US Open 2014 Preview 2

Date: 12th – 15th June

Venue: Pinehurst Resort, No. 2 Course, North Carolina

Course: Par 70, 7,562 yards

Current Champion: Justin Rose

Purse: $8,000,000

Winners Share: $1,440,000

Past 6 Winners –

2013: Justin Rose

2012: Webb Simpson

2011: Rory McIlroy

2010: Graeme McDowell

2009: Lucas Glover

2008: Tiger Woods

Past 2 Winners at Pinehurst –

2005: Michael Campbell

1999: Payne Stewart

One of the most eagerly anticipated US Opens is finally on our doorstep. The tournament that has historically brought out the real best of top quality players, testing every facet of their games.

So why are we saying 2014 is eagerly anticipated more so than previous years?

Well, the host venue, Pinehurst No.2, may be a renowned track but we can safely say that no one really knows exactly how it will play because of this extensive renovation that has completely overhauled the look and feel from the majors it has hosted in the past few decades.

It is a new course that has kept many of the traditions which designer Donald Ross originally intended to create. It is going to be a highly intriguing 4 days.

If you want a detailed look at what the course is all about, do check out our 1st preview here.

Pinehurst will be playing at 7,565 yards, making it the longest par 70 in US Open history. We have come to expect those short, nudgers and nirdlers tracks from the years 2nd Major, so whilst it still maintains the focus on outstanding iron and approach play, length has come into it for 2014.

Bill Coore and 2-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw set about the revamp and the extension of over 300 yards will create all sorts of havoc for the field.

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 20.33.44As you can see 3 of the 4 par 3’s are over 200 yards and if the wind is up, will test any player with a mid-long iron. There may be only 2 par 5’s but they are relatively monstrous, whilst 4 par 4’s are over 500 yards. It does make you scream BIG HITTERS DELIGHT but you have to stay cautious because it will not be that simple at all.

It has been well documented how the 2 golfing stalwarts ripped up 40-acres of grass and replaced it with 35 acres of ‘wasteland.’

It consists of sand and vegetation, pine needles and natural fescues, so by the time the weekend’s play comes around, lies will be completely different to the opening rounds.

Accuracy will be important, mainly on the approach shots – especially between 200-225 yards, as many approaches will be at this sort of distance – because the notoriously difficult greens have hardly been touched and will provide the courses’ main defence.

How Pinehurst has changed over the years.  Incredible.

How Pinehurst has changed over the years. Incredible.

The raised, bentgrass greens are tough to find and get the ball to stick, so no matter how pinpoint you are with your irons, everyone will miss greens and this is where scrambling because a necessity. Defending your score as much as finding those birdies are vital to any US Open and this will be no different.

The one worry we are sure the USGA has about Pinehurst this year is the fact the weather on all 4 days looks horrendous.

http://www.weather.com/weather/tenday/Pinehurst+NC+USNC0529

If the rain pours consistently and heavily it will make it easier for these top pros to get the ball to stick on greens and then scoring could go anywhere.

In all honesty we have seen an abundance of names get talked about as potential winners, more so than any tournament we can remember, because the unknown entity of the course and weather makes it difficult to judge.

We have really slaved over our picks, after deliberating for hours about whether this guy has the game, or this guy etc. We finally came to a decision that we are certainly happy with and it felt right to go with 5 main people followed by a group of outsiders worth looking at.

Note: Many bookmakers are offering 6 places this week, but Coral have an offer of betting £10, getting £10 free in play.  A good ploy to use for this sort of tournament, because all sorts could happen on the first few days!

Let’s make it a happy Father’s Day for all of us.

Jordan Spieth (28/1 Coral)

Better than Tiger?

Better than Tiger?

20-year old Jordan Spieth has made a rapid rise to the top of world golf. Having only turned professional in 2012, he is now 10th in the rankings and we couldn’t be surer that he will become a multiple major winner. It is just a matter of time before he picks up his first one and Pinehurst could be the place he achieves that feat.

His performance at Augusta was truly special, although finishing just behind Bubba for a tie of 2nd, he had a 2-shot lead at one point and for us, he didn’t bottle it.

He showed his remarkable character and lack of fear, had it not been for an incredible performance from Bubba, he would have become the youngest wearer of the green jacket. That experience will undoubtedly help him and he would have learnt from the 4 days and this could put him in a great mind-set for this week.

At The Players he went into the final day joint top with Martin Kaymer and he didn’t look as comfortable admittedly. A few uncharacteristic bogeys amongst his usual birdies halted his chances for a big victory, but again he would have learnt from it all.

He is an exceptional talent, with superb iron ability and he has averaged over 290 yards in his last 3 tournaments, so his length is not an issue. He is also very capable with his long irons – 55th approaches from 200-225 yards, 4th approaches from 250-275 yards.

But it is around the greens where his genius really takes hold. He is an adept scrambler and putter and with the tough surfaces, he will be able to find birdies at the right time, whilst hold onto those valuable pars – 9th scrambling, 5th scrambling from the rough, 39th 3-putt avoidance, 29th strokes-gained putting.

Spieth is not a young pretender at all, this guy is the real deal.

Luke Donald (40/1 Coral)

Time for some success from the Englishman

Time for some success from the Englishman

Here we go again. Luke Donald is one of those players on that ever-shortening list of world-class, non-major winners.

He is now 36 and arguably into his prime years and with 15 professional wins across the globe, this could finally be the Englishmans’ time.

Unsurprisingly he showed he class at Merion last year, a course that screamed Luuuuuuuuuke. We know that Pinehurst is considerably longer and he doesn’t have the greatest length off the tee, but as we have said already, distance is useful, however it is more crucial to have an all-round game that can combat anything and everything the tournament throws at you.

Of his 11 wins on the PGA/European Tours, 6 of them have come on courses over 7,350 yards, let alone the WGC matchplay win at Doral – a monstrous 7,700 yard track.

He is accustomed to finding other ways to combat long courses and his course management is up there with the best in the game. Therefore his long irons are simply outrageous – 21st GIR 200 + yards, 21st approaches from 200-225 yards, 16th approaches from 250-275 yards.

Whilst around the greens, we all know his capabilities – 18th scrambling, 22nd scrambling from the rough, 10th 3-putt avoidance, 6th strokes-gained putting.

You can have every faith in Donald when standing over those clutch-putts and we do feel the recent experiences of near misses will actually help him in a weird way.

The RBC Heritage is a tournament he has come so close to winning many times (5 top 5s in 6 attempts) and he was in pole position to win on the final day. Matt Kuchar ended up holing out from the bunker on the 18th to snatch victory away and whilst there have been a few bad rounds since, the T3 at the BMW PGA Championship shows he hasn’t lost his form.

With Rose winning last year, it would be unheralded to have another Englishman dominate the best the USGA can offer. Yet, it is a distinct possibility.

Charl Schwartzel (50/1 BetVictor)

A golfing marvel

A golfing marvel

The only question mark for us surrounding the South African is whether he is a good enough putter to win around here. He is one of those who consistently burns the edge and lips out but his weight of putt is actually really good and that could prove to be vital around Pinehurst.

To show this in figures, he ranks 73rd strokes gained-putting (not exactly bad) and yet ranks 17th for 3-putt avoidance. And when every shot counts in majors, 2 putting your way around the course could prove to be a winning formula.

Aside from his short game, we know what he does from the tee and fairways with one of the best swings technically in the game.

He ranks 18th total driving, averaging 297yards off the tee, 42nd scrambling, T10 approaches from 200-225 yards (one of the key yardages considering the par 3’s as well), T15 par 5 going for the green (showing his ability to attack greens from all long yardages). At 50/1 for a man in his prime with a major under his belt and that swing, it is too good to resist.

Contended heavily at last year’s US Open and his only other top 10 in majors, aside from his Masters win, was at the 2011 US Open.

Hideki Matsuyama (50/1 BetVictor)

Matsuyama will not be hiding in the shade this week.

Matsuyama will not be hiding in the shade this week.

The first thing that comes to our mind is, can he win two tournaments in a row, one of them being the US Open? Well short answer, yes.

We had been following Matsuyama for a couple of years over on the Japan Golf Tour and even won a bit of money on him. So it was no surprises when he came over to America and immediately started putting in quality performances.

It was his consistency in the majors, very similar to our main man Spieth, that is scarily good. T10 (US Open), T6 and T19 were his three major performances last year. For a 21 year old, you can’t ask for much more. We can genuinely see an historic ding-dong battle developing between Spieth and Matsuyama for the next 30 years.

Aside from his performances in big events, the way he plays the game sets up perfectly for Pinehurst. He fits the statistics we looked at arguably better than anyone in the field. T34 total driving, T23 scrambling, 6th approaches under 100 yards, 9th 200-225, T41 225-250 and 22nd par 5 going for the green.

His putting has left a little to be desired this year but 7th putting average on the way to his Memorial victory two weeks ago is enough for us to be happy. He has unquestionable talent with the driver and irons, it’s just whether that all important putter turns up!

Keegan Bradley (66/1 Coral)

The steely concentration of Keegan Bradley

The steely concentration of Keegan Bradley

It has been a bizarre year for Keegan Bradley. He hasn’t really excelled, but his consistency has caught our eye for a tournament where a solid swing and rhythm is vital.

3 top 10s, but 9 top 20s is quite some return and we just feel his game could suit Pinehurst to add another major trophy to his cabinet.

He is very long off the tee when he wants to be – 21st driving distance and his approach play, all be it slow, has everything needed to combat the challenge this week – 30th GIR 200+ yards, 36th approaches from 200-225 yards, 16th approaches from 250-275 yards.

He is one that will never shirk away from attacking greens and yes this has got him into bother at times, but if the rain does stay for all 4 days, then this ploy could reward him with a shot at lifting the trophy.

Around the greens he has immense patience and prowess, but a lot of his putting comes down to what head he brings. He can miss all sorts of putts, but he can also hole anything from anywhere for fun. If the latter of the schizophrenic-like Bradley turns up, we have a winner on our hands – 16th scrambling, 24th 3-putt avoidance, 58th strokes-gained putting.

For 66/1, a major champion, we just felt it was too good to ignore, especially with there being pretty poor value at the top. Keegan has the complete game to really challenge here.

Outside Bets

We usually incorporate players of big odds into our final 5 but with this being a major and the best possible field, there are plenty of people at tremendous value. So we have brought together 5 names at three figure odds and we will let you be the judge on whether you chuck a tiny bit of money on them or not. All of them will be at respectable odds in the top 10 market too.

Matt Every (125/1 Various)

If you get a chance, type in Matt Every into Google, there are some hilariously similar mug shots of the man.  Lad.

If you get a chance, type in Matt Every into Google, there are some hilariously similar mug shots of the man. Lad.

A player who might not be a household name but has a massive future at only 30 years of age. Bagged his first PGA Title back in March at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and after a terrible run of form since that win, hit back last week with an impressive 3rd place behind Ben Crane. Finished 28th at Pinehurst back in 2005 when he was a younger lad, but this will not mean a lot.

Notable Statistics: T43 scrambling, T20 scrambling from rough, 3rd strokes gained-putting, T9 approaches under 100yards, 16th 200-225yards, T37 par 5 going for green.

Chris Kirk (125/1 Various)

Chris Kirk, a smiling hero

Chris Kirk, a smiling hero

Like Every, bagged a title in this 2014 wrap-around season at the McGladrey Classic. Went on to finish 2nd at the Sony Open and hasn’t missed a cut all season! That’s 18/18 cuts made. Finished T4 in his last appearance at the Memorial and was back striking the ball as cleanly as we know he can. Currently sits 6th in the FedEx Rankings, showing what a player he is. His iron play is one of the best in the game and will be invaluable around Pinehurst. Also ranked 3rd in putting average last time out.

Notable Statistics: 44th total driving, 19th scrambling, 40th strokes gained-putting, T52 under 100yards, 57th par 5 going for the green.

Ryan Palmer (150/1 Paddy Power)

We’ve had him earmarked for the US Open for quite some time now and it’s always just been a case of making sure he qualifies. His game pretty much is perfect for this course and has 5 top 10’s to his name in 15 starts this season, including 2 runner-up finishes. Looked very good a few weeks ago in his T5 finish at the Crowne Plaza. Has 3 PGA Tour titles to his name and knows how to get the job done. Next step is doing it on the big stage.

Notable Statistics: 25th total driving, 23rd driving distance, 35th scrambling from rough, 75th strokes gained-putting, T45 under 100yards, 13th par 5 going for the green.

Paul Casey (100/1 Paddy Power)

We're in awe of this photo

We’re in awe of this photo

Really, really good to see the Englishman back contending in America and shooting some good numbers. One of the best drivers of the ball in the game, particularly evident in his victory at last year’s Irish Open on the European Tour where he was hitting it miles. Growing up in England he will be more than used to the weather that he will experience in the first two rounds at Pinehurst. Led for quite a while at the Memorial Tournament and will be buzzing about the way he is playing.

Notable Statistics: T73 strokes gained-putting, T9 under 100yards, 31st 200-225, T63 par 5 going for the green.

Brooks Koepka (250/1 Various)

Koepka will be prepared if the weather turns sour.

Koepka will be prepared if the weather turns sour.

Followed this guy for quite some time now since his Challenge Tour days and absolutely bombs it off the tee. After a few weeks full-time in America, has started to look quite decent. Will be used to adverse conditions playing all over the globe on the Challenge and European Tours. With a tidy short game added to his length off the tee, worth a few coins surely?

Notable Statistics: T6 driving distance, T39 3-putt avoidance, 44th strokes gained-putting, T26 under 100 yards, T13 200-225.

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