It's time for the ol' US Open. America's national championship is the toughest tournament the players will play all year.
Also, Westwood leads the Tour in distance from the pin from shots from 125-150 yards as well as shots from 200-225 yards - key distances this week. He also has the lowest Sunday scoring average on Tour this year. All this information leads to a strong potential for Westwood to capture his first ever major championship this week.
Luke Donald: He's the No. 1 player in the world, has played in nine events on Tour this year, and has finished in the top 10 in eight of them. In the words of Jason Segel in the Bad Teacher trailer, "THAT'S ALL THE ARGUMENT I NEED, SEAN!"
But in case those statistics still leave you wanting for more, I'm happy to oblige. Donald - long thought to be one of "the next big things" in golf - is known as Mr. Consistency. While he doesn't hit the ball a long way, he is one of the best players in the world with both the irons and the flatstick.
He leads the Tour in scoring average, is 5th in birdie average, 6th in putting, and is 33rd in GIR average. While nothing on Donald's resume blows anyone away, it is the fact that nothing in his game is a glaring weakness. He is an all-around great player.
At the U.S. Open you need everything to be solid - driving, irons, wedges, putter. Nothing needs to be overly spectacular, but everything needs to be reliable. Donald has that game, and fits the bill of a major champion. The most important thing is that even he believes this major is his best opportunity - he said earlier this week that the U.S. Open is the major that best suits his game.
Phil Mickelson: I don't really need to go into statistics here. Why? Because Phil will contend here. The guy has nine Top 10's over the last 15 years, including five second place finishes.
Phil is the most tortured player in recent U.S. Open history, and perhaps of all-time. He finished second at Pinehurst to Payne Stewart in 1999 in one of the most iconic tournaments of our lifetimes, to Tiger Woods in 2002 at Bethpage Black when the crowd was distinctly behind him, to Retief Goosen at Shinnecock in 2004 when Phil's putter failed him, most tragically in the aforementioned tournament at Winged Foot in 2006, and again at Bethpage in 2009 when his putter failed him.
Phil wants to win this tournament more than anything, and I think this is his last great shot at it. He's getting up there in years, and his dominant reign seems to be on the beginning of its downturn. As a diehard Phil fan myself, I don't want to see him falter. Watching him in the 2006 Open was one of the hardest things as a fan of sports that I ever had to watch.
But there's no doubt Phil is contending here this week. He's been playing well, won the week before the Masters, likes the set-up, and is always a threat to win.
Steve Stricker: Stricker may be 44 years old, but he's been playing the best golf of his career after the age of 40, similar to Kenny Perry a few years ago.
Known for spending his winters hitting balls out of a heated range in upstate Wisconsin, Stricker has the game, demeanor, and recent track record to set up for success this week.
Known as one of the best ball strikers and putters on Tour, Stricker can hit the ball with the best of them. He hits a TON of fairways (65.55%, 33rd on Tour), which is important at the U.S. Open. If you get into the rough, sometimes you can't even find it, and if you do you're better off getting it out with a machete in your hand.
Stricker also hits a lot of greens (67.75%, 22nd on Tour), and is especially accurate from 150 yards and in. Finally, he's the best in the game from 15 feet and in, which reflects and impeccably cool attitude which serves well in a U.S. Open. He likes to stay steady, and just goes about his business.
What's the takeaway from all of this? As shown in his recent win in the Memorial, if Stricker is on his game he's one of - if not the - best in the world.
K.J. Choi: Does K.J. even have emotions? I mean, the guy doesn't smile, doesn't get angry, barely talks, and basically goes about his business on the course like a samurai ninja. In fact, that's my new nickname for him: Ninja Choi.
Ninja Choi picked up the biggest win of his career last month at the Players Championship when David Toms basically threw up on himself in a playoff.
Long known for playing basically an entire set of hybrid clubs, Choi is a great iron/hybrid player. He ranks near the top of the Tour for shots played from 150-200 yards, and with an abundance of 440-470 yard par 4's, those shots need to be on to hoist the trophy on Sunday.
While his statistics aren't overwhelming in his favor, Ninja is what us in the golf world like to call a "grinder." What this means is that he's a gritty player who never gives up, and can make par from anywhere. In a U.S. Open, that's essential, which is exactly why I like Ninja Choi to sneak up the leaderboard this week.
MY PICK TO WIN THE TITLE: In a complete front-runner move, I'm taking Mickelson. It seems his "window of opportunity" is closing, and if he's going to win a U.S. Open this is the best year to do it. Best of luck Phil, bring home the hardware.