What to expect at the U.S. Open
Should Harris English be in the U.S. Open? Are Tiger and Phil ready? Is Merion? Our experts analyze those and other pressing topics in golf in our latest edition of Monday Four-Ball:
1. Harris English got his first PGA Tour victory Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic but isn't in the U.S. Open field. Should he be?
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Yes. Even though the winner of a PGA Tour event the week before the U.S. Open has never won our national championship, the USGA should allow a spot (similar to the Masters) for the winner if he's not already exempt.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: English had an opportunity through the sectionals to get into Merion, but he didn't get it done. He also didn't qualify under the other standards. If the USGA starts giving out exemptions to players because they get a win the week before the tournament, it undercuts the significance of the sectionals.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: As nice of a story as it was for English to get his first PGA Tour win, it is only the timing of the victory that has us wondering whether he should be in the U.S. Open field. The stipulations clearly state you need to win twice between Opens or be ranked among the top 60 in the world at various junctures, and English came up short. He also had the chance to qualify.
2. Phil Mickelson finished second and looked good doing so. Does he finally get that elusive first U.S. Open?
Collins: No, but he will contend. He hit almost 67 percent of the greens in regulation over the weekend. Unfortunately, he hit only 55 percent of his fairways for the week, and you can't win the U.S. Open that way.
Evans: Phil will definitely put himself into contention on the weekend. That's all I know for certain. He's prepared and as focused as ever on winning majors.
Harig: It's hard to predict a victory, but at least Lefty is engaged, and he clearly wants to win the tournament in which he has been runner-up five times. Mickelson likes to play the week before a major, and he comes to Merion having shot three straight rounds in the 60s.
3. How do you think Merion will hold up this week as a U.S. Open venue?
Collins: Even if we get the rain that's in the forecast early in the week, I believe Merion can be a great test of golf. We all understand that a soft course with no wind has no defense against the best in the world. However, narrow fairways, rough that is penal and hole locations that leave little margin for error will still make Merion a challenging U.S. Open venue.
Evans: The East course won't yield a 10-under-par winner. And it also won't be as hard as the Olympic Club was last year. Players will succumb to the pressure of the championship more than they will the golf course.
Harig: The question should really be about the weather. It all depends on whether the course is firm and fast or wet. A soft course opens up the possibility of extremely low scoring, given Merion's relatively short length. But a firm course will be tricky, and there are plenty of long holes to cause fits. Either way, it should be an interesting week.
4. Was Tiger Woods' performance at the Memorial any reason for alarm heading into the U.S. Open?
Collins: Very little. If anything, it gave him a practice strategy for the week leading up to Merion. The way Tiger has been playing so far this year, does anyone believe he can't "find it" again quickly? I do.
Evans: Memorial was not indicative of the quality of play we've seen all year from Tiger. He doesn't lose his game in one tournament.
Harig: He certainly didn't want to shoot 79 and finish over par in a tie for 65th place. But in golf, past results rarely portend future success or failure. In Woods' case, there have been plenty of examples of good play heading into a major followed by a lackluster performance. Perhaps it works the other way for him this time, as the deficiencies at the Memorial can be stressed in practice.