The U.S. Open may still be a couple of months away, but it's not too early to start looking ahead to Pinehurst
April 21, 2014

The Phil Effect

Phil Mickelson played 33 holes at Augusta National in three under par, but he was eight over on the other three. His misadventures featured some embarrassing short-game play and led to his first missed cut at the Masters since 1997. Mickelson explained that he felt nervous because he hadn't been in contention in the run-up to Augusta, so maybe anxiety was to blame. Either way, expect him to grind hard in Charlotte and at the Players as he bids to win an elusive U.S. Open title.

No Roars for Rors

Though he was never truly in contention after a second-round 77, Rory McIlroy tied for eighth, his best Masters finish. Augusta National is looking less like a potential playground for Rory, whose putting didn't impress. The guy can't seem to win. Though he shot a one-under 71 on Saturday, his playing marker, an amateur and Augusta National member, clipped him by a stroke. A closing 69 says Rors isn't too far off form.

Orange Crush

Rickie Fowler's decision to let teaching guru Butch Harmon refine his swing last December may prove to be a landscape changer on the PGA Tour. Fowler, who had only three top 10s last year, tied for fifth at the Masters and regained some of his swagger. After reaching the semifinals of the Match Play and finishing sixth in Houston, Fowler, 25, appears poised for a strong second act.