When one golf season comes to an end, it's only natural to look ahead to the next season.
When you look ahead, you think about the upcoming majors and other key events like the Ryder Cup. Since there will be no Ryder Cup in 2013—one disaster every two years is enough—it's all about the majors.
Despite what they say in Augusta and in Great Britain, the U.S. Open is the most important of all the majors. It tests the best golfers in the world like no other tournament and it often produces shocking results.
The U.S. Open is almost always set up for the underdog. Tiger Woods won his third U.S. Open in 2008 at Torrey Pines in San Diego. Since that time, an underdog has won every year.
Perhaps you will disagree with that statement when you look at the past results and see that Rory McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open.
McIlroy is the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world and is clearly at the top of his game. He has very few weaknesses on the course and is always a contender every time he steps on the course.
However, at the start of the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional in Bethesda, Maryland, McIlroy was coming off a disastrous finish in that year's Masters.
He had led that tournament going into the final round, but he shot 80 when the money and the green jacket were on the table.
Few thought McIlroy would get it turned around so quickly.
Some of the U.S. Open's recent winners include Lucas Glover (2009), Graeme McDowell (2010) and Webb Simpson (2012). McDowell and Simpson are fine golfers, but those U.S. Open victories are the only major victories on their ledgers.
Glover won just a bit over $67,000 in 16 events on the tour in 2012 and has won three tournaments in his career. He is barely holding his position on the tour and doesn't seem likely to become one of the tour's notable players any time soon.
McDowell won more than $2.4 million on the tour this year, but he has not had a PGA tour victory since his U.S. Open win at Pebble Beach. He had two second-place finishes on the tour in his 16 events last year and it's not unusual for him to contend. However, it is unusual for him to get to the winner's circle
Webb Simpson is clearly coming into his own as a golfer. He won two tournaments in 2011 and was one of the better golfers on the tour in 2012. He put it altogether at the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club, winning with a 1-over par score of 281.
Simpson won slightly more than $3.4 million on tour in 2012, a figure that ranked 16th on the tour.
More often than not, its a good player who comes out of the shadows to win the biggest tournament in the world. The greatest players face enormous expectations and the pressure is huge.
That's why underdogs can survive and thrive in the most important tournament on the golf tour.