The US Open
It was a disappointing finish to the week for us at the Fedex St Jude with Brian Gay missing out on the places for us by a shot and our other two players in with a good shout of the frame going in to Sunday, CT Pan and Scott Stallings, both having disappointing final rounds.
Congratulations though to Dustin Johnson who turned in a superb performance to walk away with the trophy and to regain his position at the top of the OWGR.
Anyway it’s time to move on and what a cracking week we have ahead of us to move on to.
It’s time for the second Major of the season, The US Open and the much awaited return to Shinnecock Hills.
This years edition is the 118th edition of the event and it will be the fifth to have been held at Shinnecock Hills. The previous were in 1896, 1986, 1995 and 2004. The US Open is scheduled to return to Shinnecock again in 2026.
After the somewhat damp squib of an event at Erin Hills last year and the lukewarm reception given to Chambers Bay the previous year [which I personally thought was a great event!] the USGA desperately need this years event to be a success.
They will therefore be relieved on one hand to be returning to a tried and tested venue from years gone by.
On the other hand however the spectre of 2004 looms in the background and the USGA will be desperate to ensure no repeat of the last time the event was staged here.
For those who don’t remember that far back the event became notorious for when the USGA’s obsession to get firm and fast conditions lead to them ‘losing’ the greens as they became all but unplayable.
The most memorable example of this was the 7th hole which saw the first four players through on Sunday make three triple bogeys and a bogey between them.
As a result of this a decision was taken to water the 7th green after each further group came through.
So hopefully, whilst we are all hoping the course plays firm and fast this week, there will be no repeat of these shenanigans!
As to be expected of course with a Major championship the field this week is a stellar one and all of the leading players are in attendance with, I am pleased to say no big name injury absentee’s. [at the time of writing!]
Dustin Johnson is heading up the market on the back of his return to form in Memphis.
Next in the betting comes Rory, JT, Justin Rose and Jason Day.
Shinnecock Hills is a links style course situated in the North East of the USA in Southampton, Long Island, New York.
Originally put together as an 18 hole course in 1894 it is noted as being the first links course in the USA.
As noted earlier Shinnecock Hills first hosted a US Open in 1896.
In 1937 the course then underwent it’s first redesign under the supervision of William Flynn.
Fast forward to the modern day and In view of the impending US Open the course underwent a further redesign in 2012 under the supervision of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore.
This however does not complete the story as following last years non event at Erin Hills Mike Davis, the USGA’s Executive Director, was contacted by a concerned Ray Floyd.
Floyd a former champion and long time member at Shinnecock Hills basically advised that unless something was done 2018 at Shinnecock would be “Erin Hills on steroids” with regards to the test, or lack if it’ the players would face in relation to the width of the fairways and driving accuracy.
As a result of this almost immediately further renovations took place to reduce the width of the fairways. This was done by removing turf from the side of fairways and replacing it with strips of fescue sod which was removed from Shinnecock’s 9 hole par three course.
So after all the fun and games what are we left with?
Well to sum up Shinnecock Hills will now play as a Par 70 measuring 7445 yards.
The greens are Poa Annua. This in theory will favour those players who perform better on Poa on the West Coast.
The average fairway width is now 41.6 yds. It should be noted that this is still about 50% wider than what the players faced in 2004 when the widest fairway was 30yds and the narrowest 25.
So lets take a look at the recent winners.
2017 Brooks Koepka
2016 Dustin Johnson
2015 Jordan Spieth
2014 Martin Kaymer
2013 Justin Rose
2012 Webb Simpson
2011 Rory McIlroy
2010 Graeme McDowell
2009 Lucas Glover
2008 Tiger Woods
So what does this tell us? Well the first thing to say of course is that with the US Open operating a course rotation system it is a lot tougher to identify the type of player you are looking for year in year out compared to at Augusta, or even at the British Open where you know you are getting a coastal links course
In this major though you can go from a wide open links type test one year to a narrow fairway ball strikers course the next. In addition of course you can also get different green types dependent on the area of the US the event is being played in.
As a result in the last ten years as examples we have seen Lucas Glover win on a course which rewarded length and accuracy at a time when he topped the total driving stats on tour going in to the event. We have seen Rose’s elite ball striking rewarded at Merion and we have seen Koepka bomb his way to victory at Erin Hills where it was almost impossible to miss a fairway.
Whilst the skill sets and therefore the style of player we are looking for might vary to a certain extent year in year out one thing that does connect the recent winners is that they were all having good seasons and in decent form coming in to the event.
Lets look at this in a bit more detail.
Glover and Simpson had both had a top 5 finish a few weeks prior at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Rose had pieced together four top tens including two top 5s on the PGA Tour that year.
Rory had finished 5th at Memorial on his previous start and Koepka had made his last 6 cuts which included a 2nd place finish at the Valero Texas Open.
DJ had done everything but win prior to his victory in 2016 with seven Top 5 finishes in the year including two in his previous two starts.
Finally Jordan, Kaymer and Gmac had all posted victories on tour that year already, whether in the US or in Europe.
As for Tiger’s win in 2008, well it’s arguably the most incredible thing any of us will see in a golf tournament in our life time and it probably wouldn’t be doing it or Tiger justice if I tried to lump it in a stats comparison. For what it’s worth though he was 2nd in his previous start which was at Augusta!
So in summary everyone of the past ten US Open winners had either had a victory or at least one top 5 finish on tour that season.
Therefore whilst you can’t rule out victory for a ‘mid division’ player like a Simpson or a Glover this player would need to be someone in decent form coming in as if history is anything to go by the US Open is not the sort of event where some one does a ‘James Hahn’ and wins after missing their previous six cuts [or however many it was he’d missed!]
Finally whilst it is more than likely the event will be won by a bigger named player it’s worth pointing out that the US Open in recent years has seen a bunch of big three figure priced players make the frame.
These include Harman, Schauffele and Fleetwood last year [yup Tommy was still going off at triple digits this time last year!], Lowry, Piercy and Na the year before and Cam Smith the year before that.
Go back a bit further and we saw Eric Compton finishing 2nd at Pinehurst and Michael Thompson and [soon to be a Real Estate Agent if we are to believe him] John Peterson making the frame at The Olympic Club.
The message is clear therefore, with some bookies going 10 places e/w don’t be afraid to back a big three figure priced player e/w if you have a hunch for them.
It’s been a pretty dry lead up to the event and as things stand there is no rain in the forecast for the tournament days. As I type though there is a 40% chance of a thunderstorm on Wednesday and if this materializes this could soften things up for the first day at least.
Hopefully this won’t be the case though and we will get the desired firm and fast conditions.
The wind looks set to be fairly sedate for the first three days blowing at around 10-15 MPH at the most. Sunday though does show the possibility of gusts up to 20mph.
As I say every week though with the Weather Forecast in the US. Treat it with caution!
So finally before I run through my selections for the week I shall succinctly summarize the way my thoughts and the type of player we are looking for have unfolded.
Basically there are three things I have focused on this week. Players who have good form on links/coastal tracks, players who are in good solid form and finally players who have a proven track record on the West Coast of the US where Poa Annua greens are prevalent.
In addition to the players I have selected It should be noted that one player with huge credentials is obviously the reinstated world No 1, Dustin Johnson.
However with a field of this strength and with it being so hard for a player, even DJ to produce their best two weeks running I can’t bring myself to pull the trigger at 8-1 and I am therefore reluctantly over looking him.
On this basis I have gone with 6 players as follows;
BRANDEN GRACE – 33-1 – 2pts E/W – 1/5th odds 1st 10. FINISHED 25th
First up for me this week is the South African Branden Grace.
As we all know golf and golf betting never ceases to surprise us so it is not often I get overly bullish on a players chances, however I am convinced in my head that Branden is going to lift a major championship trophy this summer either here at Shinnecock Hills, or if not here at Carnoustie.
Basically I just feel that everything both on and of the course is trending towards this for him at the moment. Now as a say this game always finds a way to throw us a curveball when it can so I may post this article and then one hour later find out he has the flu, but all things being equal I am very optimistic.
So lets look at my reasoning for ‘why here, why now’ for Branden.
Well firstly of course we have the venue.
As we have already established Shinnecock is a links type course which will potentially feature firm and fast conditions and this as we all know is right up Branden’s alley.
Less than a month ago when Branden tee’d it up at the Byron Nelson I wrote in my preview that “whenever an event is due to be held on a links type course one of the first names that comes to mind is that of the South African Branden Grace”.
Unfortunately Branden didn’t quite walk away with the trophy that week however he did justify our confidence to shoot a final round of 62 to finish 3rd [thus giving us the requisite previous top 5 finish on tour which the last 10 winners of the US Open have had].
Before we move on from this finish it is worth noting that the venue for this years Byron Nelson, The Trinity Forest Golf Club, is a Coore and Crenshaw design so this should be a good pointer to this week.
This high finish of Branden’s was yet another good result in what has been a solid season to date with four top 10s to his name in total across the PGA and European Tours. So basically all that is missing is the win.
Understandably Branden didn’t quite have the focus required to get a win in the first few months of the year as his wife was expecting their first child, however after the birth of their first son Roger he has stepped things up a level to notch the 3rd place finish at the Byron Nelson and he then backed this up with a top 5 at the BMW PGA at Wentworth the following week.
Not unsurprisingly after hopping back and forth across the Atlantic over consecutive weeks Grace cooled of a bit the following week to finish down the field at Memorial, however after a week of he should now be rested and raring to go.
As well as having the proven track record on links courses this week Branden has performed solidly on Poa greens in the past so I have no qualms that he will be able to handle them this week.
In addition one other reason I like the South African this week are his stats on an around the greens. He sits 15th in SGP on the PGA Tour this year, 6th in Scrambling from the rough, 34th in SG around the green and 1st in Scrambling form 20-30yds, a stat which could prove invaluable this week.
Finally putting to one side his performances at Augusta [the major which suits his game the least] let’s take a look at Branden’s record in the majors over the last couple of years. In 6 majors he has notched 3 top 5 finishes including his near miss in the US Open at Chambers Bay.
So to sum up we have a serial winner who has served his apprenticeship in Majors, has the perfect game for the course and is trending in to top form at just the right time and to top it all we have the added bonus of the level of positivity that will be instilled by the infamous nappy factor.
For me that combination is enough to have every confidence Branden can gain his first major championship this week.
JASON DAY – 16-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 10 FINISHED MC
There is a school of thought I’ve seen floating around that Jason Day isn’t hitting the ball well enough from tee to green to win this week however I do not buy in to that.
Yes Day is currently 113th in GIR for the season but despite this he has won twice this year already on tough golf courses, Torrey Pines and Quail Hollow.
At Quail Hollow he basically scrambled his way to victory with his C game and showed us again what a class act he is and if we do get firm, fast conditions this week the short game is sure to be key.
Day struggled last time out at Memorial but he has never performed particularly well at Muirfield Village and I would prefer instead to focus on Jason’s record on the West Coast and on Poa Annua greens.
This is where the case for the Aussie really starts to piece itself together as he is a four time PGA Tour winner on Poa including two wins on the coastal track of Torrey Pines with one coming this year.
In addition to this when the tour makes it’s forays to the North East of the USA I think it is always useful to look for players who have performed well in this part of the world before and once more Jason ticks this box.
This is because he won the Barclays at Plainfield Country Club in New Jersey. In addition Day won his first Major at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, he won the BMW in Illinois and for good measure he has won over the border in Canada as well.
Finally he finished second to Jimmy Walker [more of him later…] at Baltusrol in New Jersey at the 2016 USPGA Championship.
Clearly therefore Jason likes to head North.
One other course connection worth exploring this week is Pinehurst No 2 as this similarly to Shinnecock Hills is seen as a links style course with potentially similar run of areas around the greens, and also underwent a renovation under the supervision of Coore and Crenshaw prior to hosting the 2014 US Open.
If we take a look at the 2014 leaderboard from this event we will see that Jason Day finished in 4th place.
With firm and fast conditions most likely to be the order of the day this week I believe that scrambling and the short game in general will be key and Jason pretty much sits at the top or near the top of all the short game stats at the moment.
So in summary we have an elite player having a superb season coming to a venue in a part of the world he likes and being presented with greens and conditions he thrives on and that’s my logic for going with Jason this week.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD – 40-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 10 FINISHED 2nd
My next selection this week is European number 1, Englishman Tommy Fleetwood.
We’ve seen over the last couple of years what a solid player Fleetwood has become and I have to think this will be another test that suits him down to the ground this week.
We know Tommy can handle a links course and we know his ball striking is second to none so the only question mark is can he handle the Poa greens. For me the answer to this has to be yes he has played well on these in Mexico over the past two years.
If the wind does blow a bit or/and if Shinnecock turns in to anything like the sort of challenge it was in 2004 then patience will be a great asset this week and I can’t think that there are many more laid back, calmer players on either tour than Fleetwood.
Tommy will have learnt a lot from his experience in last years US Open and should he find himself in the hunt this year I am sure that this experience will prove invaluable.
We have seen over the recent years from Willett and further back from Gmac [and of course from Rose] that the top European players are not afraid to bring home the top US silverware and I can see Tommy going close to adding his name to that list this week
JIMMY WALKER – 90-1 – 1pt e/w – 1/5 odds 1st 10. FINISHED 56th
Next up this week is Texan Jimmy Walker.
The case for Jimmy this week is another one that leaps right of the page at you and to be honest I would be very surprised if he is not heavily supported over the next few days.
The evidence is pretty straight forward. Once again we have a proven top class player who is rounding in to form at just the right time, after a well documented battle with poor health.
Since returning to health Jimmy has made nine consecutive cuts including three top 6 finishes in his past five starts, one of which came at the aforementioned Coore and Crenshaw design at the Byron Nelson.
As well as this return to form the most striking point in Jimmy’s favour this week is that until his recent poor health he has pretty much bossed the Poa of the West Coast swing over the recent years.
This is born out by the fact that Jimmy has two wins and four other top ten finishes in the state of California between the back end of 2013 and early 2016.
In addition as noted earlier Walker won the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol in the North East on Poa.
Furthermore of course Walker has proven in spades over in Hawaii over the years that he has what it takes to play in the wind.
One final rubber stamp is that he finished 9th at the 2014 US Open played on the Coore & Crenshaw re design at Pinehurst No 2.
On this basis I am happy to have this proven West Coast specialist in our team at a juicy e/w price this week.
KEEGAN BRADLEY – 150-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED MC
Continuing my team of former major champions returning to form I am very keen on the chances of a big run at a juicy e/w price from Keegan Bradley this week.
Bradley is noted as a player who performs well on a tough golf course and this is backed up by his record at venues like Firestone, PGA National, Torrey Pines and of course in major championships.
One major championship result that stands out in particular in relation to this week is his 4th place finish at Pinehurst No 2 in 2014.
Furthermore from a course correlation point of view Bradley has finished in the top 5 in both of the last two outings at Torrey Pines and this has to be of interest this week.
In addition he has won on Poa greens at Firestone.
Keegan of course was one of the players most noticeably effected by the anchored putting ban and this certainly contributed to his down turn in form over the last few years.
We have seen from Webb Simpson’s performance at Sawgrass though that this hurdle can be overcome and for the last year or so Bradley has looked like he is very close to returning to the winners enclosure.
This can be seen from the fact that he has notched seven top 10s on tour since the start of the 16-17 season and he has only missed two cuts since this time last year.
The short game is of course our concern this week and despite the fact that Keegan has posted some good results of late there is no denying that his putting stats this year do not make pleasant reading.
I have decided to view this as a ‘half glass full’ situation though as if Keegan can produce an improved putting performance on greens he should be comfortable on then it is hard not to see him delivering a good result, after all he was 7th at TPC Sawgrass as recently as four weeks ago.
One other point to like about Keegan this week is that he came through Sectional Qualifying to earn his place in the field and from my point of view this must send him to Shinnecock with positive vibes.
Bradley hails originally from Woodstock, Vermont, which is about 5hrs from Shinnecock Hillds and still has plenty of connections in the North East area, so whilst this is not quite a home game for him [It should be noted he know lives in Florida] he is sure to feel comfortable in the area and have plenty of support and I can see Keegan having a really strong week this week.
GRAEME MCDOWELL – 150-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 10 FINISHED MC
For my final selection this week I can’t resist a roll of the dice with GMac.
The phrase GMac and US Open will always be one that is close to my heart as I backed Graeme at 150-1 when he won at Pebble Beach.
Over recent years of course Gmac has been a shadow of the man who delivered that trophy however there have been definite signs of late that he has turned a corner and this can be clearly evidenced by his 12th place and 5th placed finishes on his last two starts on the European Tour.
In 2010 Gmac arrived at Pebble Beach on the back of a win at Celtic Manor and a 4th place finish in his previous two starts in Europe and he duly produced the week of his life on the Poa greens of California.
I would be very surprised therefore if he isn’t arriving at the links style course of Shinnecock Hills which features Poa greens with a sneaky feeling that he has ‘been here before’.
Those of us who watch a lot of the PGA Tour on Sky will have become very familiar with the sight this year of GMac at the Sky Cart telling Nick/Sarah/James etc that he has been working very hard and playing great without getting the results and we have seen some really good rounds from him [noticeably on the Poa of Riviera] without him being able to string four of them together.
If Shinnecock does turn in to tough firm and fast test and if the wind blows at all Gmac’s clutch putting and short game and of course general patience should prove key this week and with the confidence he will have taken from his recent outings in Europe I can see him grinding out a really strong finish on the back of his recent great play in Europe.
UPDATED 12th JUNE - TRADER
TED POTTER JNR. FINISHED MC - BEST PRICE TRADED 200
Every now and then it's worth a roll of the dice on a 1000 shot as a trader and this is one of those weeks.
I will readily accept that the chances of TP Jnr winning the US Open are very slim however for us to make a decent chunk of money as a trader Ted obviously doesn't have to do that.
What he does have to do is get himself in to the higher reaches of the leaderboard at some stage and who knows for us to make some very serious profit from the trade get himself in to the last two or three groups going in to Sunday. [Assuming no ones run away from the field].
Every year their tends to be a complete outsider who makes some noise at the US Open and their are some sound reasons as follows to think Potter Jnr could be the man this year.
Firstly of course there was his win at the AT & T Pebble Beach Pro Am earlier this year, which came on the poa of a links course.
Ted has also played well at Sea Island and Hilton Head this season so clearly he likes a links type track.
Secondly Ted's strenghth has always been his short game and it could just be that despite his lack of length of the Tee he scrambles and putts his way around Shinnecock Hills.
Thirdly one thing you could never accuse Ted of is consistency in his results however of late he is on a run of five straight cuts made so he is clearly in solid form at the moment.
Finally Ted had to go to Sectional qualifying to find his way in to the field at Shinnecock Hills and he actually agonizingly missed out by a shot to only then find his way as an alternate. On this basis I have to think he'll be going in to the week with the attitude of a man who feels he has nothing to lose and whatever he achieves is a bonus.
As I said at the top the chances of Ted winning the US Open are of course extremely remote, however it is worth just closing with the point that Ted is one of those rare breed of golfers who actually plays better when in the hunt.and should he happen to by some chance find himself going in to the final round in the mix with DJ, Day and Phil for comany it is worth remembering he saw them all of with relative ease at Pebble!
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 1000