With Tiger Woods missing his second straight major tournament, many golf fans are suggesting that there is no good reason to tune in to the U.S. Open in Pinehurst, N.C.
Woods is the most polarizing figure in the game since Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, but the idea that this weekend will not be entertaining is short-sighted. Here are five reasons to tune to this year’s Woods-less U.S. Open in Pinehurst:
1. Phil Mickelson going for the career grand slam
Many of the world’s best players envy Phil Mickelson’s career, but there is one prize missing from his trophy room – the U.S. Open Championship Trophy.
The U.S. Open has been a “white whale” for Mickelson, who has finished runner-up six times, including at Pinehurst in 1999. Mickelson probably has a place saved right next to his Wanamaker Trophy (PGA Championship), Claret Jug (British Open) and three Green Jackets (Masters). If he can keep his focus, Mickelson may finally complete his collection.
2. The young guns
In what can be considered an older man’s game, young talent has surged in the last few years.
Rickie Fowler has one PGA Tour victory and is coming off of a top-five finish at the Masters at 25. Look for Fowler to be playing in a late pairing on Sunday afternoon. Hideki Matsuyama, 22, has been hailed as the best chance to bring a major tournament to Japan after his PGA win and top-10 finish at the last U.S. Open and British Open.
But the favorite of the young guns is Jordan Spieth. The 20-year-old marked his first win on the tour at the age of 19 and is coming off a second-place finish at the Masters in April. The three will play in the same group together to start the tournament today.
3. The possibility of a new major champion
There are several seasoned players on the course this weekend that are looking to earn the revered title of major champion.
Brandt Snedeker has won six PGA Tour events including the TOUR Championship at East Lake and has finished tied for third at both the Masters and the British Open.
Jason Day boasts two PGA Tour wins, including the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. Day has also had some impressive showings in major tournaments, finishing in the top-three twice both at the Masters and the U.S. Open.
But Lee Westwood is the best professional golfer yet to win a major. The formerly top-ranked golfer in the world has a professional win count in the 40s, including wins on the European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, Asian Tour and the PGA Tour. Westwood has finished top-five in major tournaments 10 times, placing second at the Masters and British Open.
4. The course
Pinehurst is a golfer’s dream.It is home to an eight-course resort and any lover of the game would easily feel at home. The No. 2 course has been host to two previous U.S. Opens and will host both the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open in consecutive weeks this year.
But the course has been restored to its old layout. Widened fairways expand the strategic possibilities, and removed rough replaced with natural areas of sand, wiregrass and pine straw may cause trouble when it comes to making shots and interpreting the rule book.
5. Unpredictable outcomes
The last 20 major tournaments have been won by 17 different golfers from seven different countries on five different continents. Any player on the course can hit a hot streak or fall apart at any given time.
The winner will be whoever can get under par, as long as the rain stays away, and scores probably will not reach below five-under for the tournament.
The course officials will cut the holes for each day in some challenging locations no matter the conditions, adding excitement to what will already be a captivating U.S. Open.
Joe Mallette is a 26-year-old mass communication freshman from Lake Charles.