The second major of the year gets underway this week as the Olympic Club, San Francisco hosts the 112th U.S Open.

America’s national open, referred to by the USGA with a touch of vainglorious pride, as ‘Golf’s toughest test’ has been dominated throughout its history by players from West of the Atlantic, with the tournament producing an American winner on 79 occasions. However, the shift in power over recent years which has seen European players dominate the top of the rankings has resulted in a disturbance to the status-quo, with Europeans prevailing in the last two U.S Opens.

Northern Irishman Grame McDowell halted a 40-year European drought when he won the trophy in 201 at Pebble Beach, becoming the first U.K golfer to win a major in 11 years in the process. And of course last year Rory McIlroy unforgettably blitzed the field at Congressional, as he led the tournament throughout on the way to a U.S Open record-breaking 16-under par score.

All pre-tournament talk of potential champions come this Sunday has expectedly focussed upon the big names from both sides of the ‘Pond.’ McIlroy aims to become the first player to successfully defend the title since Curtis Strange in 1989, whilst the now perennial pre-Major questioning of whether Lee Westwood will break his duck and claim one of golf’s most prestigious prizes after so many recent near-misses. Fellow Englishman Luke Donald is another looking to win his first major after enjoying an incredible past year which has seen him occupy the number-one world ranking position.

Can Tiger confirm his return to the golfing stage by moving one closer to Jack Nicklaus’ 18-wins major record?

Over the pond the big question of whether Tiger Woods can win his 15th major and his first since his comeback will once again re-surface, especially after Woods’ recent impressive win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational leading to calls that the Tiger is really back again. Left-hander Phil Mickelson is another multiple-major winner who can never be discounted whilst rising stars in the US Ricky Fowler, Matt Kuchar  and Nick Watney will all be looked upon as being chances of providing a home win.

However, the Olympic Club has a history of defying expectations with four little-known champions being crowned at the Lake Course in U.S Open history. A short course characterised by small greens and narrow fairways and some wicked doglegs has led to the downfall of big names in the past and could well do the same again in 2012. With a truly international field of 156 players, the tournament is wide open which makes predicting a winner an especially difficult feat. Everything is set for what could well be another fascinating week of major golf drama on the American West Coast.


Simon Mulligan