The U.S. Open is known for being a challenging tournament with tight fairways, deep rough, and glassy greens. Add Pebble Beach into the equation and it's a beautiful disaster that captures your attention like a gorgeous woman with severe issues.
The course is a gem for the eyes, yet a thorn in the side of golfers. One of the delights of seeing the worlds greatest golfers play on such a demanding course is it brings them down to earth a bit - or back to par, if you will. It helps the casual golfer relate due to the struggles and occasional poor shots that can break a good round of golf. We've been there -- it's nice to see PGA Tour players in that situation from time-to-time as well.
Play will range from miraculous to atrocious, but here's how I see the Top 10 shaking out by the end of the day Sunday:
1. Phil Mickelson - Solid under pressure this year. Rightfully will take over No. 1 ranking from Tiger. Cut-throat and innovative when tough shots need to be made and that can translate well in Majors (or sometimes not.. see Winged Foot 2008).
2. Lee Westwood - Quality golf week in and week out, but he's just not quite there yet to get a major. Though, I really wouldn't be surprised if he did.
3. Zach Johnson - Any former U.S. Open winner should be considered a threat. Seems to pop up high on the leader board before anyone realizes he's having a good round.
4. Padraig Harrington - Always in contention due to solid ball striking and great approach shots that leave him with make-able birdy opportunities. Plays well injured and when he's behind.
5. Rory McIlroy - The year of 2010 is a coming out party for McIlroy. He will finally supplant himself as an elite PGA Tour player this weekend by contending for the championship in very tough conditions. After Sunday, they'll be nothing left to prove.
6. Jim Furyk - Can never trust Furyk's putter on Sunday's. I've seen him miss too many make-able putts in big spots to put him any higher on this list, but if he gets hot on the green, look out.
7. Hunter Mahan - A great ball-striker who leads the PGA in total driving = exactly what a golfer needs to be successful at Pebble Beach. Don't think he can handle the pressure if he's in contention on Sunday though.
8. K.J. Choi - Always fun to watch and very consistent. He hasn't missed a cut this year and won't this week, but he may not be able to play the kind of golf needed to win this tournament.
9. Tiger Woods - Until Tiger shows us he can hit a fairway and play consistent, high level golf, I almost have a hard time putting him in my Top 10. But, he's Tiger Woods, and even in his current state I think he could win this tournament - but I'm picking the field.
10. Steve Elkington - Because he's entertaining and always gives a great interview. As one of my favorite golfers, this is my way of willing him into contention. And I figured you, dear golf fan, stopped reading after Tiger Woods.