Time to identify a champion
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Yeah, I get it. The Black Course at Bethpage State Park is crazy long, so conventional wisdom says only guys who crush it have a chance to contend at this week's U.S. Open.
I won't debate that driving distance is important. Being able to clear a bunker or cut off a dogleg will be greatly beneficial to the big boppers. Then again, solid ballstriking is pretty mandatory, too. And strong chipping. And clutch putting.
You can drive yourself nuts trying to figure out the biggest determining factor when picking U.S. Open contenders, but in compiling this year's list, I looked at two components of players' games that I deemed to be more relevant than any others. The only problem? These are both intangible qualities, nothing that can be looked up in a record book or researched on a statistics page.
The first is patience. As one player said recently, "I do like the idea of the majors. They do seem to be easier to win in some ways. They feel like you're in a marathon rather than a sprint. A regular event, it feels like a quick dash. If you don't get off to a good start, you feel you're a little bit behind. Whereas in a major championship, you know it's going to come down to the last nine holes on Sunday. It's all about getting yourself in position."
That player should know, because he's none other than Padraig Harrington, winner of three of the past seven major championships and a fervent preacher of patience.
The second characteristic I'm seeking is guts. That's right. Inner fortitude. Mental toughness. Cojones, if you will, for the Spanish-speaking players in the field.
It goes without saying that players who can avoid spitting up on their logoed shirts and shaking in their soft spikes should fare better than those who break out in a sweat even when the heat is off.
Of course, if there were a stat that could measure patience and guts, the world's No. 1-ranked player would shine over all others. So let me introduce a third intangible as well. It's called playing a hunch. Not very scientific, I know, but how else to explain why the defending champ doesn't top this ranking once again?
Player Analysis Best finish 1. Ian Poulter
It was about 18 months ago when Poulter famously intimated to a U.K. golf mag that he was the world's best player not named Tiger Woods. In regard to last year's Masters, he said, "Put Tiger down for that one." For the year's second major at the U.S. Open, he predicted, "You can put me down for that one."
Of course, it was Woods who claimed the Open, but perhaps Poulter was just a year off in his prognostication. He plays with enough mental toughness to win this tournament -- just check his results from last year's British Open and Ryder Cup -- that he shouldn't be scared off by the Black's menacing ways. And doesn't it just seem like one of those years when a bunch of really good players who aren't necessarily the favorites win all the big events? First it was Angel Cabrera, then Henrik Stenson. Maybe Ian Poulter is next in line for his first major championship title.
T-12 -- 2006 2. Tiger Woods
Déjà vu all over again? For those who would like to hand the U.S. Open hardware to Woods before the first round even gets under way, heed this recent history: Just two months ago, TW was two weeks removed from winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He was being hailed as the likely Masters champion, only to finish in a share of sixth place.
This week, he once again comes into a major on the heels of a victory, having triumphed at the Memorial Tournament, thanks to hitting 87.5 percent of the fairways at Muirfield Village. His success this week might be predicated on how many times he can again reach the short stuff at Bethpage, but expect to see driver on at least a few occasions each day because of the length of the course. There's no doubt Woods will be in the mix come Sunday, but a fourth Open victory is hardly in the bag, either.
Win -- 2000, 2002, 2008 3. Vijay Singh
Cynics will contend that this three-time major champion doesn't own the short game necessary to win a U.S. Open, but try on this logic: The tougher the greens, the more 2-putts dispersed throughout the field. Then again, it's not as if he can't make 'em, either. And it's not as if the Big Fijian has completely failed when playing this event in the past; he owns seven career top-10 results.
He finally looks to be fully healed from early-season knee surgery, too. Before missing the cut in his most recent start at the Memorial, Singh finished T-16 or better in three consecutive starts.
T-3 -- 1999 4. Geoff Ogilvy
The last man to win a New York-area U.S. Open title (2006 at Winged Foot) is a trendy pick once again this year, and for good reason. With victories at the Mercedes-Benz Championship and WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Ogilvy is one of five players to win multiple times so far this season.
The golf course architecture junkie is not only cerebral when it comes to analyzing the sport; he has gradually joined the ranks of the world's elite-level performers in recent years. Although some still consider his first major a fluky win that was gift-wrapped for him, a second such title would hardly bring such criticism.
Win -- 2006 5. Angel Cabrera
The 2009 Masters might be best remembered as "the one that got away" for Kenny Perry and "the one that coulda been" for Phil Mickelson, but let's not forget that the last man standing was green jacket winner Cabrera. If you're scoring at home, El Pato has now won two of the past eight major championships, and there's good reason to think he can contend once again this week.
The Black Course is expected to be ensconced in rain for much of the proceedings, meaning those players with a higher ball flight could find greater success. And that means watch out for Cabrera, who blasts the ball skyward like no one else in the game. He might not be the favorite to win this week, but that's OK; he wasn't the favorite to win his two major titles, either.
Win -- 2007 6. Jim Furyk
Despite posing as a forlorn clown for the cover of the latest issue of GolfWorld magazine, the 2003 U.S. Open champion doesn't clown around when it comes to the year's second major. (Which, come to think of it, was probably the thought process behind that cover in the first place.)
Chances are, Furyk is rooting for a brutal setup that leads to high scores. Although he won with an 8-under total at Olympia Fields, his 6-over number was good enough for runner-up status in both 2006 and '07.
Win -- 2003 7. Graeme McDowell
The first nonstar on this list (wait -- does Poulter count?) has reached the weekend in all three previous U.S. Open starts. Couple that with the fact that he's coming off a T-7 finish in Memphis this past week, and perhaps it all will equate to major championship contention for the guy from Northern Ireland.
If it happens, expect plenty of solid up-and-downs from the greenside rough; his greens-in-regulation percentage ranks just 141st on the PGA Tour, but he can roll the rock and should save plenty of pars during the week.
T-30 -- 2007 8. Phil Mickelson
He can't explain it, but the California native and Arizona State grad has been adopted as a native son of the New York-area crowds. Mickelson finished runner-up in the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage and the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, won the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol and lost the 2006 U.S. Open in fateful fashion at Winged Foot.
This time, Lefty returns to the metropolitan area with more fan support than ever, as his wife, Amy, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The question remains, though: Will Phil's heavy heart lead to a poor showing this week, or could he ride an emotionally charged wave to the top of the leaderboard? We'll find out soon enough.
2 -- 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006 9. Zach Johnson
Although Johnson won the Masters two years ago, it's very possible that he didn't mature into an elite player until recently. A mini-meltdown at Quail Hollow notwithstanding, he has transformed into one of the coolest customers when the chips are on the line in a final round, having won three titles since late last season.
The self-described normal guy from Iowa owns a befuddling U.S. Open record -- two made cuts in five starts, no finish better than T-45 -- but the tourney should suit him. He's due for a strong result in this one.
T-45 -- 2007 10. Steve Stricker
The Wisconsin native should enter this week brimming with confidence. After so many close calls this season -- on three separate occasions, he led a tournament on the back nine of the final round -- Stricker finally broke through with a victory at Colonial.
Always known as one of the best putters on the planet, he has finished 30th or better in eight of 13 appearances at the U.S. Open, including each of the past three years. If he's ever to win a major, it will be this one.
5 -- 1999 11. Paul Casey Don't let anyone fool you into listing him as his "sleeper" pick. After all, the guy is ranked No. 3 in the world! T-10 -- 2007 12. Dustin Johnson Hits the ball a mile, proved at Pebble Beach that he can succeed in poor weather conditions a definite dark-horse candidate. T-48 -- 2008 13. Henrik Stenson Looked like an absolute world-beater at the Players Championship, where he ran away with things on the back nine. T-26 -- 2006 14. Robert Allenby Longtime holder of the close-but-no-cigar award. He's been a world-class player for years but hasn't won in the U.S. since 2001. T-7 -- 2004 15. Luke Donald Last year's U.S. Open was the site of a bad wrist injury, which in effect ended his season. T-12 -- 2006 16. Hunter Mahan I've always liked him more at the Masters or PGA, but he's so talented that he could contend for a U.S. Open title, too. T-13 -- 2007 17. Kenny Perry
Ask him about losing on the second hole of the Masters playoff against Angel Cabrera, and he is noticeably still upset about the result: "Very positive. Enjoyed it. It was a good ride."
Umm. No, seriously. Let's be serious, Kenny. Aren't you still feeling the pain?
"It gave me a lot of confidence to give me the ability to know that I can do it," he said. "I had it. That was something I had. Kind of like '96, I had that deal done, too, PGA, and I just did not quite finish it out. I know I can do it. It's just I've got to rethink it a little bit when I'm coming down on the last couple of holes and not get ahead of myself. But I look forward to the challenge."Next challenge: U.S. Open.
T-3 -- 2003 18. Andres Romero Simply put, he's the biggest wild card in the field. Could shoot 63 or 83 on any given day. T-36 -- 2008 19. David Toms Quickly becoming a trendy sleeper selection, and for good reason: He owns three top-10s in his past six starts. T-5 -- 2003, 2007 20. Mike Weir Has finished in the top 20 in all but two U.S. Open starts this decade. T-3 -- 2003 21. Retief Goosen Earned his reputation as a tremendous fast-greens putter by prevailing in U.S. Open wins at Southern Hills and Shinnecock. Win -- 2001, 2004 22. Michael Sim Remember the name. This Aussie is tearing up the Nationwide circuit at a record pace this season. 1st appearance 23. Sean O'Hair Enjoying a terrific season to date, but pulled out of his last start with a forearm injury and is on call for baby No. 3, as wife, Jackie, is due any day with the couple's second son. T-26 -- 2006 24. Ross Fisher Looking to win European Open and U.S. Open in back-to-back years. MC -- 2008 25. Tom Lehman Back in 2002, Nick Faldo climbed the leaderboard here at Bethpage. If one 50-something is going to do it this week, my money's on Lehman. T-2 -- 1996 26. Lucas Glover Quietly enjoying a solid season, with a second-place finish, a third and 11 made cuts in 14 starts. MC -- 2002, 2006, 2007 27. Ernie Els
The Big Easy really burst onto the international golf scene with a victory at the U.S. Open in 1994, then added a second one in '97. Still armed with one of the prettiest swings in the game, Els hasn't finished in the top 10 at this event since 2004, which sort of mirrors the downward spiral in his overall performance.
In 11 starts on the PGA Tour this season, he owns three top-10s but has yet to seriously contend for a title. Just 39 years old, this can't be the end of the road; you have to believe there's more great golf left in him. Then again, it would be a surprise to see something great this week.
Win -- 1994, 1997 28. Ken Duke Just the kind of savvy veteran who can sneak onto a U.S. Open leaderboard on the weekend. T-23 -- 2007 29. J.B. Holmes One caddie told me this week: "If J.B. Holmes is hitting it well, this is a course where he can make some noise." T-48 -- 2006 30. Nick Watney A bomber who is averaging 302.1 yards off the tee this season, he'll be the short man in a group with Quiros and Holmes. T-60 -- 2008 31. Stewart Cink Contrary to this report, he'll both Twitter and compete this week. 3 -- 2001 32. Camilo Villegas He has the right mentality to seriously challenge at a U.S. Open, but does Villegas have the game? Normally, strong U.S. Open players are guys who can live with making a bunch of pars while offsetting the occasional bogey with a timely birdie. The 27-year-old from Colombia, however, tends to post scorecards of the more colorful variety, with eagles and double-bogeys alike. Sure, it's fun golf to watch, but is it the kind of stuff that can bring an Open victory? I don't think so. T-9 -- 2008 33. Miguel Angel Jimenez If it weren't for Tiger Woods' 15-shot win at the 2000 U.S. Open, the Mechanic might have won. Uh, that's a pretty big if. T-2 -- 2000 34. Lee Westwood No one had a better view of Tiger's playoff-forcing putt on the 72nd hole a year ago. 3 -- 2008 35. Ben Curtis Just when you least expect it ... Curtis crashes the leaderboard. Don't expect it this week ... and it just might happen. 30 -- 2004 36. Tim Clark One of the world's best at churning out pars, but the short hitter could be overmatched this week. T-3 -- 2005 37. Rory Sabbatini All-or-nothing type of player was all-everything in winning the Byron Nelson Championship a few weeks ago. T-51 -- 2007 38. George McNeill Anyone with the inner fortitude to earn medalist honors at Q-school -- as McNeill did a few years ago -- can make some noise at the U.S. Open, too. 63 -- 2007 39. Sergio Garcia
When last we saw Garcia at Bethpage, he was waggling and waggling and waggling over every shot, much to the dismay of the New York fans.
Garcia's response? The then-22-year-old issued a one-fingered salute. You may also recall that 2002 was the Open during which he called out the USGA for giving preferential treatment to Tiger Woods -- an act that left him apologizing to the eventual champion later in the week.
Lost among all of that, though, was his strong play throughout the week, as he finished solo fourth. He's on a cold streak right now, so a similar result may be wishful thinking.
T-3 -- 2005 40. Justin Leonard Stat of the week? In 14 previous U.S. Open starts, Leonard has never finished top-10. T-12 -- 2002 41. a-Kyle Stanley With 15 amateurs in the field, it would be a surprise if a few didn't make the cut. The kid from Clemson is among the best candidates. MC -- 2008 42. Matt Kuchar Don't let the smile fool you. He has some serious game. T-14 -- 1998 43. Charlie Wi At 37, may finally be starting to come into his own, with three top-10s already this season. 1st appearance 44. Rod Pampling A final-round 70 at Torrey Pines in 2008 gave him a T-14 result, squeezing Pamps into this year's field, too. T-14 -- 2008 45. Padraig Harrington
I've already noted Paddy's practice of patience, which helped him win a pair of British Open titles and a PGA Championship. So why isn't he higher on the list? Quite simply, Harrington has struggled mightily with his game this season; he has failed to record a top-10 in a dozen starts so far and owns three missed cuts in his past four tourneys.
After years of earning a reputation as a range rat, he reportedly has switched to a new practice regimen, which has him beating balls less and trying to capitalize on the efforts more. So far, it has failed to produce strong results.
5 -- 2006 46. John Merrick Among the best PGA Tour regulars you don't know, though if you do know him, it's because of his T-6 finish at the Masters. T-6 -- 2008 47. Stephen Ames Ball striker supreme may not love the longer golf course. T-9 -- 2004 48. Chad Campbell Just a few weeks removed from hearing his knee pop during a bunker shot, he says it hurts more to walk than swing. T-18 -- 2008 49. Darren Clarke Playing in his 12th career U.S. Open but first since 2006. T-10 -- 1999 50. Justin Rose After MCing at the Memorial, he said of his game, "Just messed up mentally, really." T-5 -- 2003 51. Martin Kaymer Will be a solid PGA Tour player if and when he makes the full-time move to the U.S. -- which may not take much longer. T-53 -- 2008 52. Stuart Appleby According to a well-placed source, he "hasn't made a putt all year." T-10 -- 1998 53. Rory McIlroy
Informed that European TV station Sky Sports is promoting the tournament with an advertisement that shows only Woods and him, McIlroy was asked whether he's ready to challenge the No. 1-ranked player.
"If he plays the way he did the last round at Memorial, then no," said the 20-year-old from Northern Ireland. "But I can't control what he does or what anyone else does in the field. I just have to go out and play my golf. If it's good enough, it's good enough. If it's not, then so be it. So guys don't go into majors thinking I have to do this to beat Tiger, I have to do that to beat Tiger. They go in and they concentrate on their own game. If their own game at the end of the day isn't good enough, then that's the way it goes."
Bet the house that McIlroy's own game will be good enough someday, but not yet. Not this week.
1st appearance 54. Charl Schwartzel Is he missing a letter in that first name? Maybe he can buy one in his hometown of Vereeniging, South Africa. T-30 -- 2007 55. a-Rickie Fowler One year after finishing T-60 at Torrey Pines, he's looking to make the cut as an amateur for the second straight year. T-60 -- 2008 56. D.J. Trahan Made a nice run at Torrey Pines, a course he admitted he wasn't very fond of. Wonder how he'd fare on a course he likes. T-4 -- 2008 57. Bubba Watson Sure, this course is long, but the tourney won't turn into a long drive competition. If it did, Bubba would win. T-5 -- 2007 58. Alvaro Quiros Scratch that. Quiros can knock it 10-15 yards past Watson on average. Even money says he leads the field in driving distance this week. 1st appearance 59. Gary Woodland Oh, and this guy wouldn't be too far behind, either. 1st appearance 60. Soren Hansen Has the honor of being both the best Soren and the best Hansen/Hanson in his early-round threesome. T-53 -- 2008 61. Anthony Kim
Ask him which major will be his first victory. Really. Ask him. He'll tell you.
"The next one. Always," says the guy known as AK. "You know, I go into every golf tournament thinking I can win. There's no reason to stop now. Whether it happens or not, I don't know, but I know my mentality has to be, 'I'm here, I'm going to give it my best shot to win the golf tournament, and whatever happens, happens.'"
What has happened so far this season is that since a T-2 at the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship, he's failed to finish better than T-17 in 10 appearances.
T-20 -- 2007 62. Boo Weekley Gotta wonder how much that torn labrum will affect his ride-the-pony dance, let alone his swing. T-26 -- 2007, 2008 63. K.J. Choi As the only guy not named Singh in his early-round threesome, he'll be easy to recognize. T-15 -- 2005 64. Kevin Sutherland The human ATM? He's been a cut-making machine this season, cashing checks in 13 of 15 starts. T-28 -- 2003 65. Todd Hamilton After some severely disappointing years, he's shown signs of life, including a T-15 at the Masters. T-36 -- 2008 66. Oliver Wilson At last year's U.S. Open, he ranked 16th in driving distance and 17th in accuracy. T-36 -- 2008 67. Ben Crane I'd make a joke about how slow he plays, but it would take so much time T-53 -- 2008 68. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano Best hyphenated-last-name player in the field. Only hyphenated-last-name player in the field. 1st appearance 69. David Duval
Three years ago, Double-D was bottoms on my U.S. Open pre-tournament ranking. Dead last. Numero 156. Mired in what became about a half-decade-long slump, Duval actually proved me wrong, making the cut that week and finishing T-16. He's back at the Open for the first time since then, and although it would be a shock to see him contend for the title, don't be surprised to see him around on the weekend once again.
Remember, he played in the penultimate pairing during the third round of last year's British Open, and he's coming off a pair of very good rounds at sectional qualifying that got him into this tournament. All of which puts him much higher than 156th on this list. I won't make that mistake twice.
T-7 -- 1998 and 1999 70. Bo Van Pelt Van Pelt knows disappointment. He's among the best current players without a PGA Tour win. T-31 -- 2004 71. Briny Baird Same deal for Baird -- and he's been playing even longer. T-40 -- 2001 72. Martin Laird After missing the cut in eight of his first nine starts, he has now made the cut in four of his past five. MC -- 2007 73. John Mallinger Along with Merrick and Peter Tomasulo, one of three young Long Beach, Calif., natives in the field. T-65 -- 2008 74. Johan Edfors Two-time Golf Punk of the Year as named by -- who else? -- Golf Punk magazine. MC -- 2007, 2008 75. David Horsey Ultratalented young Brit is making his U.S. debut as a pro this week. Could be a Horsey for the course-y. (Sorry.) 1st appearance 76. Rocco Mediate
When I told him recently that the Bethpage galleries likely would entail thousands of fans chanting his first name and asked whether he was prepared for such a scenario, he said in typical Rocco fashion, "I just need to ask them, 'Are they prepared for me?'"
It would take something close to a miracle for Mediate to replicate last year's runner-up result, but then again, it took something close to a miracle for him to garner such a finish at Torrey Pines, too. If it does happen, though, expect him to be prepared for it. And for the fans, as well.
2 -- 2008 77. Peter Tomasulo He's been medalist at sectionals each of the past two years. And yes, players really do receive a medal for the honors. MC -- 2008 78. Matt Jones Young Aussie is coming off just his second MC of the season at the St. Jude Classic. 1st appearance 79. J.P. Hayes Do you believe in karma? Hayes was the guy who DQ'd himself from Q-school late last year. T-64 -- 2003 80. Fred Funk No player's caddie knows this course better than Funk's, as Mark Long actually produced the official yardage book for the Open. 6 -- 2004 81. a-Bronson Burgoon What a month this kid is having. After clinching the NCAA championship for Texas A&M with a final-hole wedge shot to 3 inches, he qualified for the U.S. Open through sectionals. 1st appearance 82. Ryuji Imada After a breakthrough season in 2008, he hasn't finished better than T-14 in 15 starts this year. T-12 -- 2006 83. Carl Pettersson One made cut in his past 11 PGA Tour starts? Really? Ouch! T-6 -- 2008 84. Billy Mayfair Ex-U.S. Amateur champ was seventh or better after every round here in 2002, eventually finishing T-5. T-5 -- 2002 85. Brian Gay
He's coming off a 5-stroke victory in Memphis this past weekend, which vaulted him into the U.S. Open field. And that was preceded two months earlier by a 10-shot victory at Harbour Town.
What does that tell us? Dude can go low. OK, so why is he so "low" on this list? Three reasons: First, it's so difficult to contend at a major one week after winning; second, he doesn't hit the ball very long at all; and third, in five previous appearances at this event, he's never once made the cut.
MC -- 1996, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 86. David Smail The Judge! Gotta love this Kiwi with one of the best built-in golf nicknames in the business. MC -- 2003 87. James Nitties Any dude who lists girls and clubbing as two of his "special interests" is worth keeping an eye on -- especially after the round. 1st appearance 88. J.J. Henry Relative home game for the Fairfield, Conn., native. T-26 -- 2007 89. Cameron Beckman Longtime caddie Cubby Burke, who has most notably toted for Davis Love III, is on the bag. MC -- 2000 90. Chris Kirk Former University of Georgia All-American selection has competed in only four PGA Tour-sponsored events this season. T-78 -- 2008 91. Heath Slocum Theoretically, this course may be too long for him, but he finished T-9 a year ago. T-9 -- 2008 92. Eric Axley PGA Tour iron man rarely misses a week of work, making 17 starts so far this season. He's played the weekend on only five of those occasions, though. T-9 -- 2008 93. Adam Scott Exactly one year ago, Scott was the third wheel in the early-round pairing of Tiger and Phil that placed the world's top three players together. Now? He's dropped to No. 42 on the Official World Golf Rankings behind such players as Brian Gay, Soren Kjeldsen, Jeev Milkha Singh and Shingo Katayama. The precipitous drop has come in part because of swing tweaks with instructor Butch Harmon, but the fact is, nothing is working for the young Aussie right now. In his past eight starts, he owns a T-64 and seven MCs. That No. 3 ranking might have been last year, but it must feel like light-years for Scott. T-21 -- 2006 94. Ryan Moore Gotta wonder when this former U.S. Amateur champ will start hitting his peak. T-57 -- 2005 95. Ricky Barnes Ditto this former U.S. Amateur champ, who hasn't seen much success in his rookie season on the PGA Tour. T-59 -- 2003 96. Brandt Snedeker After dealing with ongoing injuries, he claims he's "95 percent" healthy now. T-9 -- 2008 97. Thomas Levet C'est magnifique! T-18 -- 2002 98. Raphael Jacquelin Vive la France! 1st appearance 99. Jean-Francois Lucquin Sacre bleu! 1st appearance 100. Peter Hanson One-third of golf's Hansen/Hanson brothers; he's the one from Sweden. T-30 -- 2007 101. Matt Bettencourt Still riding a high from his T-5 at the Memorial a few weeks ago. 1st appearance 102. Sean Farren Local club pro is buddies with Rocco Mediate, even helping to find housing this week for the reigning runner-up. 1st appearance 103. Chris Stroud Has played each of the past two U.S. Opens but has yet to break 80 in the opening round. MC -- 2007, 2008 104. a-Tyson Alexander Third-generation U.S. Open competitor, joining grandfather Skip and dad, Buddy, who is also the coach at University of Florida and a former U.S. Amateur champ. 1st appearance 105. Ryan Blaum Duke University product owns two victories on the Hooters Tour and two more on the eGolf Tarheel Tour. 1st appearance 106. Douglas Batty New Zealand native failed to retain his Canadian Tour playing privileges by $15. As in, 1,500 pennies. That's gotta hurt. 1st appearance 107. Darron Stiles In nine PGA Tour starts this season, he owns a T-34, a WD and seven MCs. T-48 -- 2003 108. Scott Gutschewski Forget the College World Series. Omaha, Neb., should be fired up for this native son's first U.S. Open. 1st appearance 109. Andrew McLardy Is that his real last name? Because I swear I heard some New York fans refer to Monty by that moniker back in 2002. 1st appearance 110. Eduardo Romero Here's a tip, marshals: This Romero is older and, well, burlier than his same-named playing partner. T-15 -- 2003 111. Simon Khan Simon says: First time in the U.S. Open won't spell success. 1st appearance 112. Simon Dyson Simon says: Second time in the U.S. Open won't spell success, either. MC -- 2005 113. Greg Kraft Last year's Puerto Rico Open champ has missed the cut in all but three of his 15 starts this season. T-53 -- 1999 114. Francesco Molinari Fun fact: Only brother of a former U.S. Amateur champion in this week's field. 1st appearance 115. Steve Allan Pretty steady U.S. Open player, with no score of worse than 77 in 10 career rounds. T-28 -- 2005 116. Jeff Brehaut Finished T-17 in his only previous U.S. Open two years ago at Oakmont. T-17 -- 2007 117. Casey Wittenberg All-everything amateur is going through a rough rookie season on the PGA Tour, having MC'd in each of his past six starts. T-36 -- 2004 118. James Kamte First black South African to regularly compete on any major professional tour in more than 30 years. 1st appearance 119. Jose Manuel Lara Never trust a man with three first names. 1st appearance 120. Jeev Milkha Singh Still dealing with what he calls "unbearable pain" to his intercostal muscles. 1st appearance 121. Clark Klaasen There were 16 amateurs in the field until this guy turned pro at the beginning of the week. 1st appearance 122. Charlie Beljan Played in his first U.S. Open last year, shooting 76-79 to miss the cut. MC -- 2008 123. Craig Bowden At Bethpage in 2002, he finished second in the field with a driving accuracy percentage of 75 percent. T-50, 2002 124. Soren Kjeldsen Ranked 38th in the world, based largely on the strength of two Euro Tour victories last year. T-52 -- 2005 125. Kaname Yokoo Last in the U.S. Open field alphabetically, but first in your hearts. T-57 -- 1999 126. Richard Bland Let's face it: There's nothing too exciting about Bland. 1st appearance 127. Andrew Parr Nobody in the field owns a more U.S. Open-appropriate last name. 1st appearance 128. a-Drew Weaver Former British Amateur champion qualified through sectionals this time around. 1st appearance 129. Cameron Yancey You say he'll never come close to Tiger Woods? I say you're wrong. His locker is right next to the defending champ's this week. 1st appearance 130. Kevin Silva Reigning two-time medalist at the Purchase, N.Y., sectional. MC -- 2008 131. a-Cameron Tringale Fresh off an All-America season at Georgia Tech, he also played in the Palmer Cup. 1st appearance 132. Michael Campbell Ever since he injured himself lifting a suitcase, the 2005 champ has done a lot of flying home on Friday evenings. Win -- 2005 133. Azuma Yano Out of his league? After finishing second on last year's Japan PGA Tour money list, he's 50th this season. 1st appearance 134. Andrew Svoboda New York native has reached the field as an alternate in each of the past two years. T-71 -- 2008 135. Josh McCumber Nephew of longtime pro Mark McCumber, who was runner-up to Curtis Strange in this tournament two decades ago. MC -- 2005 136. Sang-moon Bae Won the recent GS Caltex Maekyung Open on the Asian Tour without breaking 70 in a single round. 1st appearance 137. Colby Beckstrom Clinched his spot in the field with three consecutive birdies to close out his round in sectionals. 1st appearance 138. Cortland Lowe Learned to play golf from next-door neighbor Charles Howell III while growing up in Augusta, Ga. 1st appearance 139. a-Ben Martin Yet another up-and-comer from Clemson, which seems to keep churning them out. 1st appearance 140. a-Josh Brock UNC-Wilmington product will have his brother on the bag for the first two rounds and Dad looping on the weekend if he makes the cut. 1st appearance 141. Michael Miles Golf pro at Virginia CC in Long Beach, Calif., home course to fellow competitors Merrick, Mallinger and Tomasulo. 1st appearance 142. Michael Welch Mini-tour pro almost missed the deadline to enter qualifying but called his mom, who got him all signed up. 1st appearance 143. Angelo Que The USGA player guide lists his height and weight as unknown. Oooh, spooky. 1st appearance 144. Trevor Murphy Former top-ranked junior skier who didn't take up competitive golf until just before entering college. 1st appearance 145. a-Drew Kittleson The only player from last year's U.S. Amateur final in the field, as winner Danny Lee turned pro, then failed to qualify. 1st appearance 146. Shawn Stefani Former college teammate of fellow U.S. Open competitor Chris Stroud at Lamar University. 1st appearance 147. Nick Taylor Abbotsford, British Colombia, native was elected into his town's Hall of Fame at the tender age of 18. MC -- 2008 148. Clinton Jensen After rounds of 69-69 at sectionals, 34-year-old lost in a playoff, but reached the U.S. Open field as an alternate. 1st appearance 149. Shintaro Kai Has earned 5,826,775 yen on the Japan PGA Tour this season, which sounds pretty good until you find out that's equal to only $59,206. 1st appearance 150. Nathan Tyler Former University of Arizona player is so below the radar that when I originally ranked all 156 players in the field, it turned out I was missing one of 'em. Tyler was the one who got away, somehow. 1st appearance 151. Ryan Spears Last year's Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year from Wichita State took the last year off from competitive golf to pursue his degree. 1st appearance 152. a-Vaughn Snyder Listed at 5-foot-5, he may be the shortest player in this year's field. 1st appearance 153. a-Scott Lewis Only player in a four-man playoff at the Somis, Calif., sectional to bogey the first extra hole, but he later reached the field as an alternate. 1st appearance 154. a-Kyle Peterman After having to return for sectional playoff one day after the 36-holer, he earned a spot in the field. 1st appearance 155. a-Matt Nagy Was an alternate out of local qualifying; when 53 players ahead of him failed to show at sectionals, he made the most of his opportunity. 1st appearance 156. a-David Erdy Nothing personal against the 19-year-old from Boonville, Ind., but someone has to be the last man on this list, and the last man into the Open -- he reached the field when Shingo Katayama bowed out Monday -- was as good a choice as anyone. 1st appearance
Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.
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