US Open 2015

2015-US-OPEN_LOGO

Prize Fund – $9,000,00

Winner’s Share – $1,620,000

Course – Chambers Bay (7,585 yards Par 72)

Our 2014 Picks – Jordan Spieth – T17, Luke Donald – MC, Charl Schwartzel – MC, Hideki Matsuyama – T35, Keegan Bradley – T4, Brooks Koepka – T4

The US Open is just a week away now and the excitement is gathering momentum. It’s been a truly remarkable year in golf with big names doing big things and you can only really think that the majors will produce outstanding drama in 2015.

And we can expect drama befitting of the West End or Broadway for this years US Open. The USGA are taking a completely different approach by selecting Chambers Bay and in our eyes, all stats, history and trends can pretty much be flung out the window – in some respects.

Of course, it’s still good to have a look at US Open form however unique the course is, because the correlation of tough, grinding track will certainly cross over.

So, our major preview this year is going to rely on incredibly different aspects to usual and an in-depth look at the track that is causing various degrees of mayhem, controversy and excitement.

#14 Pano

Chambers Bay

Primarily, what do we actually know about the place?

Well it is in Washington, which is a first in itself and has been built and moulded on top of what was an old quarry site. Whilst we’ve seen coastal type golf at Pebble Beach before, never have we witnessed anything like this. It’s a bonafide links track, never really seen in the States, but very common in the UK.

Designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones Jnr, he pretty much had next-to-no restrictions on how he was able to construct the layout because of it’s history. That’s why there are intriguing holes, tough contours and uneven ground.

We’ve been lucky enough to spend some extended time with one of the guys who helped in the construction, agronomist John Clarkin. He, like many others, was drafted in from a British and Irish background knowledge of Links tracks to help grow and design this unprecedented place.

Clarkin stated how Links-like it is and that you can draw pretty much no comparisons with any US courses – it’s simply like extracting a British seaside course and plonking it on a Washington coastline.

The rough is full of fescue and overgrown, natural grass that will pretty much mean a drop shot if you’re hacking out of there. However, the fairways are slightly wider than we could expect, which brings to the argument that big hitters will fare well. However, if you are spraying it all over then you are going to have absolutely no chance.

The second cut will not be particularly long either and alongside the fact there are no real fringes around the greens, the whole course just manoeuvres and meanders around itself, flowing into one mammoth challenge.

Iron play is going to be absolutely vital as well – the best player from tee to green will without doubt be in the mix. But obviously we have to factor in the sloping and rapid greens (potentially around 12 on the stimpmetre) that will cause havoc and 3-putts galore.

Just to throw even more of a spanner in the works, there’s a bunker being ingeniously coined ‘Chambers Basement.’  It’s a 10-foot deep pot bunker, slap bang in the middle of the 18th.  Expect to see a few hacking out of there and it could be like Adam Scott at The Open when Ernie Els sneaked in to grab victory…

That looks like a fun bunker doesn't it?

That looks like a fun bunker doesn’t it?

But the main thing to really look out for, as with any Links course we’ve ever bet on, is the weather. Wind being the main source of potential destruction. At the time of writing, the wind will not be particularly horrendous, but simply due to the exposed nature of some of the holes, a slight breeze can still be tough to deal with.

http://www.theweathernetwork.com/forecasts/golf-report/7-day-weather-forecast/united-states/washington/chambers-bay

The last big thing to think about is the fact that whilst the par 72 stands at 7,585 yards – we’ve already been told that the USGA are going to play around with several holes on various days, making each one completely unique.

We could have anything playing rom 7,350 right up to 7,800. That is simply madness for players and caddies, but amazing for us as spectators.

So, all in all, what sort of player should you be looking for?

  • Someone who has Links form is an absolute must for us. If you’ve never performed on a coastal track, you will find it difficult to suddenly come to a US Open and win against the very best
  • A tee to green proficiency and understanding of when to attack and when to defend
  • Ability to manoeuvre the ball and play different when the conditions change and when the USGA alters the layout
  • Obviously putting is ultimately the difference at the majors…
  • Some sort of recent form. We feel you can discount pretty much anyone who has not been playing well in recent outings, because you need to be in good knick before a US Open (even Lucas Glover had a T2 a few weeks before his victory in 09’)
  • When the US Amateur was held here in 2010 (Peter Uihlein won the event) the scoring average was 79.25.  That shows you need a grinding nature when the going gets particularly tough…

Chambers Bay from everyone else’s perspective:

Mike Davis, USGA Executive Director:

“Virtually every hole out there we will be playing from different teeing grounds on different days. In some cases we may end up putting tee markers on slight slopes as opposed to you think, well, you’re always going to have teeing markers on very flat areas. But there may be some where we give the players a little downhill slope, a little uphill slope, a side slope. So that’s interesting.”

Ian Poulter, social media maverick:

“Well several players have played Chambers Bay in prep for US Open. The reports back are its a complete farce. I guess someone has to win.”

Phil Mickelson, Mr.America (and hopeful contender for inclusion in the new Rory McIlroy PGA Tour game):

“I really like it. The first time you play it, it’s like St. Andrews. You don’t know where to go. You don’t know what mounds do what to do the ball.”

Jordan Spieth, everyone’s hopeful successor as Mr.America (speaking after the US Amateur):

“The course was ridiculously difficult”

Tiger Woods, a fan of Miss.America’s:

“We don’t see this even at the British Open because the greens aren’t banked like this.”

Jason Day, husband to a very attractive wife:

“It’s a little funky.  More Links kind of style golf course, I’m excited to see how it shows it’s teeth”

Henrik Stenson, Swedish Meat-ball-playing, tee-to-green guru:

“It’s a tricked-up links course. It’s got some high elevations, some five, six holes that we normally don’t see on a regular links course, and then we’ve got some more severeness, I’d say. It’s going to be different and it’s quite tricky in places. It’s going to be so much down to the weather as well. If the wind blows and if you were to add a bit of rain, you don’t want to stand there on a 240-yard par-three down to a postage stamp. You need to be sharp with your short game there, it’s going to be tested.”

Brooks Koepka, the lady-lover (according to his Instagram):

“If you just hit a bad golf shot, you’re going to be screwed”

And Finally,

Bubba Watson sinking a ridiculous putt during a practice round…

https://twitter.com/bubbawatson/status/609418048106139648/video/1

So if you’re able to work any of that out and have a few players in mind, we’d say go with your hunches.

We have a few lads that we are quietly confident can be up there challenging, but before we showcase the might six, we must stress that Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose all have (obviously!) ridiculous appeal, but are slightly too short for us…

Our Picks

Phil Mickelson (22/1 BetFred)

World Number 19

Phil getting those fists pumping.  Come on! Phot Courtesy of USA Sports Today

Phil getting those fists pumping. Come on!
Phot Courtesy of USA Sports Today

Sometimes you’ve just got to believe things will happen for a reason. 2015 could finally see Phil’s tumultuous affair with the US Open finally come to an end. The guy has 10 top 10’s and 6 runner-ups with Chambers Bay being his 25th start at this major!

After visiting the course for the first time a few weeks back Mickelson said it “resembled a course you would find in Britain” and that he’s “excited” about Chambers Bay. Looking at his Scottish double back in 2013, we know he has exactly what it takes on these sort of tracks.

The fairways being slightly more generous than usual will only go to help him and if the wind picks up we know he’s got a few low stingers in his locker.

As we’ve mentioned, winning a US Open needs recent form. He’s only missed one cut (The Players) in his last 8 events and has a T4 at the Wells Fargo and T2 at the Masters amongst them. Has posted some solid rounds in recent weeks but just hasn’t put 4 rounds together – Chambers Bay and the electric atmosphere of the US Open is where he finally could. Phil produces on the biggest stage.

Open Championship Form since 2003 and European Tour ‘Links’ tracks since 2012:

WIN Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Miss Cut
2 4 4 10 13 2

Plus a T9, T60 and WIN at Pebble Beach since 2012

Last 6 Results:

FedEx St.Jude Classic Memorial Tournament Wells Fargo Champs The PLAYERS The Masters Shell Houston
 T3 T65 T4 MC T2 T17

Rickie Fowler (22/1 Stan James)

World Number 8

Focused - courtesy of golfweek

Focused – courtesy of golfweek

Rickie Fowler showed everyone last year that he has the game to really contend at the Majors.  Followers of DownThe18th will know that we’re big fans of him and have often spoken about his exciting brand of golf.

Winning the Players Championship a few weeks ago (and saving our pretty poor betting season) really cemented his place amongst the big boys, dispelling the ridiculous myth that he’s an overrated player.

He was absolutely superb on the back nine stretch which included 4 birdies and an eagle, then keeping his bottle to win in a playoff.

So, whilst he missed the cut last time out at the Memorial, his form this season is still more than good enough to warrant huge Major appeal.  But one of the biggest reasons we really fancy him for his maiden victory is because of the perfect fit with the track.

He has proven his ability on Links courses and actually has a decent track record.  He’s not been scared to come over to the UK for European Tour events in the past – a T8 at the Scottish Open last year and T30 in Ireland in 2015.  That T30 was pretty much ruined in one hole though, when he was very much contending going into the last day.

He is one of the best drivers of a ball – T23 total driving and his irons can be devastating.  But his scrambling and never-say-die attitude is simply perfect for a course like this, when there will be times you’re hacking out of rough and struggling for a tough up and down from a bunker.

This could be the ultimate message to everyone in golf that we are going to have a 4-pronged future with McIlroy, Spieth, Rose and Fowler.

Open Championship Form since 2003 and European Tour ‘Links’ tracks since 2012:

WIN Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Miss Cut
0 2 3 4 6 1

Plus a T6 at the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Last 6 Results:

Memorial Tournament Irish Open The PLAYERS WGC Cadillac Match Play Zurich Classic The Masters
MC T30 WON T9 MC T12

Jim Furyk (40/1 Paddy Power)

World Number 3

 

Jimbo Courtesy of Daily Mail

Jimbo
Courtesy of Daily Mail

We all know about how many near-misses Jimbo had before he won the RBC Heritage back in April. But that win could give him the extra confidence in his mid-forties to find himself another major win.

In 2003, Furyk won the the US Open at Olympia Fields making light work of the field winning by 3 shots. 10 top 10’s since and he still hasn’t won another major. But 2014 was arguably one of his most consistent ever years in the majors (T14 Masters, T12 US Open, 4th Open, T5 PGA). And it’s that sort of form that has seen him rise to 3rd in the world golf rankings. In any sport, 40/1 for the guy ranked 3rd in the world is value.

So what’s going to endear the American to Chambers Bay? Well not only is he brimming with confidence after his RBC win, combined with a 4th in the WGC Match Play and T5 at the Memorial, but his style of play is perfect for this course. Jim finds fairways. He puts the ball where he wants and hits plenty of greens. And when he doesn’t find the dance floor, he’s one of the best at getting up and down (23rd in scrambling on Tour).

It’s hard to see Jim not contending with the way he’s striking the ball at the moment – he’ll know the majors are running out where he can compete with the likes of McIlroy and Spieth so he’s going to be giving 110% this week to win US Open #2.

Open Championship Form since 2003 and European Tour ‘Links’ tracks since 2012:

WIN Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Miss Cut
0 3 3 4 7 5

PGA Tour ‘Coastal’ tracks:

WIN Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Miss Cut
1 1 3 3 6 0

Last 6 Results:

Memorial Tournament Wells Fargo Champs The PLAYERS WGC Cadillac Match Play RBC Heritage The Masters
T5 MC T56 4th WON MC

Ian Poulter (80/1 Paddy Power)

World Number 25

Sir Ian.

Sir Ian.

Okay, so we might not be getting the best feeling out of the Poulter camp regarding his views on Chambers Bay having claimed he will let everyone know his thoughts on the course after “holing his last putt”. If his Wentworth views are anything to go by, Chambers Bay isn’t likely to be making his bucket list.

But quite frankly this is a major, the ultimate in golf and Poults will be buzzing for it. Time and time again we talk about his Ryder Cup exploits but they really do show that the Englishman has it in his locker when needed.

2015 has seen him play arguably as good as he ever has in America, T6 HSBC WGC, T3 Honda Classic, T6 Masters (his best performance at Augusta) and T5 in his last appearance at the Crowne Plaza. The swing is looking immaculate and there can’t be any complaints about the way he’s playing.

Chambers Bay will have a British Open feel to it and Poults is more than capable on these sort of tracks. He’s finished T3 and T9 in 2 of his last 3 Opens and has his best ever major finish at the Open, 2nd to Padraig Harrington in 2008.

A few concerns have surrounded his bottle of late (as much as he won’t like us saying it) given the disastrous 4th round at the Honda but he’s confident in his own ability and we think this week is as good a chance as he will ever get at a major.

Open Championship Form since 2003 and European Tour ‘Links’ tracks since 2012:

WIN Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Miss Cut
0 2 3 5 8 5

Last 6 Results:

Crowne Plaza Invitational The PLAYERS WGC Cadillac Match Play RBC Heritage The Masters Arnold Palmer Invitational
T5 T30 T34 T18 T6 T21

Danny Willett (150/1 BetVictor)

World Number 36

Has everything in his locker for this sort of track

Has everything in his locker for this sort of track

The Englishman was spoken about in the same breath as fellow lads from the UK Donaldson and Lowry but we’ve plumped for Danny and we’ll tell you why.

Firstly, 2015 has seen the birth of Willett on the world stage. Not many American’s will have cared about who he was 6th months ago but they do now. He finished T12 in only his 4th WGC event at the Cadillac back in March which for us, was such a big result for him. But then came the WGC Match-Play. He looked unbelievable winning 6 out of his 7 matches, only losing to Gary Woodland in the semis. He defeated the likes of Reed, Moore, Westwood and Furyk on the way to his 3rd place and 2nd biggest pay cheque of his career. It also catapulted him into the top 40 in the world. All of that means Willett, now with temporary status on the PGA Tour, has to be taken very seriously for this event.

Tee-to-green is where the Englishman earns his bread and his game will be a perfect fit for the British feel of Chambers Bay. His career best major finish was a T15 at the 2013 Open, in what was only his 3rd major start.

The US Open more than any other major seems allow players with no previous major form to come in and contend and Danny is the perfect mould for that.

Open Championship Form since 2003 and European Tour ‘Links’ tracks since 2012:

WIN Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Miss Cut
0 1 2 4 5 4

Last 6 Results:

Irish Open BMW PGA Champs THE PLAYERS WGC Cadillac Match Play The Masters Shell Houston Open
T6 T38 MC 3rd T38 MC

Alex Noren (250/1 Coral)

World Number 70

Red-hot

Red-hot

There are certainly a lot worse bets out there than this one! Last week the Swede won his 4th European Tour title and his first in 4 years. After injury woes put pay to any sort of form in 2014 it seems Noren has come back fitter and better than ever before.

His standout attribute is his ability with irons from the fairway and this week at Chambers Bay, that will help him out tremendously. The putter too in recent weeks has got hot, so no surprises that when he ranked 3rd putts per GIR at the Nordea Masters, he won by 4 shots.

His best major finish to date was a T9 at the Open and has only played in the US Open (2012) twice before. But Noren is a confident character and you have to envisage these players in a potential final pairing with the likes of McIlroy and Spieth – how would they cope? For many of the European Tour stalwarts you’d say not very well, take Wiesberger at the PGA last year for example. But Noren seems like the kind of guy who won’t be phased at all.

At 250/1 and a recent winner, we’re looking for his confidence to continue and put him in contention this week.

Open Championship Form since 2003 and European Tour ‘Links’ tracks since 2012:

WIN Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Miss Cut
0 1 2 4 4 3

Last 6 Results:

Nordea Masters Irish Open BMW PGA Champs Open de España Volvo China Open Shenzhen International
WON T21 T8 T56 T26 T44
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US Open 2013

Final PreviewUS Open 2013

Tournament: US Open 2013

Location: Ardmore, Pennsylvania

Course: Merion Golf Club (East Course)

Distance: 6,996 yards

Current Champion: Webb Simpson

Dates: June 13 – 16

Before you read, one half of DownThe18th has been working at Golf Monthly Magazine the past few weeks, so please check out some of the stories by Lewis Pacelli, here is one of them – http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/us-open-2013/blog/531387/us-open-blog-potential-winners.html

Well here we are, the week of the second major of the year and one we have personally been waiting for, for quite sometime.  We obviously love every major but this year’s US Open at Merion seems just that extra bit special, because it will be different to any of the big 4 in the next few years.

Not only is the course going to set up an intriguing battle, there are several sub plots to the drama that will unfold.

Webb Simpson will be arriving as current champion attempting to defend his title and that has not been achieved since Curtis Strange in 1989. Since then only 3 people have finished better than 40th in their defence (Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell, Retief Goosen)

Tiger Woods is yet to win a major since 2008 at Torrey Pines, but is in scintillating form and he will be paired with Rory McIlroy for Thursday and Friday who is still searching for any sort of form.  Making up this 3-ball is Masters champion Adam Scott who will be trying to become only the 6th golfer ever to win both trophies in the same year.

The famous US Open trophy

The famous US Open trophy and the iconic Merion pinflags

As for the course itself, we started all this research by looking at the yardage in our 1st Preview (See Below). The track is going to be playing at under 7,000 yards and not since 2004 has that ever happened.  This will make the challenge a unique and difficult one for the field of 156 players.

DownThe18th US Open Preview 1

We calculated that the average driving distance on tour this year is 290 yards, therefore the simple maths (yes even simple for us!) leaves us with what yardage the majority of the field will face

Here is a run through of the 18 holes –

No. 1 – Par 4 – 350 yards – 60 yards left
No. 2 – Par 5 – 556 yards
No. 3 – Par 3 – 256 yards
No. 4 – Par 5 – 628 yards
No. 5 – Par 4 – 504 yards – 214 yards left
No. 6 – Par 4 – 487 yards – 197 yards left
No. 7 – Par 4 – 360 yards – 70 yards left
No. 8 – Par 4 – 359 yards – 69 yards left
No. 9 – Par 3 – 236 yards
Out – Par 36 – 3,736 yards
No. 10 – Par 4 – 303 yards – 13 yards left
No. 11 – Par 4 – 367 yards – 77 yards left
No. 12 – Par 4 – 403 yards – 113 yards left
No. 13 – Par 3 – 115 yards
No. 14 – Par 4 – 464 yards – 174 yards left
No. 15 – Par 4 – 411 yards – 121 yards left
No. 16 – Par 4 – 430 yards – 140 yards left
No. 17 – Par 3 – 246 yards
No. 18 – Par 4 – 521 yards – 231 yards left
In – Par 34 – 3,260 yards
Total – Par 70 – 6,996 yards

From this you can see that approaches from 50-125 and 125-150 yards will be key stats in finding the champion.

There have been responses from readers since we published our first preview, asking about the fact that 3 par 3s are very long and 1 par 5 is over 600 yards.  We have noted this and took it into consideration, but at the end of the day we feel more scoring can be done on the EIGHT par 4s where the course is begging to be attacked.

Our 2nd preview looks through why we feel short course gurus may be key to finding the winner and the recent short course history of certain players who kept cropping up near the top of leaderboards.

DownThe18th US Open Preview 2

You will be looking for only the most accurate players tee to green, because the rough has not been cut and will cause havoc to everyone who is wayward off the tee.

“The rough is longer than we’ve seen, You can’t make the grass grow in four days, but you can cut.  Although I don’t think they will.  Off the tee it’s quite awkward, someone who drives it the best this week will fare quite well – not the straightest, but the best” – Geoff Ogilvy (Washington Post)

Basically, the strategists and plotters will find their way to the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.  Scramblers are always going to be proficient with the small greens that define Merion.  GIR and of course putting will be crucial in finding the winner.

Tiger, Mcilroy and Scott in a 3-ball will be incredible to watch

Tiger, Mcilroy and Scott in a 3-ball will be incredible to watch

We originally whittled down names using previous US Open trends in our 1st preview and we will admit that 4, who were not part of the final group have made our selections, only because they were just too good to ignore.

Our 3rd preview was an ‘initial’ picks and yes some things have changed because of the lack of form from some and brilliant form of others.

DownThe18th US Open Preview 3

In what has been a 32 day marathon of data collecting, golf-viewing, ale drinking and ball sweating research, we have finally delivered the ‘6’ we believe could win the 2013 US Open.  Enough of our rambling, here they are.

N.B. Tad more rambling – if you download the PaddyPower app, you can get 7 places paid out at ¼ the odds!

Graeme McDowell (25/1 PaddyPower)

G Mac is in the form of his life

G Mac is in the form of his life

The 2010 champion is arriving at Merion in what he has called the ‘form of his life’.  We personally feel he has been his usual inconsistent self, but you cannot ignore the fact he has already won twice in 2013 (Volvo World Match Play and The RBC Heritage) and had a further 3 top 10s.  He really does look his usual gritty self, able to work the ball in challenging situations and who better than the Northern Irishman to defeat the challenge of Merion?  His renowned scrambling could get him through the horrendous rough and sloping greens when others will falter and his short game has been particularly impressive this year.  The fact he is 13th in strokes gained putting is the mark of a much improved McDowell, especially considering he was 160th last year!

When he did win this title back in 2010, the conditions were tough at times and he plotted his way round a very difficult course (Pebble Beach) with aplomb and poise.  So when you think how much his game has improved since, it is a fascinating prospect of what he could actually achieve this week.  He will be teeing off at 1:03 p.m (local Pennsylvanian time) from the 1st hole with Jimbo Furyk and Zach Johnson and lets be honest that sort of 3-ball are so strategic they could club together and destroy civilizations within the time Ben Crane finished a round.

In an interview this week McDowell showed his confidence and self-belief and that only adds to the spice of what he could do at Merion

“You could say I’m in the form of my life going into an event in which certainly my record kind of speaks for itself.  I feel like I’m a substantially better player than I was three years ago” Graeme McDowell (Belfast Telegraph)

Statistics Vital for Merion –

Graeme McDowell stats

Short Course Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
2 4 4 4 7 1

US Open Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 2 2 4 7 0

Best Finish – Won at Pebble Beach 2010

Tee Time: 18:03 – Graeme McDowell (NI), Jim Furyk (US), Zach Johnson (US)

Phil Mickelson (22/1 Various)

Will want to bag major number 5 at Merion

Will want to bag major number 5 at Merion

If Phil wasn’t in our plans already, his performance over the last few days at the St Jude Classic certainly confirmed his place in them. Now 42, Mickelson is not letting age get the better of him and with one win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and three top 3 finishes already in 2013, it’s hard not to look at him this week.

Phil himself will tell you his preparation was not right going into the Masters a few weeks back, which resulted in a T54 finish, stating lack of mental sharpness as his downfall. Prior to Augusta, he had a 2 week break and his form was not what we had come to expect from the American. So things have changed this time around. All the practise on the greens and range came prior to last week, and the St Jude Classic was all about getting that mental toughness he so craves. Going down the 18th on Sunday, Phil knew he needed a birdie to potentially put himself in a play-off, and he subsequently put it 2 feet away from 150 yards and was unlucky not to hole out. We’d say that is all you need to know about Phil’s mental state right now! Phil said the small greens and focus on iron play will give him just the practise he needs for Merion. And if that wasn’t enough, for each of Mickelson’s 4 major wins, he has played the week before…

“My short game got better as the week wore on” – Mickelson on the St Jude Classic

We have stated how crucial accuracy from the shorter yardage will be and Phil is one of, if not the best in the game with a pitching wedge. His accuracy off the tee is one worry, but he’ll be using the 3 wood a lot this week, don’t expect the cover to come off that driver too many times! One short yardage stat that really took our eye was that Phil is one of only 11 players on the PGA Tour this year to be overall under par on all par 3’s played. That is not only promising for the tough par 3’s at Merion, but it also highlights how good his iron play has been in 2013.

Phil has recorded FIVE 2nd places at the US Open over the years, so it is about time he put this title well and truly in his trophy cabinet! It’s his 43rd birthday on the Sunday too, what a present that would be…

Statistics Vital for Merion –

Phil Mickelson stats

Short Course Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
1 2 2 2 6 1

US Open Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 7 9 11 20 2

Best Finish(es) – T2 in 2009 at Bethpage State Park, Winged Foot Golf Club in 2006 and 2nd at Shinnecock Hills in 2004, Bethpage State Park in 2002 and in 1999 at Pinehurst Resort.

Tee Time: 17:41 – Phil Mickelson (US), Steve Stricker (US), Keegan Bradley (US)

Matt Kuchar (22/1 Various)

The form man in golf

The form man in golf

Our first 2 players really picked themselves but slot number 3 ended up being a shootout between Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker. And we didn’t think it would be fair to leave Kuchar out, so we are sorry Brandt. Kuchar is one of the hottest players in golf right now and Snedeker’s injury this year and major track-record has just put us off him. Interestingly, they are paired together for the 1st two days!

Now we could talk all day long about “KOOOOCH” (Expect to hear a lot of that off the tee this week), we’ve been on him for both of his victories on the PGA Tour this year which included his first WGC title, a big step to having the confidence to take his maiden major title. It is well documented that Kuchar has matured into a world class golfer once he hit his 30’s, and will be looking to emulate Phil Mickelson, who won his 1st major at 33. Kuchar, now 34, said his game was near perfect at the moment

“it’s taken a long time, but now I don’t feel like there are any weaknesses in my game.” – Kuchar

Kuchar needs to change nothing this week, he just needs to keep doing what he has been throughout 2013. The US Open is one not to enjoy, but to grind, and Kuchar will be perfect at doing just that.

Kuchar’s last 2 performances have been a 2nd place 2 weeks ago, followed by a 1st place at the Memorial tournament just a week back. So on paper, he is the form man in golf right now. After his win, Kuchar made his way to Merion on the Tuesday and said he wouldn’t leave “until I get used to it”. Kuchar has a great record on the shorter courses as well, his lack of length off the tee will almost be an advantage this week. His statistics are quite something and have led him to 2nd place in the FedEx rankings. Just to point out a few, Matt ranks 4th in scoring average, 13th in all-round rankings, 10th in scrambling, 13th in strokes gained-putting and 9th on par 4 performance. If he is ever going to grab his 1st major, it will be this week!

Statistics Vital for Merion –

Matt Kuchar stats

Short Course Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 4 6 9 12 1

US Open Form–

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 0 1 3 5 5

Best Finish – T6 in 2010 at Pebble Beach

Tee Time: 17:52 – Matt Kuchar (US), Justin Rose (ENG), Brandt Snedeker (US)

Steve Stricker (50/1 Various)

Can he finally capture his 1st major?

Can he finally capture his 1st major?

I think it tells you something that Stricker is our 2nd pick in his 40’s. To win at Merion it will take a certain maturity and level-head to grind out scores on all 4 days, something Stricker will be more than capable of doing. Steve has probably been in our minds the most since we first started previewing the US Open, in every avenue we looked down for research, his name would crop up. So much so, he was our number 1 pick in our 2nd Preview. Regardless of his age (46), Stricker has a good a chance as any this week.

It’s no coincidence that 8 of his 12 PGA Tour wins have come in his 40’s, and like Mickelson and Kuchar, is thriving in his later years. And age is but a number for Steve, he would not be travelling to Merion if he didn’t think he could win this thing. But it is his chipping and putting that really makes us confident in the American. He has made a living out of playing superb golf around and on the greens. And it is at Merion where these 2 attributes in particular will be tested to the max. Stricker’s putting has been so good, the likes of Tiger Woods have been asking for advice! And since Stricker’s words of wisdom, we all know what Tiger has been like on the greens.

Stricker has reduced his schedule hugely this year, to focus more on tournaments he enjoys and spend more time with the family. Knowing that, you can certainly assume he will be in a great frame of mind. He has two 2nd places in stroke play events in 2013, at the WGC Cadillac and the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, two real top events. And his T20 at Augusta was certainly not a bad performance. Statistically below, you can see how well he is playing. His driving, iron play, scrambling and putting are all unbelievable this year. At 50/1 Stricker is a really solid choice this week, expect him to contend at least.

Statistics Vital for Merion –

Steve Sticker stats

Short Course Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 0 1 2 4 0

US Open Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 2 3 12 15 2

Best Finish(es) – T5 in 1998 at Olympic Club and 5th in 1999 at Pinehurst Resort

Tee Time: 17:41 – Phil Mickelson (US), Steve Stricker (US), Keegan Bradley (US)

Tim Clark (90/1 Various)

One of the best ball strikers in the game

One of the best ball strikers in the game

We managed to back Tim Clark at 100s earlier this morning, so it is both gutting and satisfying to see his shift in the market.  The 37-year old South African has been at the forefront of many DownThe18th journeys this year, simply because he is just a fine, fine player.  Tee to green you will find few better as his stats show and he is someone who is never afraid to attack even the most difficult pin positions.  With the notoriously small greens, his iron-play will suit, if his game is on.  What is even more encouraging is how he is putting this year.  He looks efficient and comfortable with the short stick and when it comes to those nerve-wrangling putts, you can definitely trust Clark.  He also won The Players back in 2010, so he has the bottle to mix it with the best and his 8-footer on the last posted the score that eventually finished best.  Trust us, he knew how crucial that particular putt was and sinking it proves the nerve he has.

As for his US Open history, he did finish T3 in 2005 at Pinehurst, which has 4 very short par 4s, 1 very long par 5 and 1 long par 3 just like at Merion this week.  Both courses are notoriously tight and Clark could once again take advantage of his lack in distance to challenge the leaders, plus at such high odds for a major, surely it is worth a punt?  As for form this year, he has recorded 3 top 10s and a T11 at The Masters, which will give him confidence going into this years tournament.

Statistics Vital for Merion –

Tim Clark Stats

Short Course Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 4 4 5 5 0

US Open Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 1 1 4 6 1

Best Finish – T3 in 2005 at Pinehurst Resort

Tee Time: 18:03 – Louis Oosthuizen (SA), Charl Schwartzel (SA), Tim Clark (SA)

Kevin Chappell (100/1 Coral)

Our much fancied outside bet for this week

Our much fancied outside bet for this week

Once again we do apologise that we could not get our information out to you all straight away but Chappell was at 150s only this morning (Monday) and Coral have clearly realised the discrepancy and slashed his odds.

Chappell has sneaked into our final 6, nudging out the likes of Furyk and Zach Johnson, simply because he was too good to ignore.  We know he is only 26 and has never won on the PGA Tour, but we just have a gut feeling about the Californian.

His record at US Opens speak for itself.  T10 last year and T3 the year before.  That is very impressive for your only 2 starts and for us it seems obvious why.  He is an aggressive, long-hitting, accurate ball striker whose ability with a short iron is unbelievable.  He can scramble and save himself from a certain bogey after wayward shots and when you think of what Maid Merion will be asking for, Chappell seems perfect.  From what we saw on his last outing, at the Memorial, he looked outstanding at the weekend.  He finished 2nd in a very difficult tournament and he will be teeing off at Merion off the back of 2 68s.

“It’s a tour event on Steriods” – Chappell on this year’s US Open course, Merion

He has only had 2 other top 10s this season, but when a young, fearless Tour player is buzzing, they generally play out of their skin for an extended period of time and we hope Chappell can continue his showing from Muirfield.  The most over-riding factor of choosing him, came with his stats in the short approach shots which will be so crucial on the 8 short par 4s.  Added to the fact that he is more than capable of hitting as far as the rest, a devastating mix is on the horizon.  Not necessarily to win, but a place for absolute sure.

Statistics Vital for Merion –

Kevin Chappell stats

Short Course Form –

Win

Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 1 2 2 10

3

US Open Form –

Win Top 5 Top 10 Top 25 Made Cut Missed Cut
0 1 2 2 2 0

Best Finish – T3 2011 at Congressional Country Club

Tee Time: 18:51 – Scott Piercy (US), Kevin Chappell (US), Jamie Donaldson (WAL)

Quick Mention: Once again, like most weeks, we will throw in a player at ridiculous odds who could go well.  Hideki Matsuyama (300/1 Paddy Power) is our choice this week. The 21 year old has been setting the Japanese Golf Tour alight, winning 2 out of the first 5 events on the tour in 2013. And he only turned professional in April! Interestingly, the course he won his last title on was 7,190 yards, so he is more than capable on the shorter tracks. His only 2 major appearances have been at the Masters, where he was T54 in 2012 and in 2011 as a 19 year old, finished T27 and was the only amateur to make the weekend!

Lets have a good week!