The U.S. Open pairings for the first and second rounds were released today, and the only way to handle that news is to immediately rank them from worst to best. The criteria? Golfing prowess, personality, watchability, potential for fist fights, sex appeal, etc. Bonus points if the USGA got clever with the pairing in question. Let’s go!
52. Fran Quinn, Simon Griffiths, Donald Constable
What? Who? The one interesting thing about this pairing is that despite three SUPER British-sounding names, there’s only real Brit in the trio.
51. Azuma Yano, Ryan Blaum, David Gossett
Briefly got excited when I thought Ryan Blaum was Ryan Braun. I guess David Gossett is sort of a comeback story?
50. Hunter Stewart, Zac Blair, Jason Millard
I enjoyed watching Hunter Stewart (a rising Vandy senior) earn his berth with a clutch 15-footer in person on Monday in the Memphis qualifier, but I’m not going to pretend there’s much excitement in this one.
49. Cody Gribble, Andrew Dorn, Chris Thompson
A good way to tell when you have a boring group is that the USGA will stick them in the latest possible Thursday tee times, where coverage of their round will air at 3am on The TeeTime Channel, which you can only get via satellite in North Korea.
48. Daniel Berger, Brett Stegmaier, TBD
The only reason this isn’t dead last is the air of mystery “TBD” brings to the table. Who could it be? COULD IT BE TIGER?!
47. TBD, Toru Taniguchi, Hyung-Sung Kim
ANOTHER POTENTIAL TIGER PAIRING!
46. Tom Lewis, Justin Thomas, TBD
This is the part of the post where I’m beginning to understand I should have just done a top 20, due to the overwhelming number of unknowns in the field.
45. Wen-Chong Liang, Shiv Kapur, Maximilian Kieffer
Hey, it’s the “foreign guys we’ve never heard of, so let’s stick them together” group.
44. Garth Mulroy, Bobby Gates, Steven Alker
I’m pretty sure all three of these names are made up.
43. Clayton Rask, Nicholas Mason, Brian Campbell
If you haven’t skipped to no. 30 yet, why are you still here? I wouldn’t wish the top half of this list on my worst enemy. This is the biggest mistake of my career. I’ll never work again.
42. Henrik Norlander, Rob Oppenheim, Lucas Bjerregaard
Too bad Oppenheim isn’t famous, or that one Oppenheimer insurance or banking or mutual fund or whatever company would be falling all over themselves to sponsor him.
41. Robby Shelton, Brady Watt, Matthew Dobyns
The “our names sound sort of like country music stars” group. Except for Matthew Dobyns, who exists on this planet solely to ruin my joke.
40. Casey Wittenberg, Oliver Fisher, Andres Echavarria
Remember when Oliver Fisher was the star amateur at the British Open that one time? In like ’96? Me either.
39. Brian Stuard, Marcel Siem, Andrea Pavan
Brian Stuard is on my fantasy team, meaning he gets automatic exemption into the top 40.
38. Chad Collins, Kevin Kisner, Kyoung-Hoon Lee
Kevin Kisner’s about to have a child, which means he might have to leave early, in which case? TIGER TIME.
37. Graeme Storm, Alex Cejka, David Oh
How dare you accuse me of inflating this group’s ranking simply because Graeme Storm is an awesome name! How dare you! Oh wait, nobody accused me of that? Moving on…
36. Maverick McNealy, Smylie Kaufman, TBD
Wow. These names are so awesome that if the TBD hopes to live up to them, there are only five names that player can have: Gunner Alonzo, Venison Cocktail, Jumpsy Monsanto, Lunatic SteelBalls, or Bazooka Kline.
35. Niclas Fasth, Hudson Swafford, Miyazato Kiyoshi
I thought of a really stupid Fasth and the Furioth joke, but I’m going to spare you. Except I didn’t, really, did I?
34. Kevin Tway, Chris Doak, James Renner
Tway is one of those ubiquitous golf names, the way Stoudemire works for basketball or Rolle for football. I don’t know if they’re all from the same family, or if it’s a weird coincidence, or if it’s a secret Obama project designed to undermine the sport, but probably the latter.
33. Danny Willett, Luke Guthrie, Cory Whitsett
Guthrie, on the other hand, is a classic folk singer’s name, so Luke is probably a major disappointment to his family.
32. Rod Pampling, Ryan Palmer, Kevin Streelman
Rod Pampling is the Twilight Zone guy, right? I don’t have the energy to look this up.
31. Mark Wilson, Joe Ogilvie, Ken Duke
Tip for parents: If your last name starts with a vowel, don’t give your kid a name that ends with the same vowel sound, or everyone will have to take a weird pause when saying his name to make sure it doesn’t blend together into a fusion name like “Jogilvie.”
30. Will Grimmer, Anthony Broussard, Nicholas Lindheim
If this list were a romantic relationship, this would be date no. 314 without a kiss.
29. Bo Van-Pelt, Seung-Yul Noh, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
Van-Pelt’s name isn’t normally hyphenated, but I wanted to make this the Hyphen Group, so I’m taking matters into my own hands.
28. Aaron Baddeley, Aron Price, Oliver Goss
First names that begin with vowels. Otherwise, snooze.
27. Erik Compton, Scott Langley, Pablo Larrazabal
See Stephanie’s story on Compton’s qualifying efforts from Columbus. True story on Langley: He was at qualifying Memphis, and when he came off the course at -6, I told him the number was totally safe. Twice. I thought it was true, too, but broken computers and delayed scoring had seriously screwed up my perception, and it turned out that -6 was only good enough to get into a 5-for-2 playoff, in which Langley came up just short. I did not feel great that night, my friends, so it was nice to see he got in as an alternate.
26. Jeff Maggerty, Kenny Perry, Kevin Sutherland
We’re halfway through the list and I haven’t died. I’m not sure if that’s a positive, or what.
25. Steve Stricker, Bill Haas, Jim Furyk
If you combine the Ryder Cup records of Stricker, Furyk, and Jay Haas (Bill’s dad), you get 14-53-19.5. Weirdly, if you try to say those numbers out loud, the ghost of Seve Ballesteros appears and slaps you in the face, then laughs.
24. Luke Donald, Paul Casey, Harris English
This is clearly a case where the USGA thought they were putting three English guys together, right? “Well, we know Donald and Casey are English, and hey, this guy’s last name is English, so boom, that’s a group. What’s next?” I hope Harris doesn’t accidentally get put on Team Europe when the Ryder Cup rolls around.
23. Geoff Ogilvy, Retief Goosen, Lucas Glover
If my name were Lucas, I’d definitely go by “Luke,” but I think if I were a Geoff, I’d insist on “Geoffrey.” If I were named Retief, I’d wear jean shorts and a leather vest and legally change my name to “Ray Teef.”
22. Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen
There are a lot of these “which one doesn’t belong” groups, and in this case the odd man out is Oosthuizen, who isn’t old. Where’s the consistency, USGA? You couldn’t throw Angel Cabrera in this one? (Stephanie got angry at me for this one since I chose to ignore that they’re all recent British Open champs, but I don’t care, I’m #TeamOld til I die.)
21. Stewart Cink, Y.E. Yang, Justin Leonard
I like this one because they’re all major winners, but each of their wins is better known by someone else’s failure: Tom Watson nearly taking the British, Tiger blowing his first-ever 54-hole major lead, and Van de Velde blowing—CRAP THAT WASN’T LEONARD’S YEAR. Nearly perfect. Is it too late to get Paul Lawrie in this group?
20. J.B. Holmes, Graham DeLaet, Gary Woodland
Everyone knows DeLaet as the Canadian guy, but nobody ever talks about how Woodland is the only pro golfer from the forest kingdom Sylvos, and how he made a daring midnight escape after the tragic victory of Chipton the Terrible, the fifth squirrel king.
19. Kevin Stadler, Shane Lowry, Brendon DeJonge
“YO WE GOTTA DO A FAT GROUP!” —USGA, last night, after several drinks.
18. Billy Horschel, Robert Allenby, Billy Hurley III
Double L’s! Plus one Triple L, sorta!
17. David Toms, Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera
El Pato puts any group in the top 20. Toms and Johnson are a little on the boring side, but let’s hope Angel will liven them up a little.
16. Boo Weekley, Stephen Gallacher, D.A. Points
In some ways, Boo Weekley is the only American golfer.
15. John Senden, Brooks Koepka, Nicolas Colsaerts
Colsaerts is living proof that people look really cool smoking cigarettes and that everyone should start smoking immediately, especially kids.
14. Russell Henley, Chris Kirk, Brendon Todd
Bullllllldogzzzz. I like Brendon Todd because he came and ate pizza in the media room after he won the Byron Nelson. He’s a man of the people. The Braveheart of golf.
13. Ryan Moore, Patrick Reed, TBD
If Tiger joins this group, that’ll make two top 5 players in a single pairing. Pretty cool.
12. Nick Watney, Jonas Blixt, Joost Luiten
Fun trivia: Nick Watney is the only player on the PGA Tour who still plays with marbles.
11. Matt Every, Matt Jones, Roberto Castro
There are zero golfers on the PGA Tour more interesting or honest than Matt Every, and I’ll have Nick Watney fight any man who disagrees.
10. Hunter Mahan, Jamie Donaldson, Francesco Molinari
Top ten! If you made a list of unlucky golfers, Mahan would have to be close to the top, just because he’s been incredibly steady but hasn’t won in a long time, and his most visible moment is still the Ryder Cup shot against McDowell. Which is unfortunate, considering he’s a really good match play golfer. But when he faced Graeme this year in Arizona at the Accenture, he was super unlucky again, giving up a late lead when McDowell sank a series of ridiculous putts, and continued to do so into extra holes.
9. Matt Kuchar, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood
This is such a great group because it’s so eclectic. Kuchar is Mr. Steady Eddie, Stenson is an eccentric who could remove his pants at any time, and Westwood is a tremendous golfer who just melts under pressure. This would be the best Sunday pairing of all time, but I’ll take it on a Thursday.
8. Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler
It’s the fun hip young group YEOOWWWWWW *electric guitars* *neon lasers* *cool people skateboarding* THIS AIN’T YOUR DADDY’S GOLF!
7. Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, Matthew Fitzpatrick
Hey Phil, here’s the guy who broke your heart last year. Have fun the next 36 holes!
6. Miguel Angel Jimenez, Ian Poulter, Thongchai Jaidee
Ian Poulter plays his best golf when he’s furious, and I have a feeling he’s the kind of guy who will get really made at Jimenez’s pre-round stretching routine. He’s going 61-61 the first two days. On a serious note, how awesome was it to see El Mecanico win the Spanish Open at age 50? If he doesn’t make the Ryder Cup on points, everyone should boycott the event if McGinley doesn’t make him a captain’s pick.
5. Jason Dufner, Martin Kaymer, Keegan Bradley
PGA Champs group! Martin Kaymer is one of my favorite golfers, and I get the feeling he’s going to win a major soon, whether it’s here or in Liverpool. This is as close as I’m getting to a prediction.
4. Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Webb Simpson
The three U.S. Open champs before Rose last year. McDowell is one of the few golfers with a top-notch sense of humor, Rory is currently defined by his breakup with Wozniacki, and Simpson is kind of a puzzle; always consistent, rarely spectacular, and a little bit bland. All three are beginning to find their form after some ups and downs.
3. Sergio Garcia, Brandt Snedeker, Jason Day
Day and Garcia are two of the great stories and personalities in golf, as well as two of the best interviews. All three of these guys have been very close at majors before, and while you get the sense that Day will win two or three (at least) before he’s done, the clock’s winding down on Garcia and Snedeker, and their poor play under pressure casts serious doubt that they’ll ever reach the mountaintop.
2. Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel, Adam Scott
Could two elite golfers be any different than Adam Scott and Bubba Watson? This group of Masters winners (yes, Schwartzel won a Masters…it really happened) is alluring enough on its own, but the style clash elevates it to another level. Plus, both Scott and Watson are on top form with recent wins, though Pinehurst doesn’t necessarily set up well for a bomber like Bubba.
1. Dustin Johnson, Victor Dubuisson, Jimmy Walker
This is my favorite group for a few reasons. First, Walker is the surprise of the year, reeling off three wins and securing a Ryder Cup spot after winning zero times previously. Second, Johnson is ARGUABLY the best golfer under 30 in the world (only for 16 more days, though), with the most PGA Tour wins and the most athletic ability, and he’s come insanely close to winning a major. Third, the mystery of Dubuission, the young Frenchman who burst on the scene by beating Tiger in Turkey and then storming all the way to the Accenture final against Jason Day, where he pulled out the infamous jumping cholla shots in extra holes and nearly won the whole thing. He’s also incredibly shy, and we don’t really know much about his background. There’s a lot of intrigue here, and this is the group I’ll be following Thursday at Pinehurst.