US Open preview

Well, last week we were all over the leaderboard at the Canadian Open, and certainly in with the chance of a big win before Rory McIlroy’s tournament-winning heroics on Sunday.

As it was, Brandt Snedeker was an each-way place and both Henrik Stenson and Danny Willet finished tied 8th. So the next big win… for sure, it’s not far away. It’s simply a case of a putt or two dropping, rather than lipping-out!

And given what’s to come over the next few days, let’s hope it’s this week. Because after the US Masters in early April, and the newly-moved US PGA Championship in May…

This week we have the third Major of 2019, the US OPEN.

And the tournament really is set up to be a fascinating contest with a host of the world’s top golfers arriving at a truly iconic golfing venue (Pebble Beach) this week with a live chance of lifting the trophy.

Here’s a preview of the action in California…

The Tournament

Formerly the second, now the third golf Major of the year, the US Open is a prominent feature on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour schedules. The event is actually under the control of the USGA (United States Golf Association) who treat it very much as the opportunity to “torture” the players with the ultimate test of golf – tight fairways, long and penal rough, treacherous greens. The winner of the US Open is always viewed as a player who really has earned their reward as the conditions can be that difficult.

The tournament was first held in 1895 and since then the roll of honour has been dominated by home players with 84 of 118 champions coming from the US. The remaining 34 winners comprise Scotland (13), England (9), South Africa (5), Australia & Northern Ireland (2), New Zealand, Germany & Argentina (1). The leading individual winners are all some way back in the record books… Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus (all with 4 wins apiece). Next on the list come Hale Irwin and, more recently, Tiger Woods (each with 3 wins).

The field is typically 156 with the line-up drawn from a much wider catchment than, say, the US Masters as the US Open is “open” to any professional golfer, or amateur, with the necessary handicap who either qualifies or is exempt on account of their status (past champion, world ranking etc). The unique characteristic of this event is that should there be a play-off after 72 holes, the tied players come back the next day (Monday) and compete over 18 holes.

The Course

The US Open is played at a variety of courses, with the tournament so far being hosted in 19 different states. This year we’re at Pebble Beach, on the California coast, one of the most iconic courses in the world, let alone the USA. The venue holds the AT&T Pro-Am each year, and has also staged the US PGA Championship (1977) as well as five US Opens (latest 2010). Pebble Beach will also be celebrating its 100th birthday, with the course, designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, opened in 1919. The 7,040 yard layout can be set-up as a par 71 or 72 (the 2nd hole being a par 4/5)… it’ll be a par 71 for the US Open!

72-Hole Record: 268, Rory McIlroy (2011)

18-Hole Record: 63, Adam Scott (2013)

Last 10 Winners (and Top 5 places)

(2018) Brooks Koepka (Fleetwood – Johnson – Reed – Finau)
(2017) Brooks Koepka (Harman & Matsuyama – Fleetwood – Fowler, Haas)
(2016) Dustin Johnson (Furyk, Lowry & Piercy – Garcia & Price)
(2015) Jordan Spieth (Johnson & Oosthuizen – Grace, Scott & Smith)
(2014) Martin Kaymer (Compton & Fowler – Day, Johnson, Koepka & Stenson)
(2013) Justin Rose (Day & Mickelson – Dufner, Els, Horschel & Mahan)
(2012) Webb Simpson (McDowell & Thompson – Dufner, Furyk, Harrington & Toms)
(2011) Rory McIlroy (Day – Chappell, Garrigus, Westwood & Yang)
(2010) Graeme McDowell (Havret – Els – Mickelson & Woods)
(2009) Lucas Glover (Barnes, Duval, Mickelson – Fisher)

The Field

As stated above, we have a full complement of 150+ golfers at Pebble Beach this week. Rory McIlroy is the market leader.

The Weather

Not too bad at all. Dry, with almost no rain forecast whatsoever. Temperatures in the mid 70s, and wind speeds, crucial for the coast, are looking pretty benign at sub-10mph.

That said, the course set-up should cause the players enough problems!!

The Bets

Matt Wallace – currently $101
“Wallace is quickly becoming a world class player and this is reflected in his world ranking of 26th. Less than three years ago Wallace was playing on the Alps Tour and now he’s about to line-up against the best in the world to compete for another Major Championship. Wallace belongs on this stage and he knows it. His confidence borders on arrogance and he often rubs people up the wrong way but many will say you need this ruthless streak to be successful. His form in Europe has been exceptional over the last 12 months, he’s had two wins and three runner-up finishes. His record in America is also impressive for a player who has only just started playing in the States – 20th at the Honda Classic, was followed by 6th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and then 30th at the Players Championship to end an impressive run of debut PGA Tour form at big events. Then came the USPGA Championship at Bethpage where he finished 3rd, and played superbly when so many other big names faltered. He also finished 19th last year at the USPGA, which goes to show this young Englishman is a player for the big occasions. This week’s links test should be a good fit for Wallace who recently finished 2nd at the British Masters which was played at the Hillside Links. He’s accurate off-the-tee and hits plenty of Greens-In-Regulation which will be necessary requirements this week. A big win is just around the corner and at these prices he’s a no-brainer.”

Jim Furyk – currently $126
“Furyk has found form since returning to the PGA Tour after a long injury lay off. He’s only missed two cuts since February, and one of those was at the bombers heaven at Bethpage. He finished 14th at the AT&T Pro-Am here, 9th at the Honda Classic and 2nd at the Players Championship. The last three weeks have seen him finish 13th, 33rd and 27th last week in Canada. His ball-striking was superb last week ranking 3rd in Strokes Gained: Approach which will be the most important metric this week. Furyk knows he can’t compete on big-hitters courses but he can still mix it with the best at venues such as Pebble Beach where accuracy is favoured over power. This course should set up perfectly for this plodder who’s hitting fairways and greens for fun this year. Furyk’s short game has let him down in recent weeks, but the severe nature of this week’s rough means it’ll level the playing field as even the very best short game wizards will struggle. With his game in great shape and the course tailored to his game triple-figure quotes on this golfing legend look very generous and must be taken.”

Tyrrell Hatton – currently $126
“Hatton has put a nice run of form together lately and is extremely buoyant about where his long game is right now. He hasn’t missed a cut since March and has had solid results at the Players Championship, US Masters and the USPGA Championship. He finished 8th at the Charles Schwab Challenge, and 33rd last time out at The Memorial. His long game looks to be firing but he’s been struggling on the greens, but this week this won’t be as important as par will likely be a good score. His links pedigree is about as good as it gets having won the Alfred Dunhill Links twice and runner-up once (all in the last three years). He’ll relish the challenge this week and likely extend his Major record of making the last six cuts in a row. He had two Top 10’s in last year’s Majors including his best Major finish of 6th at the US Open. He’s full of confidence right now and going so far under the radar that there’s no pressure on him at all. I expect a big week from the fiery Englishman at a perfect venue.”

Danny Willett – currently $176
“Willett continued his good play last week with his best finish of 2019 with an 8th place at the Canadian Open. His ball-striking continues to get better with each week that passes and he ranked 5th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-green last week. The signs are extremely encouraging for Willett that he’s getting back to his best and he’s an excellent links player so this week should be right up his street. During a really tough 2018 campaign Willett played three links events in the Summer, and he made the cut at all three recording three of his best finishes in a row. He was 6th at the Irish Open, 19th at the Scottish Open and 24th at the Open Championship. Considering he’d missed seven of his last eight cuts prior to this run it goes to show how fond of links golf he is. With his game trending in the right direction and an ability to play some of his best golf by the sea Willett is another Englishman who looks value this week at around 150/1.”

Webb Simpson – currently $46
“Simpson was written up in my pre-season preview of this year’s Majors, where he was flagged up for this very tournament. He’s a past US Open champion in 2012, and has made seven cuts in eight starts in this Major – and besides his win, Simpson came 14th in 2011 and 10th in 2018. His game is well-suited to this week’s demands. Not long off the tee, but where he gains on the field is his ability to find Greens-In-Regulation. Simpson regularly features near the top of the charts for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green (11th this year). He doesn’t have a great deal of course form at Pebble Beach, but this is down to a lack of tournament play, rather than a string of missed cuts. His record though in Hawaii points to a player who can handle open, windy courses (likewise a respectable record in the Open Championship). His form in 2019 is solid, with a 5th at the US Masters and 29th at the USPGA Championship. Around these events his last three starts on the regular PGA Tour has been 16-18-2 (this 2nd place coming last week in the Canadian Open). Experienced, a past Major winner and multiple PGA Tour winner, Simpson has all the attributes, on paper, of a contender at the game’s biggest events.”

Good luck.

 

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