IT'S the second golf major of the year and Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) has five players on his shortlist.
US Open | Thursday – Sunday | Sky Sports
“The hardest golf course I have ever played”. Those are the words of Phil Mickleson and perfectly describe the 18 holes of Oakmont which plays host to the second Major of the year, for a ninth time. That from one of the greats of his era just about sums up what awaits.
What the world's top golfers will find at Oakmont is quite simply brutal. US Open's are generally won with a score around Par. The USGA sets up its Championship courses to test every aspect of a players game. Extreme length is normal and although 7230 yards does not sound too long, it is when the par score is just 70.
Taking a look back at the last time the Championship was played here in 2007, that Par score proved impossible with Angel Cabrera taking his first Major firing a 5 over par total of 285.
The opening hole, a Par 4, saw two thirds of the field fail to find the green with their second shots. What else do the field have to look forward to? Two Par 5's, both over 600 yards. A couple of driveable Par 4's and possibly best of all the Par 3 8th.
Yes, a Par 3 could prove to be the hardest hole on the course. 288 yards. Just let that sink in for a second. There are a number of players in this field who could take driver and still not be able to reach the green. On a Par 3. You can see now why 2007 saw a scoring average of over 75. Let's hope we do not see too much wind or the winning score could be +10 or more.
I have not really mentioned the greens yet. Or the hundreds of bunkers, some of which even the best will not be able to get out of. Oh and the worlds most difficult course has no trees and virtually no water hazards in play. Why would you need trees and water when the rough is five inches thick?
Oh those Greens. You know those glass like surfaces at Augusta National? These are faster. They also slope in such a fashion that Arnold Palmer once said ”You could hit all 72 greens at Oakmont and not come close to winning”.
2007 winner Cabrera also has a Green Jacket to his name and Augusta is as good a place as any to look at if you want some relative form. Putting averages from '07 were led by players like Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson and even Jose Maria Olazabal. All players with great Masters form. Cabrera built his victory on the back of a driving game that averaged 310.9 yards leading the field. Surprisingly he ranked just 48th for driving accuracy.
There is little to link the Oakmont of today and 2007 with the course that held the 1994 US Open. In fact the only reason I mention 94 is that Ernie Els beat Colin Montgomerie in a play off. No smart stats it just makes me smile thinking of Monty losing another Major.
Is there an identikit US Open winner? I think the stats are very clear on that. It really is a title won by someone on top of every aspect of their game. Seems obvious but Jordan Spieth nearly won this years Masters without driving well on any of the four days. Stats below are based on the last 10 champions and where they ranked against the field.
Driving Accuracy 25th
Driving Distance 20th
Greens In Regulation 10th
If you are going to take those as a guide to betting this week then you have to discount someone like Jordan Spieth. His driving in particular is so off right now, this would be beyond even his powers. Its just to tough for anyone that is not right at the top of their game and that just isnt Jordan right now.
The winner will surely be someone who can not only hit these greens but hold them as well. Scrambling will be absolutely key and I think there are a couple at the head of the field who stand out. The key to your own betting week may well be if you believe short odds are worth taking on at a course where shots that are two feet away from perfect result in a triple bogey.
In-play could be a good tactic this week. Nine of the last 10 US Open winners sat in the top three at halfway. Webb Simpson was the only winner in 34 years to come from outside the top 12 after 36 holes. You really cant make up too many shots in a US Open. Nobody is going to shoot 63 on Saturday and slice through the field.
The world's number one player, Jason Day rightfully heads the market at a best price of 7/1. The affable Aussie has a couple of runner up finishes in this tournament and has been by some distance the best player on the planet in the last 12 months, particularly since his first Major win in the USPGA.
Day was going well at Chambers Bay last year and his ninth place finish would have been even better had he not suffered an attack of vertigo and passed out on the course. Seven wins in his last 17 tournaments is a record only Tiger Woods at his very best could rival.
I have this between Day and Rory. Yes, I have been prepping for this for the last two weeks and I have the entire tournament between the first two in the market.
Along with the aforementioned Jordan Spieth, Jason and Rory are the worlds best three players by a very long way and we could have many years of the three of them carving up the Majors between them.
Rory comes here off the back of a win in the Irish Open. That was a fairly weak field although he finished off in style with an eagle. The thing to take note of there though was a putting rank of 52nd for the week. That certainly will not get it done this week.
It is the short stick that is the only worry for me and on this course may be too big a handicap to overcome. There is nobody playing better from tee to green than Rory and his high ball flight may just be the thing that gives him an advantage on this course. That will enable Rory to stop the ball on the green. Something many others will struggle with.
Further down the field, there is certainly value to be had in markets where bookmakers are routinely paying six and seven places. Justin Rose is always tempting around 28/1 on a course that should suit his immaculate ball striking but the Englishman is returning from injury and the one weakness of his game in 2016 has been putting.
Phil Mickleson can be backed at odds of 30/1 with Betfred and chasing the Grand Slam of golf Majors, Lefty will be popular with many. He almost won on Sunday and ranks first on the PGA Tour for strokes gained putting. You almost have to back him, it's obligatory as a golf fan. I love Phil and I am very biased so you should exercise extreme caution when I tip the great man.
I cannot get involved with a very out of form Henrik Stenson despite the fact that Oakmont should set up perfectly for the big Swede and a 3 wood that could give him a huge advantage. I would want him to be playing an awful lot better than he is.
Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama appear to be good fits for a long technical course but as with Stenson you have to question current form. US Open winners come into this week on the back of good solid results and you claim that for neither of these.
The same must apply to Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson. Masters champion Danny Willett put himself in a position to win both the Irish Open and BMW at Wentworth and could not close out either. That was a concern as was the quality of his scrambling at Wentworth. A poor short game will not play well in a US Open.
Matt Kuchar is almost a must back this week. It is incredibly difficult to imagine him outside the Top 10 in almost any field at the moment. I am really not a fan of Koooooch. One of those irrational dislikes with absolutely no good reason.
Kuchar hits the ball straight and long, has a reliable and repetitive short game and putts well. He is also probably the hottest player in world golf right now and invariably wins off the back of runs like that.
A little bit of an Olivier Giroud though. He's ok, he sort of does the business, sort of regularly but… Kuchar rarely gets over the line but he's generally always there or thereabouts. Not quite elite but underrated and just now again wins big. I really wouldn't be shocked to see him in the last couple of groups on Sunday.
Patrick Reed led at halfway at Chambers Bay eventually finishing 14th. The world number 11 has won four times on the PGA Tour and the 25 year old will surely challenge for a Major soon. His excellent ball striking and top level scrambling skills will serve him well at a course that should suit his eye.
Eighth at Memorial last time ranking in the top 10 for Greens in Regulation. That is exactly the kind of form you are looking for in the warm up for Oakmont.
Branden Grace was always the first name on my list of big price picks for this. A win apiece on both PGA and European tours has fired the South African to the upper echelons of the world rankings.
His win at the Qatar Masters on a brutally long course is a nice link and a rank of 2nd for scrambling around the greens is all I need to be fairly confident in Grace contending at Oakmont. You can't often back one of the worlds best golfers on a course that should suit, at 50/1 I cannot let the opportunity pass.
I kind of have the same feeling with JB Holmes. If length off the tee and a killer game around the greens is a pre requisite for any US Open, then JB fits the bill and cannot be avoided at 100/1.
Webb Simpson is a US Open Champion and has been at the top of leaderboard's for the first time since the ban on long putters. You should take note of the 125/1 quotes.
Graeme McDowell is another former champion who cannot be ignored on long technical courses. G-Mac has put himself in contention a number of times this season and although not in the best of form is still fairly good value at prices around 125/1.
Kevin Chappell at 100/1 is my final selection. The 29 year old has three runner-up finishes this season and plays long tough courses extremely well. Finishing in the top 2 at Bay Hill and Sawgrass speaks volumes.
Four US Opens making the cut in each with a 3rd on debut and a 10th in 2012 are other huge positives for any triple odds selection. I think Chappell can contend at the weekend and is also a viable First Round Leader pick.
After much thought and changing my mind several times (including during the writing of this piece) I have to go with Jason Day. I firmly believe that the cream will rise to the top this week.
Oakmont deserves an elite winner and I am sure they will get one this week. The only thing that has put me off Rory is his putting. If he gets that right then I will have picked the wrong man but I am going to back the best player in the world at 7/1 and be pretty pleased about it.
US Open – Jason Day to win (7/1 Bet365)
US Open – Branden Grace each way (55/1 888 Sport)
US Open – Patrick Reed each way (50/1 Bet365)
US Open – Phil Mickelson each way (30/1 Boylesports)
US Open – Kevin Chappell each way (100/1 Coral)