We’ve taken a couple of weeks out in anticipation of the season’s 2nd major, and by the looks of things at Oakmont, it looks like a few of the players may be wishing they had this week off too! It looks pretty brutal. Last year’s US Open was an anomaly in a number of ways, but it looks like a return to the more traditional set-up this week.
The rough isn’t particularly long (4 inches) but it is super-thick and looks like it’s going to be pretty penal – especially around the greens. With rain forecast on Thursday and potentially Friday, it will be essential to stay clear of the rough in order to post any kind of score. The greens are the fastest anywhere in the world and are expected to run at around 14.5, though the only benefit of the rain will be taking the edge of these on Thursday/Friday. With bright sunshine and gentle breeze over the weekend they should bake out nicely to become faster than glass and could embarrass a few players.
Taking all of this into consideration it’s a challenge to identify particular stats that may flag up a winner. For sure, they’ll have to putt well, but with greens so fast there will also be a huge advantage in having soft hands and a great imagination. There is a feeling that many of the modern players have taken much of the feel out of putting with mechanical actions and use of Aimpoint and green charts; and when they are confronted with such extreme surfaces that throw the book out of the window – well, they may just be found out.
Obvious contenders for the crown are Jason Day (7/1) and Jordan Spieth (10/1) who are both phenomenal putters and as mentally strong as they get. It may be that Spieth “does a McIlroy” and comes back from his Masters capitulation in style, but we rate Day as the player who has it all right now. He can play the course in so many different ways that we rate him as an overwhelming favourite, but at 7/1 it’s just so hard to put money on him.
We have picked a couple of guys who may cause you a double-take, but bear in mind that this is not a long golf course but it will require and incredible amount of experience and discipline to conquer it. Our feeling is that any of the players posting clips of ridiculous greens or ball-swallowing rough are starting to layout the excuses (consciously or sub-consciously) and as such will not have the requisite mental fortitude.
It’s been tough not to back Dustin Johnson (16/1) given his record, but we just don’t feel confident in him closing it out. Toward the other end of the scale, we were very close to backing Kevin Chappell (100/1), who has a pretty incredible record in the event with a 3rd, 10th and 100% cuts made, but in the end we had to stop ourselves somewhere.
Here are our picks:
Justin Rose 28/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £370
Winner at Merion in 2013, Rose has had a curious season. He came out hitting the ball incredibly well and complaining that his short-game was way off, while collecting a stack of strong finishes. Despite this he recorded his now customary top 10 at Augusta and has since been suffering with a dodgy back. Some may say this is a foolish pick given his fitness concerns and his tinkering with the putting. We firmly believe that Rose will thrive on the mental challenge here. He has the discipline to be able to manage his game and ensure that he’s getting the ball into the right spots on the greens. He may not burn bright early, but it’ll take more to grind him down than most
Phil Mickelson 30/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £395
Six-time runner-up. He’s still looking to complete the career grand slam and if he did, would become the oldest US Open champion in history. You’d say that the odds are stacked against him, but his form of late has been strong and it’s the US Open. Despite Phil saying that this course is the hardest he has played, we think that he will thrive on the challenge and his superb touch will give him a sniff come Sunday.
Hideki Matsuyama 33/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £432.50
We made money off the back of this man earlier in the season and are confident that he has the composure to deal with the challenge. He is rarely phased and putts like a dream. Since his win he’s bubbled along nicely, but he has the feel of a Major player and will be comfortable with the questions being asked of his game.
Matt Kuchar 40/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £520
Kuch is currently in a run of form hotter than a McDonalds apple pie. He does this. It’s not just the run of 6 top 10’s from 8 starts (12 straight cuts made) that we back him though. He scrambles amazingly well and manages his game beautifully. The fact that he won’t complain about anything – the bad lies, the ridiculous greens – and will get on with playing the game. He’s made his last 6 US Open cuts and is proven on this stage. A major is the only thing missing from his CV.
Sergio Garcia 50/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £447.50
Shhh. We know exactly what you are thinking ……. Fast greens will show him up! Well, despite having a scratchy record with the short stick, he has got an
incredible imagination around the greens and a lovely touch. He ranks 1st in GIR this season and we back him because he will hit a lot of fairways and greens. As such he should be able to control where he is on the greens and will have the creativity to hit some of the funky putts that will be necessary from range. We’ve been holding him back for Troon, but there is a feeling that he is staying nicely out of the spotlight.
Soren Kjeldsen 200/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £1260
He’s the shortest hitter of our squad, but he proved that can be no crutch with his incredible play at The Masters. It would have been easy for him to drop off a little after that week, but he went straight down to Valderamma and contended again. He’s a player that knows his limitations and manages his game beautifully. There are quite a few juicy bets to be had around this price but we like the Dane’s attitude and feel like he could thrive at Oakmont.