Commentary

Olympic eliminates all but Scott

Originally Published: June 12, 2012
By Matt Willis | ESPN Stats & Info

At the very least, the U.S. Open is one of the toughest tests of the golf season.

It gives a duffer night terrors, visions of a golf ball tangled in shin-high rough or watching an approach shot roll off the green like it was hit onto a sheet of ice.

It's not easy work for those of us making predictions either, but last year, the stars aligned, and Rory McIlroy made me look like a soothsayer, running away from the field at Congressional.

For those of you new to my method of madness, let me break down how I do this thing. There will be 156 golfers teeing off Thursday at the Olympic Club, but come four days later, only one will be giving the 155 others a bad case of trophy envy.

Many predictors will pick a winner based on who has been playing well. Others will follow a hunch or go with their gut. Many people will just pick Tiger Woods.

I don't do things like that. I've analyzed statistics and U.S. Open history to come up with a different method. Instead of just picking a winner, I'll find reasons why all but one golfer cannot win. I call it The Eliminator.

First off, recently it's taken some experience to win the U.S. Open. Seventeen straight winners have made at least two previous U.S. Open starts. I'll take out everyone who has made fewer than two, which takes out 72 golfers right off the start.

Experience is a good thing, but too much of it isn't. We haven't had an U.S. Open winner over the age of 40 since the turn of the millennium, with Payne Stewart in 1999 being the last to win after his 40th birthday. That takes out another 26 golfers, including Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Steve Stricker.

Next up, look for players with some previous major success, most notably, last year's British Open. The last eight U.S. Open winners made the cut in the previous year's British Open. I'll eliminate 35 remaining golfers who didn't pull that off. So you can cross Tiger, Luke Donald and the red-hot Jason Dufner off the list.

I'm looking for previous major success but no previous major winners. The last 14 majors have been won by 14 different players, and the last eight have been won by players who had never previously won a major. Let's take off everyone with a major on their résumé, nine total, which leaves us with a mere 14.

Let's go back to looking at past major success. Of the last six U.S. Open winners, four of them had a top-10 finish in the last PGA Championship. Looking at the first page of last year's PGA Championship leaderboard is enough to take out 13 more names -- sorry to Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia and others -- and leaving just one man.

He finished in the top 10 in three of the last five majors, and Sunday, I look for him to put the icing on the cake. Mark me down for Adam Scott at the United States Open, because the numbers don't lie.

The Eliminator: Step-by-Step
1. The last 17 U.S. Open winners have made at least two prior U.S. Open starts.
72 eliminated, 84 remaining

Golfers Eliminated:
Blake Adams
Matthew Baldwin
Shane Bertsch
Tommy Biershenk
Jason Bohn
Gregory Bourdy
Keegan Bradley
Rafael Cabrera-Bello
Patrick Cantlay
Roberto Castro
Kevin Chappell
Paul Claxton
George Coetzee
Nicolas Colsaerts
Jeff Curl
Jason Day
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
Martin Flores
Hiroyuki Fujita
Brian Gaffney
Brice Garnett
Branden Grace
Hunter Haas
James Hahn
Hunter Hamrick
Anders Hansen
Brian Harman
Jim Herman
Morgan Hoffman
Beau Hossler
Cole Howard
Mikko Ilonen
Raphael Jacquelin
Brendan Jones
Colt Knost
Brooks Koepka
Scott Langley
Peter Lawrie
Steve LeBrun
Dong-Hwan Lee
Edward Loar
Bill Lunde
Matteo Manassero
Casey Martin
David Mathis
Mark McCormick
Dennis Miller
Jesse Mueller
Alexander Noren
Samuel Osborne
J.B. Park
John Peterson
Alistair Presnell
Robert Rock
Brian Rowell
Alberto Sanchez
Nick Sherwood
Webb Simpson
Lee Slattery
Scott Smith
Jordan Spieth
Anthony Summers
Tadahiro Takayama
Kyle Thompson
Michael Thompson
Nicholas Thompson
Marc Warren
Aaron Watkins
Tim Weinhart
Charlie Wi
Cameron Wilson
Andy Zhang

2. No player over the age of 40 has won the U.S. Open since Payne Stewart in 1999.
26 eliminated, 58 remaining

Golfers Eliminated:
Michael Allen
Stephen Ames
Thomas Bjorn
Olin Browne
Angel Cabrera
Michael Campbell
Alex Cejka
K.J. Choi
Joe Durant
Ernie Els
Bob Estes
Jim Furyk
Retief Goosen
Padraig Harrington
Tim Herron
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Robert Karlsson
Davis Love III
Phil Mickelson
Rod Pampling
John Senden
Vijay Singh
Steve Stricker
Toru Taniguchi
David Toms
Y.E. Yang

3. The last eight U.S. Open winners made the cut at the last year's British Open.
35 eliminated, 23 remaining

Golfers Eliminated:
Aaron Baddeley
Sang-Moon Bae
Matt Bettencourt
Jonathan Byrd
Tim Clark
Ben Crane
Luke Donald
Jason Dufner
Robert Garrigus
Peter Hanson
Justin Hicks
Ryo Ishikawa
K.T. Kim
Soren Kjeldsen
Matt Kuchar
Martin Laird
Hunter Mahan
Steve Marino
Graeme McDowell
Francesco Molinari
Kevin Na
Joe Ogilvie
Geoff Ogilvy
Carl Pettersson
Scott Piercy
D.A. Points
Ian Poulter
Alvaro Quiros
Chez Reavie

Darron Stiles
Kevin Streelman
Nick Watney
Lee Westwood
Casey Wittenberg
Tiger Woods

4. The last eight major winners each had never previously won a major.
9 eliminated, 14 remaining

Golfers Eliminated:
Stewart Cink
Lucas Glover
Trevor Immelman
Zach Johnson
Martin Kaymer
Rory McIlroy
Louis Oosthuizen
Charl Schwartzel
Bubba Watson

5. Four of the last six U.S. Open winners had a top-10 finish in the last year's PGA Championship.
13 eliminated, 1 remaining

Golfers Eliminated:

Simon Dyson
Rickie Fowler
Sergio Garcia
Bill Haas
Charles Howell III
Fredrik Jacobson
Dustin Johnson
Spencer Levin
Justin Rose
Kyle Stanley
Bo Van Pelt
Mark Wilson
Gary Woodland


Your winner: Adam Scott

Matt Willis has been a researcher with the ESPN Stats & Information Group since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows.

Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.