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US Open Golf Preview by Mexican Mini Tour Legend “ClubProGuy”
I guess, hello world. CPG here. I’m excited to be writing my first piece for Outkick, my 2020 U.S. Open Preview. For those of you who don’t know me yet, let me tell you a little bit about what CPG brings to the table.
As a golf club professional at a semi-private club and a former top-1,000 player on the super competitive Mexican Mini Tour, I have knowledge of the game that only comes from playing at an elite level. I guarantee that this is the most insightful U.S. Open Preview written by anyone who works 14-hour days parking golf carts and folding shirts.
I’ve also had a long-standing love affair with the U.S. Open. I made local qualifying attempts in 1989-1991, ’93-‘96, ‘98, and ’01-’07. (My most memorable attempt came in 2004 when I missed out on a six-for-one playoff by an agonizing five shots.) I’m about to give you an inside-the-ropes look on what to watch for at the world’s toughest golf tournament.
A Unique U.S. Open
Thanks to COVID-19, the 120th U.S. Open at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York, will look very different from years past. The tournament was originally scheduled for June, nearly canceled altogether and finally rescheduled to take place during the NFL season, ensuring maximum TV viewership.
Local qualifying is also out the door this year. Instead, the USGA created exemption categories, selecting top amateurs, Korn Ferry players and even PGA professionals for the event. (I was disappointed that my success in my club’s Thursday Night Men’s League did not earn me enough points to even get into the conversation.)
The USGA is only allowing essential staff on premises, so it will be interesting to see how the pros handle the awkward atmosphere. We (elite golfers) are creatures of habit. Entourages are a big part of our routine. Back when I played on the Mexican Mini, I would have been a mess without my caddie, bookie, punch-out coach and Donnie (my hook up for Mexican Adderall and GFE-reviewed escorts) by my side.
Of course, there won’t be any spectators at Winged Foot. Once again it’s COVID to blame, and I, for one, look forward to a major in New York without 30,000 Howard Stern fans fighting to be heard.
Nine Players to Watch
9. Stewart Cink — Not only is Cink the current FedEx Cup Leader, he also leads the tour in Total Strokes Gained. Now that’s a recipe for success. NOTE — I just learned Stewart Cink is not in the field, but I’m on a deadline so I’m leaving this here.
8. Phil Mickelson — Lefty arrived on-site noticeably trimmer than the last time he was here in ’06. If you remember, that’s the year he needed a par on the 72nd hole to win and promptly blew his tee shot dead left into a hospitality tent costing him the tournament. Is his sudden weight loss really due to the proprietary Coffee for Wellness brand he’s been hawking or is it something more sinister? It reminds me a little bit of 1995 when I showed up to the season-opening Oaxaca Challenge weighing 138 pounds. Sure, I told my fellow playing competitors that I’d been working out to Billy Blanks VHS tapes all winter but the truth was I’d spent 100 straight nights in an El Paso strip club snorting cocaine off of C-section scars. I’m NOT saying that’s what Phil has been doing but the body type looks eerily familiar.
7. Brooks Koepka — All Brooks has done is win two U.S. Opens and … Note – I just learned Brooks Koepka is not in the field this week. Shit.
6. Rickie Fowler — He’s got the title of “best player to never win a major,” and I expect him to put in a performance that solidifies that moniker this week.
5. Tiger Woods — Tiger doesn’t move the needle, he IS the needle. But the needle has been practicing at Winged Foot all week in cargo shorts and guys who play golf in cargo shorts don’t win majors. I don’t think this would’ve happened on Elin’s watch.
4. Rory McIlroy — It’s been just two weeks but I’m already tired of hearing about Rory becoming a dad. It will become unbearable if he wins. I’m hoping for a missed cut.
3. Bryson DeChambeau — I know you don’t like this guy, neither do I. But prepare yourself because he’s gonna win multiple majors and it might start this week.
2. Jon Rahm — He’s got the name and swagger of a young Spanish porn star but don’t be deceived, he’s the best golfer in the world not named Dustin Johnson.
1. Dustin Johnson — I honestly believe this guy doesn’t realize or care that he’s playing in a major championship this week. I think his “people” just put him on a plane and he shows up and wins. That kind of golf ignorance is bliss. His last three events were win, playoff loss, win. His short odds don’t make him worth betting but the USGA may already have his name on the trophy.
Three Keys to Winning At Winged Foot
This is the sixth time that Winged Foot’s West Course has hosted the U.S. Open. With its firm greens, penal rough and narrow fairways, this is a course that succeeds in identifying the best golfer in the world. Here’s what it will take to win.
1. Take Advantage of Punch-Out Opportunities — Never has the old adage “Drive for show, punch out for dough” been more appropriate. This has always been the strength of my game, and at tree-lined Winged Foot, I’m pumped to watch the pros dazzle with their punch-out flair.
2. Patience Is Key — When Geoff Ogilvy won at Winged Foot in 2006 he was five over par for the week. Hale Irwin’s score of seven over par in 1974 got him a win in what became known as “the Massacre at Winged Foot.” So it’s likely an over par score will win. I’ve always been most comfortable when I’m filling my card with bogeys, and this week’s winner should be comfortable riding the bogey train to victory.
3. Accuracy Off the Tee — Winged Foot’s fairways have landing strips as narrow as anything you’d see at your local gentlemen’s club, so driving accuracy will be at a premium. With the course playing close to 7,500 yards, players won’t be able to bunt their way down the middle either.
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Patrick Reed (40-1) — He’s a former major champion in his prime. He’s also proven he’s willing to blatantly cheat to win a golf tournament (see ’19 Hero World Challenge). That’s what I call a player with upside. Plus there won’t be any fans in attendance and if there’s a player on tour who knows how to play with no one rooting for him it’s Patrick Reed.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout (300-1). — This is my dark horse pick. For the record, I think there’s little chance Christiaan Bezuidenhout wins the tournament, but his name is such a pain in the ass to spell I guarantee I’m the only expert picking him this week.
Webb Simpson (28-1) -— I love flushing my money down the toilet with a flashy bet as much as the next guy, but it doesn’t seem like this is the year of the dark horse. The longest shot I’m willing to go with is Webb Simpson who ranked in the top 20 on tour last year in driving accuracy, strokes gained approach to green and putting. Sure, it’s like saying vanilla is your favorite ice cream flavor but I’ve got timeshare payments to make.