Staff predictions: U.S. Open

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Golfweek’s fleet of reporters is on the scene this week inside the gates of Torrey Pines. Here are their predictions:

James Achenbach

Winner: Justin Leonard will win the U.S. Open. How do I know? A pizza deliveryman told me. I love the fact that Leonard won the Memphis event before the U.S. Open. I love the fact that he is streaky player. Let the streak continue. Forget about the overwhelming length at Torry Pines. What it means is that all players will miss plenty of greens, and Leonard has one of the best wedge games on Tour.

Sleeper: The Wilson boys. Three of them – Dean, Jeff and Oliver – are playing in the U.S. Open. Dean is my pick. He came close in Memphis, finishing four strokes back of Leonard after a late collapse.

Jay Coffin

Winner: Jim Furyk. There is no reason not to pick a man who has tied for second place the past two years. He hasn't exactly lit the world on fire this year (four top 10s) but when the Open rolls around Furyk always seems to find his way to the top of the leaderboard. And let's face it, it's time for him to jump up and claim another major championship.

Sleeper: Padraig Harrington. The reigning British Open champion hardly would qualify as a surprise winner as he has quietly put together a solid season with only one missed cut and four top-5 finishes, including a fourth-place tie last week in Memphis. Focus will be on Tiger and Phil, which could leave the door open for Harrington to sneak in there.

Jeff Rude

Winner: Sergio Garcia. His combination of powerful and accurate ballstriking suit a long, narrow U.S. Open layout like Torrey Pines. And he’s in form. And apparently he feels he putts better – the first step to putting better – with short-game guru Stan Utley in tow. Look for Padraig Harrington, who beat the Spaniard in a 2007 British Open playoff, to be in the mix as well.

Sleeper: Boo Weekley. The Open is about ballstriking and Weekley is a striker who is playing well. Open pressure shouldn’t get to him because he treats every tournament the same.

Sean Martin

Winner: Phil Mickelson. Everyone’s picking him, but there’s a good reason. It seems inevitable that Mickelson will avoid the cruel fate suffered by Sam Snead and eventually win the national championship. This week represents Phil’s best shot. He plays well when the crowd is behind him, as evidenced by three consecutive runner-up finishes in front of the favorable New York crowds at Winged Foot, Shinnecock and Bethpage. The hometown support in San Diego could be enough to push him over the top.

Sleeper: Stephen Ames. Ames seems to play some of his best golf when the conditions are toughest. They won’t get much tougher than at Torrey Pines. Ames has finished in the
top 10 in two of the past five U.S. Opens, including a T-10 at Oakmont. Ames is peaking at the right time, as well. He has finished fifth, fourth and 13th in his past three starts.

Rex Hoggard

Winner: Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods. Lame pick, fine, but hardly the lock we thought he’d be when he lapped the field buy a few furlongs earlier this year at the Buick Invitational.

Sleeper: Geoff Ogilvy. Stop me if you’ve heard this, but we’re going with Ogilvy. The Aussie has an Open game and according to his swing coach Dale Lynch he’s driving the ball better than he has his entire life, always an asset at the national championship.

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