The 2015 US Open Golf Championship
June 16th, 2015 | Marten Julian's Guest Contributor News
By Chris Clarke
The US Open is traditionally the hardest golfing test of the year. Par is often considered to be a viable winning score and the courses chosen tend to be long and have firm testing greens.
With a wide range of classic courses to choose from, it came as a surprise to many that this year’s event will be held in the Pacific Northwest at Chambers Bay, a course that virtually none of the players have ever visited. The course is…… well……different.
Firstly, it is a links course. This means that wind may play a crucial part in who wins. Strong winds don’t tend to suit the Americans, most of whom have developed their games playing in perfect weather. Then there is the fact that the fairways are expected to be much wider than normal for US Opens. Rumour has it that even Tiger is expected to be able to hit the 13th fairway with a driver (it’s 135 yards wide!!). Having said that, the fairways are sloping and balls are likely to be running sideways rather than forward on several holes. Add to this some real Scottish style bunkers, including the deepest bunker ever used in a US Open, and driving may not be as easy as it initially seems.
Length is certainly going to be an asset. There will be several 500+ yard par 4’s, but pure numbers are highly misleading due to substantial gradients on many holes. A 440-yard uphill hole may be much trickier than a 510-yard par 4 downhill. The course also has a vast array of potential tees, which not only substantially change the length of holes, but also the elevation and angle of attack. It is entirely possible that the playing characteristics of some holes will change substantially from one day to another.
Finally, we have the greens. Traditionally set up to run at 12 or so on the stimp, this year we won’t be seeing those numbers. I would be surprised if they run at anything in excess of 10 – much more “European paced”. Why? – simply because the greens are so undulating that a downhill putt may never stop if the wind were to get up on a green running at 12. We have seen greens watered during play in past US Opens and the organisers will be trying to avoid such embarrassment again. The locals are expecting several greens to provide challenging 2 putts from 30+ feet.
So, where does that leave us with trying to pick a winner?
All of the top players have plenty of strengths, so what are their weaknesses and how significant will they be at this course? Two players are clearly ahead of the field in the betting. World number 1 Rory McIlroy is favourite, but has always shown vulnerability on the green at short range. Holing five footers is always important at a US Open and that alone is enough to encourage me to oppose Rory. Jordan Spieth has no real weaknesses and it is only his price that can dissuade me from making a significant investment.
Dustin Johnson has patches where he looks phenomenal. His length is astonishing, but he lacks consistency and his short game can be suspect. Starting bogey bogey bogey last week and then withdrawing after 9 with a bug doesn’t inspire confidence. Bubba Watson may be suited by a long course that will demand shots to be shaped to take advantage of the natural contours – oppose him at your peril.
Jason Day is still struggling to find his top form, but could have the type of game to be suited by this set-up. His price has drifted and I am tempted to take advantage of this with a small investment.
Phil Mickleson needs the US Open to complete his own Grand Slam, but is becoming increasingly bogey prone. Rickie Fowler is an improved player, but I can’t be interested at his current price of under 30. Henrik Stenson is a good iron player and I will watch his first round with interest. If he plays reasonably, it may be well worth adding him to your staking plan during the event. Jason Dufner is one of my own favourites and is coming back into form, but his short range putting is so suspect that I have to oppose him in this event.
Other players I think will be suited by the challenge are Jim Furyk who is a par machine and Hideki Matsuyama who is becoming a fine golfer. If the wind does blow, try and get on Zach Johnson and Marc Leishman who are both strong wind players. Three players I can’t see winning are Tiger Woods, Byeung-Hun An and Luke Donald, the first and last of whom are really struggling for form at present.
Michael Putnam is the home town player. He grew up in the town before the course was built and was the first player to play a stroke on it. This fact has been built into his price, and I wouldn’t recommend piling in at any price under 500.
The US Open usually offers up several excellent long-priced bets. Regrettably, at the current time, I am struggling to find anything that excites me at 500+ with the exception of David Hearn and Tom Hoge who may be worth a very small investment. Keep an eye on the price of Retief Goosen who could be interesting at around 600’s.
So, that brings us back to the top of the market once again and the player who I believe has a fabulous chance. The two most important factors in any US Open are good iron play, particularly longer irons and good short range putting.
I have always thought that Justin Rose is one of the best iron players in the world, is good on the greens, his current form is excellent and he knows he can win this event. Any price in excess of 18 represents value and 23 is currently available. Enjoy this wonderful event – let’s hope for firm greens, dry weather and the odd windy day.