And with that, here is my top-25 for the upcoming U.S. Open, with a caveat: Just in case you didn’t realize it from the guy in the No. 1 position, these aren’t the favorites, but rather my predicted order of finish.
1. Edoardo MolinariIf the similarities with recent winners aren’t enough, he also won a U.S. Amateur on an East Coast, tree-lined course.
2. Alvaro QuirosThe longest hitter on any major tour, when his short game is on, he can be unbelievably tough to beat.
3. Robert KarlssonLast year’s hot play one week beforehand in Memphis led to a T-27; this year expect much better.
4. Matt KucharBased on recent track record, tough to envision a leaderboard anywhere that doesn’t include Kooch.
5. Justin RoseHampered by a few illnesses, but now ready to contend and always gets hot this time of year.
6. Lee WestwoodClose calls in majors – five top-3s in last four years – should be perceived as positive experiences rather than bad signs.
7. Dustin JohnsonWhen one interviewer recently told DJ that lengthy Congressional suits his game, his eyes lit up.
8. Phil MickelsonThis championship is Lefty’s white whale, but he’ll soar in the polls with a win in the nation’s capital.
9. Davis Love IIIRyder Cup captain likes his chances at Congressional. “It’s big, long and hard,” he said. “Suits my game.”
10. Luke DonaldFifteen top-10s in last 16 starts, but zero in seven career U.S. Open starts. Something’s gotta give.
11. Gary WoodlandFirst player to reach field via new U.S. Golf Association exemption policy for top 50 in the world after FedEx St. Jude.
12. Hunter MahanEven this ball-striker supreme can’t hit all the greens – and he’s been known to be dicey from greenside rough.
13. Rory McIlroyGreat story if he can recover from back-nine meltdown at Augusta to contend once again.
14. Steve StrickerWorld No. 4 owns just three career top-5s in majors – but two of ‘em were at the Open.
15. Nick WatneyRarely mentioned among PGA Tour’s longest hitters, but his distance off the tee matches almost anyone.
16. Patrick Cantlay (a)Hot on the heels of winning the Jack Nicklaus Award as a UCLA freshman, he cruised through the PGA Tour player-laden Columbus sectional.
17. Fredrik JacobsonKnown as “Junkman,” this noted scrambler should benefit if the leading score remains close to par.
18. Martin KaymerHasn’t played his best golf recently, but the reigning PGA champion has the talent to win anywhere, anytime.
19. Francesco MolinariIf the other Molinari brother wins the title, I’m taking partial credit with my pick to win.
20. Ian PoulterQuickly becoming known as a match play magician, he could thrive in a final-round final pairing.
21. Jonathan ByrdLongtime pro is enjoying a breakthrough season with one win and a few other title contentions.
22. Robert RockOne of the few players on a major tour without a hat deal, he looks like a throwback without one.
23. K.J. ChoiOnce won the AT&T at Congo, but No Player has ever won the Players and U.S. Open in same year.
24. Jim FurykHas yet to win this year, but remember: His U.S. Open victory in 2003 was first of that season, too.
25. Fred FunkNo, he’s no longer competitive on the PGA Tour, but the Maryland native may find some magic this week.