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Maderas: 2015 U.S. Open Preview W/Chris Mayson Prediction

The venue alone already guarantees the 115th U.S. Open will be like no other. Built specifically for the purpose of hosting an Open, Chambers Bay is the first course to bring major championship golf to the Pacific Northwest.

If you’ve caught a glimpse of the course on ESPN or the Golf Channel, the Puget Sound backdrop all but guarantees this will be the most scenic venue ever for an Open. Whether it makes for great golf remains to be seen as no PGA event has ever been contested here. Chambers, the University of Washington’s college course, is a mere eight years old.

The uniqueness of the venue is the lead story, but the place holds the potential of an epic Open due to the game’s elite players playing their best right now. The tour could’ve scarcely scheduled the winners any better thus far to make the case for golf’s next generation.

What follows is our Open overview with predictions to follow from Maderas Director of Instruction Chris Mayson, who’s turning into something of a savant at this. He’s 2 for 2 in 2015 (Farmers, Masters) at picking the winner. Can he go 3 for 3? You’ll see in a few minutes.

On to the preview …

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1. Hello, Chambers Bay – Built on ground that used to be a gravel quarry, one that helped pave many Seattle streets and roads, Chambers is links-like. It only has one tree, thus making for a venue you’re used to seeing over the pond. But the elevation changes are what keeps it from being a true links. The course is truly a roller coaster right down to its complex greens, which make Maderas’ look downright flat. You get the impression Chambers will look like golf in a pinball machine. Will it drive the best golfers in the world to tilt?

2. U.S. Open or British Open? – Like Pinehurst a year ago, Chambers is a departure from the U.S. Open norm of deep rough beating the field into submission. You may recall that Martin Kaymer putted his way to victory at Pinehurst, choosing the flat stick repeatedly in green-side scenarios. A similar game plan could be one of the keys to victory at Chambers.

The course is one of the longest in Open history, but advance reports suggest that length might be mitigated by dry conditions that are allowing the ball to roll. Two weeks of pristine, and unseasonably dry, Seattle weather have made for a fast course.

Predicting a score at with no professional track record is tricky, but ESPN’s Andy North suggests the pros have already caught a break with calm winds in the forecast. With its teeth in, North suggested, even par or worse might win.

3. Spieth-Mode – The last time Jordan Spieth was seen in a major, he was at the Masters doing a Marshawn Lynch impersonation – unstoppable.

It’s continued to be his year on Tour and he’s a favorite again at Chambers for two reasons: His caddie knows the place and Spieth is one of the few to have played Chamber in competition (the 2010 U.S. Amateur).

Given the way his year is going, it’s nearly unfathomable to envision Spieth not in contention and if it comes down to putting, who would you take over him right now? Anybody? Some are suggesting he’s knocking on the door of being the best putter in Tour history.

4. The Case for Rory – On his way to becoming world No. 1 – Spieth is 2 – Rory shredded Muirfield a year ago to win the British. So clearly this style of golf suits him.

Is Rory ready to re-capture his major momentum in what’s been a bit of an up-and-down season for him? There’s no question he’s got the length. But can he find the consistency to put together four steady rounds during what might become, as many are suggesting, a war of attrition and supreme test of patience?

5. Creativity Counts – Many golfers, including Tiger, have talked about how many ways there are to play the holes at Chambers Bay. Andy North suggested it’d take “25 to 30” rounds to truly learn the place.

There’s an emphasis on creativity and there’s no more creative player on Tour than Phil Mickelson. Could Mickelson at his crafty best pull it off this week to complete the career Grand Slam?

Mickelson went T-2 at the Masters showing he can still get up for the majors. He’s a dark horse this week, but an under-the-radar Phil could be dangerous.

Now on to our expert … Chris Mayson.

Chris: From what I have heard from the PGA Tour players, it sounds like Chambers Bay is pretty long and open but will throw up some tricky tests around the green. I have a feeling that this will produce a random winner from outside the top 40 in the world. Maybe a European who is used to playing links golf?!

My safe pick is Rory McIlory. Very boring choice, but he grew up on links golf, he hits it long and straight and is clearly the best player in the world.

JC Golf: U.S. Open Preview & Picks By The Pros

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          As the year’s second major, the U.S. Open, arrives, storylines abound that, refreshingly, don’t involve Tiger Woods.

Unlike the Masters, Woods’ absence at Pinehurst has been barely a blip on the media radar this week. Instead, players who are actually playing in the tournament have been the storyline and, of course, the course itself.

According to my golf-centric Twitter feed, these are the lead stories going into the tournament.

  1. Can Phil Mickelson complete his career Grand Slam?

After his win at the British Open last year, Mickelson has now won them all, save for the Open, at which he’s finish second an incredible six times, including at Pinehurst 15 years ago. Despite his clout of having won five majors, a Mickelson victory seems a bit unlikely when you consider his atypically quiet year on Tour. And he’s tinkering with his putting grip (going to the claw), which is already drawing doubters. As one columnist wrote, “There goes Mickelson, out-thinking himself again.”

But a Mickelson victory would certain give the Tour season a shot in the arm. As would …

2. Will Jordan Spieth Finally Break Through?

The Next Big Thing in golf would erase the “Next” with a major championship. To do it, he’ll have to learn to close, something he’s been unable to do thus far this season. But after finishing second to Bubba Watson at the Masters, a breakthrough at the U.S. Open would announce an arrival that seems inevitable. But as Jack Nicklaus says of Tiger Woods’ major chase: You haven’t done it until you’ve done it.

3. A Classic Venue Restored

Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore oversaw a $2.5 million renovation of the No. 2 course to restore it to the original Donald Ross design and a more natural state. Among other things, that meant removing turf and restoring bunkers and waste areas. As a result, this Open isn’t expected to play like an Open in that it won’t have ankle-high rough. However, in the practice rounds the pros have reported that the greens have been tough to hit, thus the winner’s chance possible riding on a strong short game, which (back to No. 1) … hello, Lefty.

But the course setup has some forecasting controversy …

4.  Could We See A Rules Controversy Like the 2010 PGA?

The 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits is where a rules controversy erased Dustin Johnson’s best chance at a major victory. He grounded his club in what he believed to be a waste area instead of a bunker. He thus invoked a two-stroke penalty that cost him the championship.   

Similar course conditions at Pinehurst abound, meaning the rules official is certain to get a workout this week. Something to watch for, but here’s hoping we don’t have another major overshadowed by a rules controversy.

There’s also the chance for Bubba Watson to notch a second major and really put some sizzle into the Tour season. But none of our JC pros chose him. Their picks are listed below.

Erik Johnson, General Manager, Encinitas Ranch

Rory McIlroy – I think he has momentum on his side and his game 9and mind) are now sharp enough to return to top form

Adam Scott – He has become one of the most consistent players on the planet (hence his No. 1 world ranking), he is one of the best ball-strikers in the game, so if the putter is working he should be a favorite

Long Shot…..Webb Simpson – Wait a second, a former champion as a long-shot?  After the 2012 championship, his game has fallen off, but he is getting hot at the right time and has the experience to prevail.

Jay Navarro, Tournament Director, Temecula Creek Inn –

Webb Simpson – Played well in the FedEx.

Troy Ferguson, Head Golf Professional, Twin Oaks –

Graham DeLaet. Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Blake Dodson, Director of Golf, Rancho Bernardo Inn

Jordan Spieth – Too young to be scared of the U.S. Open.

Lloyd Porter, Head Professional, Reidy Creek and Oaks North

Sergio Garcia – My wife’s favorite.