U.S. Open roundtable: Who ya got?

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Each day at U.S. Open, PGATOUR.COM’s staff writers will dive into the big issues and questions everyone is discussing.

Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas each admitted they hadn’t known the USGA changed the playoff format, from an 18-hole Monday playoff to a two-hole Sunday one. What else surprised you from the press conferences so far?

Sean Martin, Senior Editor: I appreciated Jason Day’s boldness and honesty. “I think if I want to be the best player in the world, I’ll be the best player in the world,” is a quote that really stuck out to me from Tuesday. He definitely seemed inspired.

Ben Everill, Staff Writer: Hearing Jason Day talk about Tiger Woods’ “MC Hammer pants” from 2004 at Shinnecock and then Bubba Watson’s messy burrito habits was something I was not expecting in the lead-up to this tournament.

Jonathan Wall, Equipment Insider: Probably D.J. admitting he hit mid irons and even a couple long irons into some of the holes at Shinnecock. And here I thought he carried driver and a bunch of wedges. 

Cameron Morfit, Staff Writer: Given the way the ’04 U.S. Open ended, I’m surprised that the only complaining has been about the traffic. But it’s early. Shinnecock’s greens are like upside-down cereal bowls, and once balls start landing in the wrong places and funneling 50 yards away, it’s on.

Who is the one player almost no one is talking about who is nonetheless on your radar? 

Martin: I don’t think enough people are talking about Tommy Fleetwood. He finished fourth in last year’s U.S. Open and remains very much one of the world’s best players. I think he’ll like Shinnecock Hills’ linksy characteristics.

Everill: Lucas Herbert. The 23-year-old Australian dominated the Portland Sectionals and is a highly touted youngster out of Australia. Won’t be overawed and could easily replicate Cameron Smith’s U.S. Open debut from 2015 (T4).

Wall: Tommy Fleetwood. He’s finished outside the top 25 three times in 10 TOUR starts this season. And did I mention he was fourth last season at the U.S. Open? He has the game to contend at Shinnecock. Literally no one is talking about him.

Morfit: He got injured, so Brooks Koepka fell out of the conversation. Now he’s back. He’s posted 63s in two of his last three starts and said in his presser, “I feel like I always play well at U.S. Opens. I play very conservative, middle of the greens a lot of times, and I feel like major championships are kind of where I shine.” I’d be shocked if the defending champ doesn’t finish in the top 10.

Dustin Johnson looked strong in winning the FedEx St. Jude Classic by six, but is Shinnecock a course that favors touch around the greens more than power off the tee? 

Martin: I think the short game is going to be very important this week. Between the wind and the sloping greens, those chipping areas around the putting surfaces are going to get plenty of work. The last three U.S. Opens here were won by stellar short games. Raymond Floyd was one of the best chippers in the game. Corey Pavin hit less than half the greens when he won here. Retief Goosen hit only six greens in the final round.

Everill: It is clearly a mixture of both but there must also be a premium on accuracy. At the end of the day the guy who gets up and down from trouble and makes the clutch par putts will hoist the trophy.

Wall: I think you need to have an all-around game to contend. It’s important to find the fairway, but you can’t continually lay back and have mid and long irons into the greens. Even the best short game in the world won’t keep you from making a couple bogeys with that game plan.

Morfit: I don’t think a bomber wins, especially as dry as it is this week. Shinnecock is a second-shot course (Goosen was a specialist with the irons), and being crafty and economical around those crazy green complexes counts for a lot, too.

Phil Mickelson is making his 27th U.S. Open start, and says he loves the setup. He’s tried just about everything. How would you prepare if you were him? 

Martin: I think take it easy and rely on your past work here. He’s played here twice and done well. And energy management is key for Mickelson at this stage in his career, as we saw at THE PLAYERS Championship.

Everill: By renting a bigger yacht than Tiger’s and parking it right next door. Phil needs to be Phil – that is relaxed and trying to be funny. Forget all this career slam pressure. Just go out and play.

Wall: What he’s doing right now: Resting. Phil played last week in Memphis and needed a recharge. Playing the course in advance of this week meant he didn’t need to grind out practice rounds. Work on the short game and conserve energy for what should be a 72-hole grind at Shinnecock.  

Morfit: Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte has him practicing and playing off-site at nearby Friar’s Head with, among others, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. I hope they’re taking a cart, because he should do as little as possible to preserve his legs and (admittedly) sporadic ability to drill down and focus. It’s a long week.

This article originally appeared here via Google News