Behind The Scenes

Paul Azinger offers five things to watch for at the U.S. Open

(L-R) Scott Van Pelt, Andy North and Paul Azinger on the 2012 U.S. Open set at the Olympic Club

SAN FRANCISCO — Golf’s most difficult test, the 112th U.S. Open, will be contested June 14-17 at the Olympic Club and ESPN will have live coverage of the first two days of play.

Paul Azinger, a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour during his career and captain of the United States’ winning Ryder Cup team in 2008, will be an analyst during ESPN’s U.S. Open coverage.

Azinger is very familiar with the Olympic Club layout, having played in the 1998 U.S. Open, the last time the event was held at the venue. He fired a five-under 65 on the last day for the best score of the tournament. Despite some changes to the course, Azinger still has a great feel for what the field will be up against.

Front Row caught up with Azinger to discover the five things viewers should watch for during the U.S. Open:

1. The first thing is who will handle the short putts? Seaside greens are very confusing. Does this really give West Coasters Tiger [Woods] and Phil [Mickelson] an edge?

2. Next, watch to see whether the greens are hard. If so, players who hit high, spinning short irons can get to those front pins.

3. Golf is always about hitting fairways, but because some of these Olympic fairways slope, for this tournament it’s about curving the ball into those slopes off the tee.

4. Mental fortitude: The U.S. Open is always about a difficult course setup, so watch for who has the best temperament for that.

5. A lot of people are wondering whether Rory McIlroy can become the first player to win the U.S. Open in back-to-back years since 1989. But I’m curious to see if the No. 1 player in the world, Luke Donald, has the power or strength to play this course? Or will it be another major disappointment for him as he seeks his first major championship?

ESPN’s live coverage from Olympic airs from 1-3 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. ET on Thursday and Friday, June 14-15.

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