Is Kuchar a contender at Merion?
Is Tiger's bad weekend a cause for concern?
Is Matt Kuchar a legitimate contender at the U.S. Open? Will Tiger's performance at the Memorial haunt him at Merion? Our experts analyze those and other pressing topics in golf in our latest edition of Monday Four-Ball:
1. What did you learn about Matt Kuchar at the Memorial and is he now a legitimate contender at the U.S. Open?
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Matt now has a swing he trusts and he believes he can win big tournaments on different styles of golf courses. He is a contender for the U.S. Open, but he can't miss fairways at Merion like he did the first two rounds at the Memorial (50 percent, 64 percent). If he has those numbers in the first two rounds, he won't be around for the weekend.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Kuchar has now won twice in 2013 against two of the strongest fields of the year. As arguably the most consistent player in the world, he should be one of the favorites to win at Merion.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: He has proven to be a good ball striker, not something for which Kuchar was always known. His play in tough wind at the Memorial was another example and regardless of his performance there, he ought to be a good pick for the U.S. Open. Kuchar is consistent, having not missed a cut this year. And he's been playing nicely of late.
2. Is the bad weekend by Tiger Woods cause for concern going to Merion?
Collins: Slight concern, yes. The U.S. Open is all about making the big putts when you need to. Tiger hit 82 percent of the fairways last week, yet ranked 71st in Strokes Gained Putting. Might be time for another hour with Steve Stricker! We all know Tiger will figure it out, the question is will he figure it (putting) out at Merion?
Evans: It just shows that there is a very fine line between greatness and mediocrity. On any given week, Tiger could play poorly.
Harig: Just as a solid tournament does not necessarily mean a good showing at the U.S. Open, nor does a bad performance mean he has no chance. Woods clearly wanted to play better, and his performance was surprising given his success of late. But in the overall big picture, it doesn't mean much. It's a different course, with different greens at Merion. And he'll be focused on correcting the flaws that plagued him at the Memorial.
3. A Texas A&M player was penalized a stroke for slow play last week which ended up costing the Aggies a shot at the NCAA title. Do you have any problems with it? Why or why not?
Collins: I don't have a problem with the slow play penalty. What I have a problem with is the perception of the penalties coming only in high-profile situations. If there were other players penalized for slow play make it known also. By doing that, I won't feel like in some way this one guy or team was singled out to be made an example of. That's not how to speed up play.
Evans: Slow play is an epidemic in junior and college golf. No better place than the NCAAs to set an example that slow play will not be tolerated.
Harig: No problem. It's not an easy situation, to be sure, but slow play penalties should be enforced, and Texas A&M's Ty Dunlap was part of a group that fell six minutes behind its checkpoint -- after earlier being behind. He was then timed and assessed a 1-stroke penalty. It's harsh, because it dropped A&M into a playoff and the Aggies then did not qualify for match play.
4. Fourteen-year-old Chinese amateur Guan Tianlang took another sponsor exemption and is playing this week in Memphis. This will be tournament number five on the year (Masters, Zurich, Byron Nelson, Memorial). How much is too much for the kid to play on the PGA Tour?
Collins: It was cool at the Masters. It was cute at New Orleans. It was old at Byron Nelson. It was annoying at Memorial. Now it's a nuisance. While I understand the need for good relations with the People's Republic of China, watching a kid from anywhere hit 3-wood into most par-4s and shooting 79 is not helpful to anyone. Someone please let the kid go home and work out for a while. When he's four years older and 20 pounds heavier he'll be a force to reckon with.
Evans: At first I thought he shouldn't take all these exemptions because I didn't think he was ready, but now I feel like he would be a fool to not test his game against the best players in the world at every opportunity.
Harig: Guan was a great story at the Masters, which he qualified for by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. And after making the cut there, he did so again in New Orleans. But now he's missed two cuts at the Byron Nelson and Memorial and is playing again in Memphis. And it's too much. Time for Guan to go back to school and compete against kids his own age.
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