US Open 2012: 5 players to watch at San Francisco’s Olympic Course

James Tompkinson selects his five contenders for the US Open title at the Olympic Course, which starts on Thursday

By James Tompkinson
rory mcilroy
Rory McIlroy is the reigning US Open champion Photo: Phil Inglis/Getty Images for Laureus

rory mcilroy

Luke Donald, England

The world No1 is in the form of his life, and it would be amazing if Luke Donald is not among the leaders at Olympic Course later this week. The Englishman has often been ruled out of previous US Open tournaments because he is among the shorter hitters in the game. However, this year’s course is unlike previous venues for the tournament such as Congressional or Pebble Beach. It plays at around 7000 yards which allows the shorter, accurate hitters to have a chance of making birdies. Donald’s short game is one of the best in the world, making him a definite one to watch this time around and possibly even the favourite.

Lee Westwood, England

How long before Lee Westwood breaks his Major hoodoo? It seems as though every time a major tournament arrives, people talk about the man from Worksop as having a good chance of winning. Taking a more realistic standpoint, it is hard to see where a Major will come from if Westwood fails to claim one this year, and the US Open is his best chance out of the three left to play. Relentlessly accurate from tee to green, he should profit from the narrow fairways on offer at Olympic where others may struggle. The biggest issue is his putting – Westwood would have triumphed in The Masters at Augusta if he had made easy putts on the green and he will need to complete that aspect of his game to triumph this week. Tee to green there is nobody better, and to rule Westwood out would be extremely foolish.

Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland

As reigning US Open champion, it would be difficult not to mention Rory McIlroy. If the Northern Irishman used the tournament to arrive on the scene last year, then this year’s battle will illustrate how much he has developed over the past twelve months. As previously mentioned, Olympic is unlike Congressional where McIlroy won in 2011, so the 22-year-old will need to show a more patient aspect to his game. Having slipped from world No1 and missed three cuts in the last month, it would take something special for McIlroy to win again this year.

Tiger Woods, USA

Heading up the American charge will be Tiger Woods, something which seemed unlikely a matter of months ago. However a resurgent victory in the Memorial Trophy in Ohio last week has given the former world No1 every reason to be optimistic heading into the US Open. Everyone is aware that Woods is unpredictable, but it is that which makes him so dangerous. Perfectly capable of producing moments of magic at crucial times, expect Tiger to roar and rule him out at your peril.

Steve Stricker, USA

Having spoken about four of golf’s powerhouse players, it may seem strange that Stricker is mentioned as a potential US Open winner. Certainly a dark horse heading into the tournament, the 45-year-old will be able to draw on extra experience that other players don’t have. Mentally, Stricker is as strong as anyone and his swing is mechanically as good as anybody’s in the game. A fantastic outside bet to steal the crown from the young pretenders.

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