Let’s get something straight: it is HARD to win on the PGA Tour. Tony Finau shot 62-64 over the weekend at the RBC Canadian Open(that’s 14 under par) and still didn’t win. Rory McIlroy did..again. Mcilroy shot an 8 under on Sunday to win the most bizarre of back to back RBC Canadian Opens. They were separated by 3 years due to COVID cancellations but hey, back to back titles they are. In his two wins Rory shot 17 under on those Sundays to finish like a champ and basically ensure honorary Canadian citizenship.So congrats to Canada : they had their week but now it’s time for the biggest, baddest tournament of them all, The U.S. Open.
I don’t say that with any sort of implied American bias, it’s just a statement of fact. Any golfer will tell you the hardest of majors to win is The U.S. Open and the USGA likes it that way: long rough, fast hard greens and fairways so narrow they look like a sidewalk more than a place to put a tee shot. The U.S. Open is as much about will as it is talent. You don't win the U.S. Open, you survive it. This year’s Open is at The Country Club in Brookline, MA. The course has its fair share of history. In 1913 a 20 year old caddie from the club named Francis Ouimet took down the greatest players in the world to claim the crown. In 1988 Curtis Strange won the first of his back to back U.S.Open titles there and in 1999 the place went absolutely bonkers when the U.S. Ryder Cup team stormed back fro 10-6 down on Sunday to reclaim the cup from the Euros. So as we get set for the toughest test in golf, who seems ready to claim it?
Let’s start with the guy who has the chance to pull off the North American double dip, Rory. Aside from his win in Canada on Sunday Mcilroy is one of 6 players to finish in the top 15 among the first two majors of the year. Rory’s also just one of 6 players since The Masters began to have 21 or more tour wins and 4+ majors on his resume by the age of 34. You’ve heard of the other ones. They go by the name of Byron Nelson, Tiger Woods,Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson. But he’s not the only one who’s on a roll.
With his 2nd place finish at the RBC Tony Finau has 3 top 5’s in his last 5 starts. He’s as streaky as they come and can make birdies in bunches. Finau had 10 birdies in the 2nd round of the 2018 PGA tying the tournament record. But more often than not the U.S. Open is about making pars and praying for the occasional birdie. Let’s add another name to the watch list. Yes Rory’s one of 6 players with top 15 finishes at both The Masters and The PGA this year but so is a VERY interesting name: Will Zalatoris.
The guy who looks like Happy Gilmore’s caddy is actually on the verge of breaking through. Zalatoris has 5 top 10 finishes in his last 7 majors, including a 2nd place finish at The PGA last month. WIll he make a major his first win on tour? As I said we’ve seen stranger things happen at Brookline. One thing’s for certain: whomever does hold the trophy next Sunday will be put through the ringer just like the USGA wants it. Suffering leads to greatness, and no major produces more suffering that our National Championship. Here’s to the suffering.