The U.S. Open kicks off at Pinehurst this week, and Brandel Chamblee and Brandon Tierney can’t wait – albeit for slightly different reasons.
“The golf course looks fabulous,” Chamblee, a Golf Channel analyst, said on The Morning Show. “I’m excited to watch how it plays.”
Tierney, on the other hand, is just excited to see people struggle.
It’s not that Tierney likes seeing golfers get frustrated; it’s just that the U.S. Open has a way of humanizing – or better yet, mortal-izing – the best golfers in the world, which makes them easier to relate to.
This year should be no different, as Pinehurst’s typically tough roughs have been replaced with sandy waste areas.
“I think it’s going to play firmer and harder than people expect,” Chamblee said. “The idea of wide fairways – it sounds generous and it sounds inconsistent with past U.S. Opens – but after about 90 feet away from the center of the fairway, it gets brown. So any shot leaking that way is going to hit – and look (like) it’ll hit concrete. And it’s going to bound off into these areas that are unkept, and there’s irregularities and randomness everywhere.”
“We’re going to see a lot of big numbers,” Chamblee continued. “We really are. It sounds like a wide-open golf course, but it’s going to require a lot of great work off of the tee.”
The two golfers getting the most attention this week might be Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson – in part because they both plan to deviate a bit from their typical approach. Watson has said he will use irons off the tee to try to keep the ball on the fairway – which goes against his let-it-rip philosophy.
“With Bubba, I think it’s a matter of execution,” Chamblee said. “It sounds like a good plan. As wide open as this golf course sounds, it actually . . . gets really tight the further down you get. The fact that they’ve added 300 yards to it, this course plays really long. So if Bubba can be disciplined enough to hit irons off the tee and (avoid the problem areas) and he has the week he’s capable of having with his irons, (he’s got a shot).”
“The worst part of Bubba’s game,” Chamblee continued, “is he’s not a great scrambler. He’s not great from four-to-eight feet, by any stretch of the imagination. Those are two big hurdles he has to avoid. He needs to avoid those by great iron play and missing in the right spots, if there is such a thing at Pinehurst.”
Mickelson, meanwhile, has said he’s going to be aggressive off the tee. It sounds like a high-risk strategy, but Mickelson has finished runner-up at this event six times. He’ll also use the claw on the greens.
“I believe that Phil can figure out a way to hit the fairways,” Chamblee said. “I think he can probably figure out a way to hit the greens. And if he misses the greens, I think he can figure out a way to get it close to the hole, but can he putt well? He’s putted atrociously this year by his standards, especially short putts, and the claw is something new.”
“But the thing about Phil, he’s not afraid to try new things,” Chamblee continued. “Sometimes they work out. Sometimes they don’t. But I don’t think he would have gone to this unless it has working beautifully for him.”
As for favorites to win the event, Chamblee has two: Matt Kuchar and Sergio Garcia.
“(Kuchar) definitely is due,” Chamblee said. “I can’t think of a single reason why Matt Kuchar wouldn’t win this golf tournament.”
Garcia, however, has to be the favorite – in Chamblee’s eyes, anyway.
“This is Sergio Garcia’s best chance ever to win a major championship because every part of his game is in order. Every part of it,” Chamblee said. “The only question mark – and it’s always a question mark with Sergio Garcia – is can he handle the adversity? But from every other aspect, Sergio Garcia should be the favorite in this championship.”