US Open Thursday - bring it on

The threat of thunderstorms throughout the tournament is the only factor that could possibly stop the 2011 US Open championship from being one of the greatest of modern times - and all of this without Tiger Woods.

The amazingly even nature of the field indicates that any one of twenty of the game's leading players could be nominated as the winner with none filling the top three. That is the changing face of world golf at present and while such a scenario is highly unlikely, it is what is making this event so intriguing.

The focus of attention is on the players likely to win rather than the absence of Tiger Woods and that is a healthy thing for the game.

The weather forecast over the next four days suggests scattered thunderstorms will play a role in the event, hopefully not to the point where there are massive delays. Following the horrific heatwave that hit the northeast of the US last week the weather to date in tournament week has been absolutely stunning but that might just change very quickly

So just who is the favourite? Well it very much depends on just who you ask. Any of the thousands amongst the Americans who flocked to the Congressional Country Club on Wednesday will tell you Phil Mickelson is the man while Bookies' boards on the other side of the Atlantic are predicting a Lee Westwood or Luke Donald victory.

Throw in the likes of Steve Sticker, Matt Kuchar, Nick Watney and Martin Kaymer and it would take a bold man to predict a winner with any sort of certainty.

Mickelson is probably more than just a sentimental selection for the American fans although clearly that does play its role. To my way of thinking he is the man to beat. He does not enjoy a great record at Congressional in PGA Tour events and the one US Open he has played here but his record generally in the hurly burly nature of the big championships speaks for itself.

As a five time runner-up he has one of the great non-winning records in this particular event and no one would be surprised if he was to claim his national title in this event. Most of the great Americans with the exception of Sam Snead have won the US Open and it would hardly seem fitting if Mickelson's career was to finish without that title alongside his name. At the age of just 41 on Thursday he will have further chances but this seems a very good one.

The world number one Luke Donald has been simply stunning in the last twelve months, a run that has culminated in him being crowned the world number one in recent weeks. It is perhaps ironic that Donald and Lee Westwood, the games two highest ranked players, have yet to win a major, but that could easily change this week. Both are close to their absolute peak and on paper should challenge Mickelson.

When asked the reason for his amazing consistency of late Donald had this response. "Well, to be honest a lot of people have asked what have I done differently, and not a lot, really. I think the better I've become, the harder I've worked, for sure. But nothing has really changed. I still have the basic premise of just trying to compete and continually improve.

"I wouldn't say I've changed anything. I don't really like the word change. I've just tried to make what I have just a little bit better every day, just trying to get in that mindset that there's no real limits and that you can improve on anything going forward."

Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker are others whose consistency of late has been just so impressive. They are both very much the type of players to thrive in heat of the battle that is US Open golf and I can't dismiss their chances.

The possibilities are endless "“ it can't begin quick enough.

In three my players are Mickelson, Westwood and Kuchar with the leading Australians to be Day, Allenby, O'Hern and Baddeley.

I stand to have egg on my face on Monday morning but once thing is for sure, in this event I will not be alone.

Bruce Young
About The Author : Bruce Young

A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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