LIKE most of the Majors, the US Open is set up to be very fair, and that means accurate driving is a must for would-be winners. There is no rough at Pinehurst, which stages the tournament this year, so if you miss the fairway, it’ll be nigh-on impossible to get on the green.
Leading contenders also need to be in form. It may sound obvious, but it’s even more true on courses of this difficulty since, while it’s possible to fluke one brilliant round, by Sunday it will have caught up with you and evened out.
For those reasons, and others, I have to pick defending champion Justin Rose as my fancy to win it this week. Regular readers will know how highly I rate the Englishman; in my estimation he has not just the best swing but the best all-round game of any current player. I’m looking for huge things from Justin this year. Whether this weekend will be when he produces it again we don’t know, but winning that first Major 12 months ago has given him that injection of belief. He’s ticked all the boxes in his career already; now he just needs go and add more Majors.
Phil Mickelson would dearly love to go one better than the second-placed finish he has managed at the US Open on no fewer than six occasions and win the one Major to have eluded him. But I’m not convinced the American has the right game for this course – his driving isn’t always the straightest – while off-field distractions could mean that he isn’t in the ideal frame of mind.
My second choice would be Rory McIlroy, who won the tournament in such style three years ago. His game is sublime, as good as anyone’s on the planet, so he simply has to be among the contenders for that reason alone, but the Northern Irishman has also played his way back into form in recent weeks, culminating in victory at the PGA Championship at Wentworth last month.
Ian Poulter is another Brit who could prosper. He showed he is in good touch by finishing the St Jude Classic with a 64 on Sunday, and is very straight off the tee as well as a peerless wedge player, a vital quality at Pinehurst. Luke Donald went close at Wentworth and seems to have adapted to his new swing – he has a glimmer of a chance. Lee Westwood and 2010 winner Graeme McDowell are two big European players sitting outside the Ryder Cup places. They could use a good week; perhaps this will be it. Last year’s double money list champion Henrik Stenson is creeping back into gear and capable of anything, while 2003 winner Jim Furyk has been good all year and is another well suited to the conditions.
But my last pick is Martin Kaymer. The German is a superb driver of the ball and, following his win the Players Championship a few weeks ago, looks back to the level that saw him claim the USPGA Championship in 2010.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam