Uh? Hicks and Streelman lead U.S. Open

The beauty of the U.S. Open, they say, is that the tournament is unique in giving every golfer a chance at vying for the prestigious title. Illustrated by Roy McAvoy in the classic golf flick Tin Cup when asked about taking a high risk shot by a commentator, "Well, so am I! I mean, look at me, all right, what I'm wearing. I mean, I'm playing for Rio Grande Short-Haul Trucking, Briggs and Brown Sanitation, First State Bank of Salome, Woody's Smokehouse... You think a... you think a guy like me bothers to worry about the percentages?"

The spirit of "Tin Cup" seems to live on with the 2008 U.S. Open leaderboard. Thus, ZealousGolfer.com is pleased to provide you with some background information for the top six players after Thursday's round.

1. Justin Hicks - 67 (-3)

Hicks owns a golf instruction center in San Diego, California. Naturally, Hicks would appear to be the unknown hometown favorite for many of the galleries at Torrey Pines. Though a member of the PGA of America as a teaching professional, Hicks also has spent time on the Nationwide Tour. Through six events in the 2008 season, Hicks has made only three cuts and has made a hair over $8,000. Even amongst Nationwide Tour professionals, his statistics are middle of the road: 47th in driving, 116th in putting, and 104th in scoring (at 72.04 strokes per round). Possibly the Jason Gore (right) of the tournament: will produce a hard fought battle and will capture America's hearts, but will falter at the end.

1. Kevin Streelman - 67 (-3)

Streelman, who qualified for the U.S. Open only two weeks ago in Ohio, is a member of the PGA Tour. Though ranked 142nd currently in FedEx Cup points, his 11th place ranking in GIR out of Fairway Bunkers makes him a threat to the big names (note the sarcasm). Similar to our fellow leader, Streelman has produced mediocre results pretty much across the board. Most notably a 188th ranking in putting. Given the usual USGA approach to greens, it is hard to believe two players with flatstick struggles have dominated thus far.

Aside: the last time ZealousGolfer.com covered Streelman was after his Sunday pairing with Tiger Woods at the Buick Invitational. Streelman entered four strokes behind Tiger and in second place. The result? A five over par Sunday round to drop to 29th. We will see how he copes with the pressure of a major championship.

3. Stuart Appleby - 68 (-2)

We know him. A contender for best player to have never won a major, Appleby is in good position for a run at the championship. Considering his expertise in the "Bomb and Gouge" philosophy, the unusually wide fairways of Torrey Pines seem to play to his advantage.

3. Eric Axley - 68 (-2)

He's back. In 2006, Axley (left) had an impressive hot streak near the end of the season, which included a victory at the Valero Texas Open and several top 5 finishes. However, Axley is certainly new to this position: he has never made a cut at a major championship.

3. Rocco Mediate - 68 (-2)

Also notable for past success, Rocco qualified in the tough Ohio field two weeks ago. Rocco's presence has not been very significant since his stint commentating on the Golf Channel, and more notably, his run at the 2006 Masters. Unfortunately, that run may have serious implications on Rocco's performance this week. Think Phil at Winged Foot. Mediate was at the top of the leaderboard before taking a sextuple bogey on Augusta National's 12th hole.

3. Geoff Ogilvy - 68 (-2)

The highlight of the group at the leaderboard, Ogilvy is the only one in the bunch with a major championship, let alone a top five finish. The champion of the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot following the Phil Mickelson meltdown, Ogilvy's strong play and calm demeanor just may lead him to a second major.

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