Looking Ahead To The 2010 US Open At Pebble Beach

After a stellar Masters, it’s really not too early to look forward to the next major, the US Open. This year, after a decade’s absence, the premiere American public golf event returns to what is arguably America’s greatest public golf course—Pebble Beach.

The course is in many ways the polar opposite of Augusta. It’s raw and ragged on a windswept coast. A miss won’t land you in pine straw, but might put you in the Pacific. The rough will be unforgiving. It’s the US Open and won’t be won in an Augusta Birdie and Eagle barrage. If the USGA has this way, it’ll be won with a series of nerve-wracking, steady pars.

There are three good player stories going into the US Open:

Phil Mickelson has a good chance to win the US Open at Pebble. He’s won the AT&T three times on that course, and played well there earlier this year. Those wins weren’t under US Open conditions—the Pro-Am likely doesn’t even really compare to regular Tour conditions. But he does have winning experience. There are some intangibles there, too. He’ll be in his home state, riding the Masters win, and hungry for the US Open win that could help cement his place in golf history.

A Mickelson US Open victory also would open the floodgates of speculation about a Slam—and on four of golf’s greatest stages: Augusta, Pebble Beach, The Old Course, Whistling Straits.

Tiger, of course, won the 2000 US Open there in record-breaking fashion, lapping the field at fifteen under. But that was a different Tiger, with a different game. He surely was happier then, and more confident. And he was on a roll. That was the start of the two-year span that resulted in the Tiger Slam. One last thought on Tiger’s chances: The USGA doesn’t like holy par to be threatened, so you can be sure they’ve studied the tapes, and will have “Tiger Proofed” the links.

And then there’s Tom Watson, who just this week was given a special exemption into the Open. Watson won the Open at Pebble Beach in 1982. It’s unrealistic to expect Watson to compete the way he did at Turnberry or Augusta. But then again … Turnberry was a windy 7,204 yards. Augusta this past week clocked in at 7,435. Pebble Beach will be 7,040 yards. Watson has said repeatedly that he can’t compete because the length of the major championship courses. This one will be hundreds of yards shorter than either of his two previous surprises. He won’t win. But he might be in the Top 20 at the end of the week, and that would be incredible.

I suspect, though, that the winner won’t come from the expected places. Take a look at the betting favorites, as opposed to the winners over the past five years.:

Tiger Woods       5-1
Phil Mickelson       8-1
Ernie Els         9-1
Vijay Singh       13.5-1
Retief Goosen       13.5-1
Eventual winner: Michael Campbell

Tiger Woods: 4 – 1
Phil Mickelson 5-1
Ernie Els: 10-1
Vijay Singh: 12-1
Retief Goosen: 12-1
Eventual winner: Geoff Ogilvy

Tiger Woods 5-2
Phil Mickelson 7-1
Retief Goosen 18-1
Ernie Els 18-1
Vijay Singh 18-1
Eventual winner: Angel Cabrera

Tiger Woods 5-4
Phil Mickelson 10-1
Padraig Harrington 20-1
Jim Furyk 25-1
Ernie Els 25-1
Eventual winner: Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods 9/4
Phil Mickelson 8/1
Padraig Harrington 16/1
Geoff Ovilvy 18/1
Jim Furyk 22/1
Eventual winner: Lucas Glover

If you had bet on the favorites, you would have been right exactly once in the last five years. And Tiger’s victory was a near-run thing. That tells me that at a US Open, the rest of the field has as much chance as any of the leaders.

But for me, that’s one of the best things about the US Open. It really is “open.” Anyone can win—and sometimes, anyone does. Scott Simpson? Steve Jones? Michael Campbell? There are others.

So the next month and a half will be spent watching for clues as to who might step up and win on the grand stage at Pebble Beach.





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4 thoughts on “Looking Ahead To The 2010 US Open At Pebble Beach”

  1. I would bet on Phil before Tiger.  Especially if Tiger does take off everything but the majors and a couple other biggies.  (I would be surprised if Cheatah isn’t at the Players and Memorial.)

    But I really think it is pretty much an open field.  Phil should probably have the best odds, but Ernie needs to be up there too.  And depending on the status of the surgery, AK. 

    I guess Couples isn’t playing having said that 2008 was his last attempt to qualify.  He also should ask for an exemption.

  2. Great point about ‘Tiger-proofing’ PB, I hadn’t thought of that before. But I’d definitely love to see Phil win.

    I honestly think the US Open is my favorite major (probably just cause I’m an American, if I were any other citizen I would go with the British Open). There’s just something more natural about the US Open courses than Augusta. Obviously Augusta is gorgeous to see in TV, but it doesn’t seem cut out from nature the way a course US Open courses are (and by that measuring stick the British is clearly the top dog). And there’s something about the self-importance of the Master’s that gets to me. One thing I really like about the Opens is that they just seem to play courses that are more natural layouts.

  3. I personally think Phil has the best chance.  Tiger, I think< is pretty much out of it for the year.  He will almost always make the top ten in a tournament, but his performance at the masters was not up to “par” for Tiger.  He was not all there, his personal problems will continue to haunt him through the 2010 season, regardless of how the fans treat him.


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