Tiger Woods is, of course, the heavy favorite to win this weekend’s U.S. Open, the second major of the golf season, which is taking place at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania. Woods has won four tournaments this year, trailed by Matt Kuchar who has just two, and looks to be back in old form. His bid to win the last major, the Masters, fell short thanks to an illegal drop penalty called in by a television viewer. But as any golf fan knows, all bets are off once it’s Thursday and all predictions are meaningless, so we figured that we would make some predictions.
So without further ado, here are five guys other than Tiger that have a good chance of contending at the U.S. Open:
This fiery Spaniard comes in on top of our list of U.S Open contenders who aren’t named Tiger Woods because of Tiger Woods. Sergio is angry right now. At the Players Championship — also known as the “fifth major” — in early May, Sergio was neck and neck with Tiger down the home stretch on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass. And then came the infamous seventeenth hole: the “Island Green.” The par-three’s tee shot is just 132 yards from the green, but there’s nothing but water in between and the green is a 78-foot long island.
Sergio managed to dunk two balls in the water followed by another on the final hole, and finished nowhere near winner Tiger Woods at the end of the day. The two had a rift earlier in the weekend when Tiger distracted Sergio during a fairway shot. That led to the “fried chicken” comment that got Garcia in some hot water.
But that’s hot water under the bridge now, which is good news for Sergio. When he plays angry, like he did at the Players, he blows up and loses tournaments. Him and Tiger are apparently on good terms now, as it seems that Garcia left a love note in Tiger’s locker yesterday. A happy Sergio is a good Sergio. And if Tiger’s experience with golfing during emotionally stressful times is any indication, it’s a good thing that Garcia is moving on from his blatant racism.
Three words: Tony Romo Syndrome. We all know what happened when Romo started dating Jessica Simpson. He got distracted by her really great personality (read: boobs) and his play took a toll because of it. Well, McIlroy is dating Danish tennis player and absolute bombshell Caroline Wozniaki, and he has been horrific since they got together. After winning his second major in 2012, McIlroy has been almost entirely uncompetitive and has not looked like the player that took the PGA Tour by storm a few years ago.
But, I am a strong believer in Rory nonetheless. I think that he can overcome his case of TRS as long as he gets all of his “quality time” (wink, wink) with Woz out of the way before the tournament. I’m sure it’s very hard for Rory to go four straight days, an entire weekend, without any of said “quality time” (wink, wink), so instead of working on his short game today, he should be getting all that Woz out of his system so she isn’t on his mind come tee time on Thursday. If he does this, he could and should be very competitive at Merion this weekend.
A stark contrast to Rory McIlroy’s struggles, Dustin Johnson has been playing some of his best golf since he began dating Wayne Gretzky’s oldest daughter Paulina. He won a tournament back in January, his seventh ever on the PGA Tour. He has his best Masters finish this year. Much less common than TRS but still prominent is Tiger Woods Syndrome, or TWS. This is when an athlete seems to only perform while in a relationship of some sort.
Tiger was married to Elin Nordegren from 2004 to 2010, the peak of his career. When their relationship ended in a divorce following his widespread and rampant adultery with more women than you can count on your fingers, his game took a downward spiral, only to recover when he began dating skier Lindsey Vonn. It seems that Dustin has a case of TWS, and there’s nothing wrong with that if you’ve seen what Paulina looks like.
Mickelson has finished in second place at the U.S. Open a whopping five times in his career. Isn’t it about time that he wins one? Probably not, but you can never count Lefty out of any tournament, even if he had to skip the last practice round to go to his daughter’s middle school graduation. And the idea of a Phil-Tiger battle on Sunday is too exciting to leave him off of this list. Mickelson finished second in the FexEx St. Jude Classic last weekend at TPC Southwind, so he comes into Merion with some momentum and is playing good golf after taking a month off following a terrible showing at the Players. As long as he doesn’t slip on some rocks this weekend, he should be just fine.
Just joking. He isn’t winning another major this quickly. It took him nearly fifty attempts for his first.
Kuchar is playing exceptionally well this year. He is the only player other than Tiger Woods with more than one tournament win this year (he has two), and has six top-ten finished in the season already. He won the last tournament that he played in — the Memorial Tournament — two weekends ago, and posted a second-place finished in the Crowne Plaza Invitational the weekend before. Kuchar played well in this year’s first major, finishing eighth overall at Augusta. Expect to see Kuchar contend this weekend.