By petedirenzo
Monday, June 15, 2009

Editors' Note: The lack of Tiger Woods picks below seems to have touched off a firestorm of reader outrage. Please rest assured that we are aware of his presence and most of us think he's the man to beat. We should have noted from the start that we made a concerted effort to pick players other than Woods, since he is so obviously the odds-on favorite. Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Padraig Harrington. Trying to win three straight majors is an enormous burden that would send anybody over the edge. But that talent doesn't simply disappear. He's long, hits it way higher than he used to, prepares beautifully and is tough as nails.Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I'm picking Ian Poulter. He showed me a lot at Birkdale last year.Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: You stole my pick! Now that Poulter is gone, I'll take Tiger. He has the winner's circle at Bethpage all to himself after '02, and I don't think he likes sharing. He never plays poorly for long. Never. Although if Poulter wears bell-bottoms plastered with Mets logos, I like his chances.Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I'm going with Vijay Singh. It's a smashmouth course, and the greens are relatively flat. Putting will be de-emphasized; it'll take a premier ball striker to win. Vijay is the kind of player who should win an Open, and at his age [46] it's now or never.John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: Once I start picking a guy to win, I stick with him. I've been on the Robert Karlsson bandwagon, and I'm staying on it. The fact that he won't play this week due to an eye infection will not deter me.Alan Bastable, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Angel Cabrera. Cabrera, like Rodney Dangerfield before him, can't get no respect. Here's a guy who has won two of the last eight majors, on strikingly different tracks, and Ladbrokes, the British oddsmaker, has tagged him as a 51-1 longshot to win next week. Sixteen players are more likely to win, according to Ladbrokes, seven of whom have never won a major and one (Rory McIlroy, at 34-1) who has never played an Open. And it's not like they're playing the thing at Colonial. Beastly Bethpage suits Cabrera and his long-bombing, free-swinging, swashbuckling style. Put all your pesos on him.Michael Walker, Jr., senior editor, Golf Magazine: Phil Mickelson. Tiger's win at Memorial was impressive but definitely a case of "horses for courses." Muirfield Village is like Torrey Pines: Woods almost can't lose there. Obviously, Phil is lot more concerned about his wife than winning a golf tournament, but his problem is never that he's underprepared for a U.S. Open. "I've never been this emotional where if I'm driving alone or what have you I'll just start crying," Phil said last week. "It's kind of a weird thing. I'm looking forward to have a four- or five-hour mental break where I force myself to focus on something else. I'm looking forward to that." I still like Tiger at the British and PGA so he can collect his two majors and then make No. 18 at St. Andrews next year (because TW always has his biggest moments on the grandest stages).  Dick Friedman, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Paul Casey. I'll eliminate the negative -- a T63 at the Memorial -- and instead  accentuate the positive achieved during a brilliant '09 for the new world No. 3: his first PGA win (at Houston), a second (at the Accenture), a fifth at the Crowne Plaza, and three other finishes in the top 20. And oh, yes: two wins in Europe. The other thing that I like is a final-round 69 at Augusta. Winning a major would be a big leap for a guy who didn't have a PGA Tour win until April, but mighty Casey is ready to step up to the bat.Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Steve Stricker. Strick has won everything except a major, and he's now as hot as ever (a victory and five other top 10s in 2009) and due to break through when it counts most. The U.S. Open is his best bet -– he's got three top six U.S. Open finishes and was 16th at Bethpage in 2002 –- because he's got a classic USGA package: he drives it straight (42nd in drivcing accuracy), hits lots of greens (11th in GIR) and has a consistent flatstick (8th in putting). Most of all, Strick has ice-cool Wisconsin nerves and will thrive in the zany New York atmosphere. David Dusek, deputy editor, The last time time the U.S. Open was contested in the New York area was 2006 at Winged Foot. That course is an A.W. Tillinghast classic, and it favors players who have a high ball flight and deft putting touch. Bethpage Black, another Tillinghast course, will demand the same type of game. Geoff Ogilvy won at Winged Foot, and while I'd love to pick him to win another Open, his propensity for tossing in a big number could be his undoing. Nope, I'm going with the player Ogilvy defeated in the final the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Paul Casey. He's won twice on the European Tour, once here in the States (Houston) and seems primed to finally break through and win a major.Anne Szeker, producer, How can I not pick Phil Mickelson? Sure, he's got a lot going on in his personal life right now, but he had the St. Jude Classic to shake off his bad shots. He's already won twice this year, and the crowds in New York love him. Their support will push him to win his first U.S. Open title.Ryan Reiterman, producer, Rory McIlroy. He's only 20 years old, but McIlroy has proven he can compete and win anywhere in the world. He's long off the tee, fearless with the putter and he's not afraid of the big stage. Steve Beslow, assistant editor, Golf Magazine: I think it's finally Steve Stricker's turn. He's just too good a golfer (maybe the most underrated player on Tour) not to win a major -- and he's playing as well now as he ever has. He's not flashy, but there's no real weakness to Stricker's game. He always seems to be hanging around the top of the leaderboard on Saturday afternoon, and Bethpage is as good a place as any for him to finish the job.Anonymous Pro: I was going to make Sean O'Hair my dark horse pick, but hell, I'm going to go ahead and pick him outright. He's a great driver of the ball, a good putter, pretty l
ong and is playing great.Who's your pick to win the U.S. Open? Tell us in the comments section below.

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