen.  Definitely no walk in the park.  I would put some good money on it that there won’t be any Johnny Miller 63’s posted this week.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet that the winning score will be a few strokes over par (I’m calling the winner at +4).  But regardless of what I think, we will all be in for an exciting week of golf this week at Oakmont Country Club.  Regardless of what happens, it can’t be worse than last year’s train wreck at Chamber’s Bay, can it?

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Tom’s Picks

As with every set of picks I make, I’m usually way off of the mark.  The reason I want to continue to post them?  I have to make them anyways.  You see, I have this itch for gambling that I frequently need to scratch, so I organize a pool for all of the major tournaments at my day job.  The pool works as follows:

  • Pick one player from each of the following in the Official World Golf Rankings
    • 1 – 5
    • 6 – 10
    • 11 – 20
    • 21 – 30
    • 31 – 50
    • 50+ (2 picks from this group)
  • The scores for each player are tallied up, and the lowest score wins
  • If someone misses the cut, they will card the highest round of Saturday and Sunday respectively, then have 1 stroke added to that score.

If you make it to the weekend with nobody missing the cut, you’re in really good shape.  With that said, here are my picks for the US Open at Oakmont this week:

1 – 5: Jordan Spieth – So I’ll admit, I’m a bit biased here.  I absolutely love Jordan Spieth.  But with that said, I feel that his game just sets up for The US Open.  He’s long enough off of the tee, he’s got good accuracy, and most importantly, the kid can putt.  While most people are picking Jason Day in this spot, part of being able to win the pool is picking differently than everyone else.  With that said, regardless of the pool, I’m going with Spieth to repeat as the US Open Champion.

6 – 10: Dustin Johnson – DJ is a really popular pick this week.  He’s got a great season going, and he’s fared well at The US Open.  If he can get his putter going, DJ will be a major threat to capturing his first ever major championship.

11 – 20: Hideki Matsuyama – With a course like Oakmont, where ball striking and accuracy will be huge, Matsuyama immediately jumps to mind.  With his slow tempo, paused swing, he hits the ball a country mile, and his putting isn’t half bad either.  I’d look for Matsuyama to finish in the top 10, with a threat to win the whole shebang.

21 – 30: Zach Johnson – I’ll be the first to admit, I was never a huge Zach Johnson fan.  I thought he was boring to watch and played extremely slow.  However, the more and more I watch him, the harder it is to dislike the guy.  He seems like an awesome guy off of the course, and he had a solid all-around game.  His ball striking ability and awesome putting will keep him in contention at Oakmont.  He has never fared well at the US Open, but I think his game is in a good enough spot to content this year.  Oh yeah, and the fact that he’s a PXG guy makes him even more likable to me.

31 – 50: Kevin Chappel – This pick is always the hardest for me, but I’m going to go with Chappel on this one.  He’s made the cut at 4 of the last 5 US Opens, with 2 of those 4 being top 10’s.  If he finishes in the top 25, it’s a pick well spent.

50+ aka “The Sleepers: Jason Dufner and Billy Horschel – Will so many people to choose from in this group, I’m going with Duff-Daddy and Billy Ho.  Dufner has only missed one cut in his last 4 US Opens.  The other three starts resulted in two 4th place finishes and a 18th.  I’ll take my chances on him.  His game is in good shape, he’s pretty accurate, and he’s won on Tour at the CareerBuilder Challenge earlier this year.  That, plus his nonchalant attitude (probably due to the 3 cans of dip he goes through every round) is perfect for a US Open setup because he’s always calm and relaxed.  We will see if that pays off.  Either way, if he does hoist the trophy this year, it will be a bummer not to be able to see him give Amanda the ol’ butt pat after the victory.

Billy Horschel is always a wildcard for me.  While he has won the FedEx Cup, his game has also been atrocious at times.  While he openly complained about Chamber’s Bay at last year’s Open (didn’t everyone though?), Billy knows what he’s in for this go around.  He fared well at the Masters, and he’s a PXG guy too, so why not pick him?

Well, there you have it folks, Tom’s “Most Likely Awful” picks for the US Open.  I hope everyone enjoys the tournament this year, and more importantly, hopefully you win some money.

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Tommy O'Connell

Contributing Tour Editor
Tommy is California-born and currently lives and works in Chicago. When not traveling the United States and beyond for work, Tom can often be found spending too much time at the golf course or surfing the web to stay up to speed on everything golf, hockey, college basketball, and football.

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