Although the tournament is already underway, I haven't changed my picks from who I would have chosen yesterday. So we already have some idea how my picks may fare!
First off, I didn't choose Jason Day, Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy. While I believe they're all very capable of winning this week, I also believe the accumulated stress of high-level play for a year or more may be taking its toll on them. As a result, I expect a mixed bag of good and bad rounds from them, which may not be enough to beat the other players who aren't as tired.
And now, here are my "5 to Watch":
- I agree with David Duval -- it's going to be hard to leave Dustin Johnson off one of these lists for the foreseeable future. It's not just about his improved short game; it's not about his amazing driving; it's not even about his obvious self-confidence. It's simply because he doesn't seem to stress out at all. As I write this, he's at +5 after seven holes so I may be completely off-base with this one. But given how he came back from a slow start last week -- and the knowledge that the winning score will likely be in single figures -- you've got to like his chances to make a run.
- Sergio Garcia is way under the radar, given that he's had five Top5s in his last six events, including the last two majors. Baltusrol is a shotmaker's course, and that's Sergio's strength. All he needs is a decent week putting and he could chalk up his first major.
- I also like Zach Johnson because of his straight hitting and his scrambling ability. For some reason this season, his good play hasn't resulted in the scores I'd expect to see. But I can see him getting done this week.
- The first is Phil Mickelson. It's hard enough to follow up a great round; how do you follow up a performance that would have won 141 of 144 OPENS but didn't win this one? Phil is unpredictable under the best of conditions; I won't even try to guess what he might do this week.
- And the other, obviously, is Henrik Stenson. Look, I know that Henrik has a proven ability to capitalize on great performances. But this wasn't a Tour Championship, the final official event of the season -- this was THE OPEN, in the midst of a very crowded schedule with the Olympics and FedExCup Playoffs just days away! I'm not sure even Henrik has the endurance to do it again so soon... but he makes my list because, like Phil, he's very capable and very unpredictable.
I know -- awfully optimistic for a guy who lost the internet for a day. But I'm like that. ;-)