June 14, 2011

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Players to Watch at the U.S. Open

By: Joe Williams

Come Sunday afternoon, thousands of fathers will sit down with their sons and watch someone capture the US Open on Father’s Day. It could be almost anyone in the 156 man field. The 2011 edition looks to be wide open. Tiger Woods is out with an injury. It will be the first time he hasn’t played since 1994. Vijay Singh’s consecutive major streak will come to an end at 67. It’s nearly impossible to predict who will win, but here are a few guys that will be worth watching.

David Toms

The 44-year-old is having a great season. He won the Colonial Invitational and really should have won the Players Championship, but lost in a playoff to K.J. Choi. He is one of the most accurate players on tour, but the length of Congressional could give him some trouble.

Sergio Garcia

He may have gone from ‘best player to never win a major’ to ‘biggest name to never win a major’ over the last year or so. If not for a last-minute change of heart, he would not even be in the field. But he decided to go to sectional qualifying and played his way into the field. Some time away from the spotlight could be just what Garcia needed to claim his first major championship.

Ernie Els

He hasn’t had a lot of success so far in 2011, but the last time the US Open was at Congressional, Els was the last man standing. 1997 was a long time ago, but the Big Easy should get some positive vibes from returning to the site of a major championship victory.

Matt Kuchar

He’s the most consistent player out there. He always seems to be in the top 15, but hasn’t won a lot to this point. If an American is going to win our national championship, Kuchar is at the top of the list.

Dustin Johnson

His unbelievable length will be a big advantage if he keeps it in play. He could easily have two major victories on his resume and would be the defending champion this week if not for a final round implosion at Pebble Beach. He is ranked in the top 10 in the world.

Lee Westwood

Lee Westwood

Westwood has had a Phil Mickelson like series of close calls in recent majors. He has five top three finishes in the last four years. You’ve got to think his time is coming and it could be this week.

 Phil Mickelson

It would be tough to find someone who wants to win our national championship more than Mickelson. He has had close call after close call in this tournament. He hasn’t done much since his win at the 2010 Masters. A win would likely vault him to top spot in the world rankings.

Steve Stricker

Maybe the best putter on tour. He’s playing well (top 13 finishes in his last five events) and coming off of a win at the Memorial. He’s still looking for his first major. His game seems to suit the US Open.

Luke Donald

The new number one ranked player is playing as well as anyone right now. He’s got the accuracy to stay out of trouble and his confidence should be riding high. His pairing with Westwood and Martin Kaymer should be an interesting group.

Graeme McDowell

Curtis Strange is the only back-to-back winner at the US Open in the last 55 years. Can McDowell do it at Congressional? It’s going to be a tall order. He has just one finish in the top 30 in his last five starts.