The world-class golfers and the historic course, on the other hand, are definitely wild cards. One thing for sure, however, is that this upcoming weekend is looking very favorable for one Rory McIlroy.
Here are five reasons why I’m predicting MiIlroy will win his 5th major, and 2nd U.S. Open title, at Oakmont.
1. McIlroy Is Reverted Back To His Old Putting Grip
McIlroy has played the majority of the 2016 season, using a left hand low grip. But he recently returned to his original right hand low grip. With the Oakmont greens being called “ridiculously fast” by McIlroy himself, he is setting himself up to have a better feel for the greens and a greater chance of consistency. Every opportunity to buffer himself against this unpredictable course will prove to be key. The adoption of his previous grip should be a confidence booster.
2. Rory’s 2011 vs. 2016 Season Parallels
So far, McIlroy’s 2016 PGA Tour season seems to be somewhat similar to his 2011 season when he last won the U.S. Open. In 2011 after six tour events, McIlroy had one missed-cut, two Top 10s to go along with two Top 25 finishes. This season on the PGA Tour, while playing in more events, McIlroy has a single missed-cut, five Tops 10s, and three Top 20s, with the addition of a win at the Irish Open.
In 2011, he finished 5th at the Memorial Tournament, and this year he finished tied for 4th – just two weeks before the U.S. Open. With a similar lead-up to the U.S. Open as in 2011, Rory seems to be traveling down the path he knows, and which has worked well for him in the past.
3. Rory Has Serious Momentum
With a slow start to his 2016 (worldwide, multi-tour) golf season (26th, 11th, 20th), McIlroy has been on fire, finishing 3rd, 27th, 4th, 12th, 4th, 10th, 3rd, 6th, and 1st. That’s five Top 5s, two Top 10s, and one Top 15 in only nine professional golf tour events, perfectly culminating with a big win at the European Tour’s Irish Open. It’s pretty clear that McIlroy has some serious momentum heading into Oakmont.
4. Oakmont May (Potentially) Fit Rory’s Game
He is 10th in driving distance at 305 yards and No. 1 in Strokes Gained: off the tee. This power game, combined with his proven mental toughness and consistency, should allow him to manage this historically unpredictable course. Oakmont’s 12th hole, measuring 667 yards, is the second longest par 5 hole in U.S. Open history (Olympic’s 16th hole measured 670 in 2012). Oakmont’s length will give the long bombers like McIlroy a clear advantage. Whereas the medium and shorter hitters will be forced to hit a driver off the tee on holes such as No. 12, players like McIlroy will be able to choose low irons for better control, less variability, and more consistent fairway landings without having to sacrifice distance.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) June 13, 2016
5. His Shirt and Shoes
Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t notice his in-vogue Nike Fly Blade polo and wish they were cool enough to pull off a reinvention of the traditional shirt collar.
And his new Nike Flyknit Elite golf shoes?
Traction definitely won’t be a problem despite the rugged course and unpredictable weather. Even a new fashion trend can give him the boost he needs to be the next U.S. Open champion and win his 5th major. So fly.