Commentary

Eliminate all but Dustin Johnson

Updated: June 12, 2013, 7:03 PM ET
By Matt Willis | ESPN.com

The U.S. Open is annually one of the, if not the, greatest tests in golf. It's enough to give a duffer like me nightmares, waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking of my ball in tangled grass or rolling off an ice-slick green.

Luckily, I don't have to play at Merion. But 156 of the world's finest golfers will tee it up Thursday, all asking themselves what it'll take to win.

Likewise, many fans and pundits will be giving their take on what it will take to win, and they'll be making their picks. Some will use statistics to make an educated guess. Others will play a hunch or trust their gut. Many will simply pick Tiger Woods.

My methods for picking aren't nearly that simple. In fact, I won't even pick a winner. I'll use a mix of statistics, history and trends to pick 155 losers and, by process of elimination, a winner. I call it The Eliminator.

Does it work? Two years ago, the system nailed Rory McIlroy at the U.S. Open, and earlier this year at the Masters, Adam Scott was one of the final three.

First off, let's start wiping out guys in a hurry. No player has won the U.S. Open in his first attempt at it since Francis Ouimet back in 1913. He's not playing this year, so let's take out the 45 players who will be making their first U.S. Open start this year.

Let's continue to knock them off left and right. Each of the past nine U.S. Open champions made the cut at the previous year's British Open. Sounds simple enough, but 70 of the remaining 111 didn't play the weekend last year across the pond. So they're gone. My apologies to players like Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey.

The U.S. Open is a true test of golf, and lately, it's been a young man's game. Each of the past four U.S. Open champions was 30 or younger. Sorry to all of those who have celebrated too many birthdays. Among the 30 players to hit the wayside are Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Ernie Els, Luke Donald, Jim Furyk and, yes, even you, Tiger Woods.

Let's look back to the Masters, because each of the past five major championship winners made the cut in the last major played. Six more are eliminated, which gives us just five left.

Not only must you have played in a previous U.S. Open, but you had to see some time in contention. Each of the past three U.S. Open champions had previously finished 18th or better in a U.S. Open. That takes out Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler and Branden Grace to leave the final two.

We're on a stretch of variety in majors that I'm looking to continue. Each of the past four U.S. Open winners, as well as seven of the past eight, picked up his first major victory.

Furthermore, 10 of the past 12 major winners hadn't won a previous major. That's enough to eliminate McIlroy to leave us with just one.

This week, look for Dustin Johnson to make up for his past major championship disappointment and finally break through. Remember, the numbers don't lie.

The Eliminator: Step-by-Step

1. No player has won the U.S. Open in his first start since Francis Ouimet in 1913.

45 elminated, 111 remaining

Golfers eliminated:

Steven Alker
Brandon Brown
Brandon Crick
Chris Doak
Jamie Donaldson
Zack Fischer
Steven Fox
Estanislao Goya
Luke Guthrie
John Hahn
Gavin Hall
Matt Harmon
Max Homa
Billy Horschel
Mackenzie Hughes
John Huh
Randall Hutchison
Jung-Gon Hwang
Bio Kim
Michael Kim
Russell Knox
David Lingmerth
Morten Orum Madsen
Hideki Matsuyama
Cory McElyea
Grayson Murray
John Nieporte
Thorbjorn Olesen
John Parry
Eddie Pepperell
Ted Potter Jr.
Jesse Smith
Scott Stallings
Brendan Steele
Brian Stuard
Ryan Sullivan
Josh Teater
Yoshinobu Tsukada
Yui Ueda
Jaco Van Zyl
Harold Varner III
Michael Weaver
Matt Weibring
Chris Williams
Ryan Yip

2. The past nine U.S. Open winners made the cut at the previous year's British Open.

70 eliminated, 41 left

Golfers eliminated:

Matt Bettencourt
Jay Don Blake
Angel Cabrera
Michael Campbell
Paul Casey
Kevin Chappell
Stewart Cink
Tim Clark
Darren Clarke
George Coetzee
Wil Collins
Jason Day
Marcus Fraser
Hiroyuki Fujita
Sergio Garcia
Robert Garrigus
Lucas Glover
Mathew Goggin
Adam Hadwin
David Hearn
Peter Hedblom
Russell Henley
Jim Herman
Charley Hoffman
Morgan Hoffmann
David Howell
Brandt Jobe
Rikard Karlberg
Robert Karlsson
Martin Kaymer
Jerry Kelly
Cliff Kresge
Doug LaBelle II
Scott Langley
Marc Leishman
Edward Loar
Matteo Manassero
Phil Mickelson
Ryan Moore
Ryan Nelson
Joe Ogilvie
Jose Maria Olazabal
Ryan Palmer
Cheng Tsung Pan
John Peterson
Kevin Phelan
Scott Piercy
D.A. Points
Alistair Presnell
Justin Rose
Rory Sabbatini
Charl Schwartzel
Marcel Siem
Webb Simpson
Geoffrey Sisk
Jordan Spieth
Shawn Stefani
Henrik Stenson
Kevin Streelman
Kevin Sutherland
Andrew Svoboda
Roger Tambellini
Michael Thompson
Nicholas Thompson
David Toms
Bo Van Pelt
Boo Weekley
Mike Weir
Casey Wittenberg
Y.E. Yang

3. The past four U.S. Open winners were 30 or younger.

30 eliminated, 11 remaining

Golfers eliminated:

Aaron Baddeley
K.J. Choi
Luke Donald
Jason Dufner
Ernie Els
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
Jim Furyk
Bill Haas
Peter Hanson
Padraig Harrington
Justin Hicks
Freddie Jacobson
Thongchai Jaidee
Zach Johnson
Simon Khan
Matt Kuchar
Paul Lawrie
Hunter Mahan
Graeme McDowell
Geoff Ogilvy
Carl Pettersson
Ian Poulter
Adam Scott
John Senden
Brandt Snedeker
Steve Stricker
Nick Watney
Bubba Watson
Lee Westwood
Tiger Woods

4. The past five major winners all made the cut in the previous major.

6 eliminated, 5 remaining

Golfers eliminated:

Sang-Moon Bae
Nicolas Colsaerts
Martin Laird
Francesco Molinari
Louis Oosthuizen
Kyle Stanley

5. The past three and five of the past six U.S. Open winners had a previous finish of 18th or better at a U.S. Open.

3 eliminated, 2 remaining

Golfers eliminated:

Keegan Bradley
Rickie Fowler
Branden Grace

6. The past four and seven of the past eight U.S. Open winners hadn't previously won a major.

1 eliminated, 1 remaining

Golfers eliminated:

Rory McIlroy

That leaves ...

Your winner: Dustin Johnson

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.