US Open 2011: Phil Mickelson & 7 Contenders with a Shot at the Next Major Title
They call it the U.S. Open because anyone who manages to qualify can play, and anyone who plays obviously has a chance to win.
Cinderella come-from-nowhere stories aside, here's seven contenders who can come-from-somewhere to win.
Obviously everyone will have an eye on Charl Schwartzel who emerges from the Masters with a brilliant winning performance that had him playing steady all week, and then catching fire when everything was on the line with four birdies on the last four holes.
Charl's style fits the U.S. Open format very well.
Another who cannot be counted out is Phil Mickelson.
Lefty, even though his play has been erratic lately, is the one big name from the old Ernie, Tiger, Phil days who actually has a chance and the audacity to bring home a U.S. Open Trophy.
With three green jackets and one PGA title to his name, you might say that Phil's record in the majors reflects a game more suited to Augusta than excruciatingly narrow U.S. Open venues.
But Phil holds the record with five second-place finishes in U.S. Opens, so if his game isn't made for the Open, it's the next best thing.
Certainly, having come so close so many times, the desire will be there in the man with the most short game magic in history.
One would never dream of counting Tiger Woods out of it, and if he had simply made the cut at The Players Championship you wouldn't.
But with a bad knee and his TPC WD, he does not seem to have his much discussed comeback in good enough shape to challenge for The John Deere, let alone the U.S. Open.
If Tiger had added all the muscle mass to his legs that he added to his upper body, he'd probably be a candidate to win the U.S. Open this year, and perhaps get a spot on the Olympic Decathlon team as well.
But he did not.
So let's go from hobbled to hot.
Apart from Schwartzel and Mickelson, it looks like Choi and Toms certainly have a fighting chance to best the U.S. Open field after their exhilarating duel at Sawgrass.
Both men, like the Masters Champ, play a made-for-the-U.S. Open game.
Which is to say straight, consistent, and in Choi's case unflappable.
Consider also slightly darker horses Martin Kaymer, Jason Day and Matt Kuchar.
These are contenders I'm picking over folks like Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson, who are higher in the World Rankings, but are too often wild and unsteady.
I don't see highly ranked Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell going all the way either, as they have evidenced recently that isn't their cup of tea.
Some of today's young guns have games work well in wide open places, but not real tight ones like Congressional Blue.
Thanks to the U.S. Open set-up, that course will frame the long narrow fairways with tons of pressure, and ankle-deep wet grass.
So my Magnificent Seven heading into the U.S. Open all have U.S. Open-ready accuracy and consistency.
These seven also bring to the game the hard-to-quantify, but all important attribute of grace under pressure.
This concept was first introduced to the world by Ernest Hemingway, who applied it to a quality needed by bullfighters when plunging a sword straight into the heart of a raging beast.
An act not unlike winning the treacherous U.S. Open.