Pebble Beach hosts an annual PGA Tour event each spring, but the course will play much more difficult for the U.S. Open, as it did in 2010 when Graeme McDowell claimed his first major championship. Pebble Beach has not hosted any major since 2010, and has hosted just two since the turn of the century. In 2000, Pebble Beach ushered in a new era of golf with Tiger Woods winning the U.S. Open by 15 strokes. This year, Woods is in the field trying to match the PGA Tour record of 82 wins.
Golf has always been a prominent pastime in West Michigan. Beautiful golf courses hug Lake Michigan’s shoreline from New Buffalo to Harbor Springs. The young, retired, local and just visiting have always found West Michigan an underrated golf mecca.
This past weekend, Spring Lake’s boys golf team competed in the Division 2 state finals, finishing tied for seventh in an elite field. Nationwide, golf may not carry the same commercial weight as other major sports, but it is an important sport in Grand Haven and Spring Lake.
Here are 10 players to watch at the U.S. Open:
Dustin Johnson – Ranked second in the world, Johnson has twice won at Pebble Beach, though he has not won there since 2010. A masher off the tee, Johnson entered the final round of the 2010 U.S. Open with a three-shot lead only to blow up on Sunday. He has finished second at both majors so far this season.
Rory McIlroy – Fresh off a seven-stroke victory at the Canadian Open, McIlroy enters the U.S. Open confident and determined. Already a two-time winner this year, McIlroy has been tirelessly working on his putting to help him capture his elusive fifth major victory. Long off the tee and sound around the greens, the Northern Irishman should feel right at home in foggy California.
Jason Day – Despite falling on some hard times in recent events, Day remains a threat to win every time he tees it up. Earlier this week, the Australian star admitted he’s underachieved thus far in his career. But he shook former Tiger Woods caddie Steve Williams out of retirement this week, and he’s recorded top-4 finishes in his last two starts at Pebble Beach.
Brooks Koepka – Koepka has a lot going for him entering the week: No. 1 in the world ranking, two-time defending U.S. Open champion and he’s won four majors since 2017. However, Pebble Beach is vastly different than the four previous courses Koepka has won on. His stretch of U.S. Open wins could continue, but he will need a new game plan to pull it off.
Patrick Cantlay – The California native has been on a tear since his ninth-place finish at Augusta National in April. In his three starts since the Masters, Cantlay has twice finished in third and also won the Memorial Tournament. He enters in supreme form and should contend in his home state.
Matt Kuchar – The early favorite for Player of the Year honors, Kuchar always seems to be on the first page of PGA Tour leaderboards. He has two wins and four other top-4 finishes this season, which is why he leads the FedEx Cup standings. Kuchar won’t wow anyone with his physical tools, but he’s a great putter and consistent tee-to-green.
Tiger Woods – It’s been 19 years since Woods shocked the world with a 15-stroke victory here. But it had also been 11 years since Woods had won a major title, entering 2019, and he ad no problem winning The Masters. Ranked fifth in the world, Woods will have to keep it in the fairway this week if he’s going to claim his 16th major victory.
Adam Scott – Massively improved putting stats have helped Scott finish runner up twice this year, including a near miss at the Memorial Tournament. Always a threat at majors, Scott has rededicated himself to golf after starting a family last year. If he can make putts, Pebble Beach could be the spot of his second major win.
Shane Lowry – A relative unknown who often plays on the European Tour, Lowry enters the U.S. Open in great form. Starting in April, he finished tied for third at the RBC Heritage. He then finished tied for eighth at the PGA Championship, and last week, he finished tied for second at the Canadian Open. Long and straight off the tee, Lowry could become a household name this week.
Jordan Spieth – After dropping all the way down to 39th in the world, the former world No. 1 has climbed back into relevancy with three straight top-10 finishes. A winner at Pebble Beach in 2017, Spieth’s weakness tee-to-green is muted here, and his elite putting should help him remain in the mix.
Lack of local stars
The state of Michigan is poorly represented at the U.S. Open this week. Brian Stuard, a Jackson, Mich. native and Oakland University graduate marks the only Michigan native in the field. Stuard, a solid PGA Tour member, is currently ranked 165th in the world ranking. He finished tied for fourth in Texas earlier this season, but he offers little hope of bringing a U.S. Open victory back to Michigan.
For a state so proud of its golf courses and golfing history, it’s time for Michigan to start producing more elite PGA Tour professionals.