It's the U.S. Open, it's Mickelson, #mycrazyprediction
It will be mine.
I'm officially picking Mickelson to win his long-awaited first U.S. Open at first-time major venue Chambers Bay. It would be the first time I've ever been right about anything remotely connected to predicting golf tournaments.
For those of you who haven't been following along...oh, never mind. Here's the deal: Every major I use a completely random and statistically magical (#madeup) method to select the player I think has a numerological certainty (#nochance) to win. So far that process has yielded a perfect record, assuming zero-for-ever is a perfect record.
At the U.S. Open this year, I calculated a number of factors. First, I looked at PGA Tour statistical performance numbers for the last five U.S. Open champions in three areas I think might matter at Chambers Bay. I could have chosen any collection of statistical criteria, but quite frankly this would imply some sort of academic intensity or scientific curiosity. My major wasn't math or science, it was philosophy, and my curiosity was and still is reserved for things that were, shall we say, less, err, "tangible" or actually "knowable," as the learned folks might put it. In other words, the theoretically metaphysical, spiritually speaking. Which after all is just what this is (#shutup).
Moving on: First, I considered the rankings for a stat called Good Drive percentage. This stat reflects the number of times a player hits a drive that either lands in the fairway or results in a green in regulation (in other words, a missed fairway with a playable result). Chambers Bay's links-like feel and the graduated rough that the USGA's Mike Davis has become known for may result in more playable shots for tee balls that only slightly miss the fairway. Plus, with its 9,000-yard (or so) length, driver would seem to be a necessary club more often than not.
I also looked at the averages for "birdie or better percentage from the rough" and putting from 3-5 feet. Again, I believe Chambers Bay may reward more aggressive decsions from off the fairway than a typical U.S. Open, somewhat like last year with reimagined, rough-less Pinehurst No. 2 and eventual winner Martin Kaymer. And, of course, the U.S. Open is always about a premium on par, and making those nasty, score-saving short putts could be the difference between a top-10 and a trophy, like with Graeme McDowell at Pebble Beach and Webb Simpson at Olympic Club, the last two West Coast U.S. Open sites, like Chambers Bay.
But with Chambers Bay's status as a completely new U.S. Open venue, I also figured it might be of some value to look at what kinds of players (according to the world rankings) have won at unique, rarely seen or first-time U.S. Open sites in the last generation or so, including Pinehurst in both 1999 and 2014 since the 2014 version was completely different than the 1999 version, but also Bethpage in 2002 but not in 2009, if you follow me (#ummsureyeah).
All of that makes sense. To me. Then, because I thought it might matter to the younger generation, I decided to add bonus points for the number of Twitter followers a player has. My theory, based on my experience with two teenagers in the house: The more support you receive from the social media universe, the more confidence you have. I give you Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson and Ian Poulter.
That said, maybe too much socially infused confidence isn't that good a thing for a U.S. Open, which requires the kind of measured humility usually reserved for the sherpas of Everest. Maybe the most productive kind of self-confidence starts with true self-awareness of all your flaws, a true accounting that doesn't require counting up Likes and Followers or posting images of your . Maybe a virtual community is a false sense of security. I'll take living, breathing fist bumps over Favorites every day and twice on Sunday. This particular Sunday, as a matter of fact.
But I digress. So, taking all of those numbers together and finding my much-lauded super average, it produced the number 50. There were many players who hovered in that range. If you believe my system, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Jimmy Walker, Bubba Watson, Brandt Snedeker, John Senden and Ryan Palmer will be close. Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy will not be factors (#uhoh).
Only one man had the number on the nose. Yes, the guy who's lost this thing six times. Now, Mickelson has been relatively terrible with his driver this year (a ghastly 164th in the "good drive" statistic), but he is among the best in birdie or better from the rough and putting from 3-5 feet. And as it turns out, his rally Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic included play off the tee with a variety of clubs that found more fairways. Reminiscent of how he 3-wooded his way around Muirfield at the 2013 Open Championship to win his last major title (#whyhitdriverwhen3-woodgoes320).
But the one stat that gave him the edge: Twitter followers. Mickelson has zero. He doesn't do Twitter, preferring to stay out of it and keep some of his life private. And still he's the most popular figure in golf today, the most financially successful pro golfer, the most sought after personality and brand endorser in the game, and he doesn't need a Snapchat account to make him more relevant.
In my formula, Mickelson achieved the magic number of 50 based on his stats and world ranking. Factoring in his Twitter followers at zero, he stayed right on that number. Had he had an official Twitter account with just one Follower, the bonus points would have pushed him off the mark.
Too bad for Ryan Palmer that he has 6,443 followers, or he might have been the pick (as it was, he finished with 49.4). Of course, he's likely to be hampered by another reason: He thinks the Chambers Bay setup will be "a complete farce." By contrast, Mickelson said just the other day, "I really like the course." Winners adapt and believe, and no one considers all the angles the way Mickelson does, as anybody who remembers the 2010 Masters can surely attest. Or the 2005 PGA Championship. Or the 2013 Open Championship. Or the 2008 Colonial. Or the 2013 Scottish Open. Or any time he's spun a wedge shot from a cartpath/hospitality tent/Port-O-let. Or flopped a lob directly over your head while you're standing right next to him. Or, well, you know what I'm saying (#ratingsalert).
Now, I wouldn't necessarily say lack of Twitter presence is a reason to pick Mickelson. I wouldn't say any statistical scenario is a reason to pick Mickelson. And I sure wouldn't say me picking Mickelson to win is a reason to pick Mickelson. But more than any major championship, the U.S. Open is a test of resolve, one that requires not only skill but the accumulated wealth of the experience of its moments, particularly its despair. Sometimes you have to believe that surviving defeat makes you stronger. Despite what it feels like. Six times over.
Clearly, no one is more accomplished in that regard, in this event, than Mickelson is. That's reason enough for me.