The US Open
It was another solid week for us in Canada as we bagged a second and fourth place finish from Shane Lowry and Brandt Snedeker giving us full e/w payouts on the pair of them.
Neither though could live with Rory McIlroy who was in scintillating form all week and particularly on Sunday when he closed the event out in emphatic fashion with a final round of 61.
So we move on in good spirits and what a cracking week we have ahead of us to move on to. It’s time for the third Major of the season, The US Open and a much awaited return to Pebble Beach.
This years edition is the 119th edition of the event and it will be the sixth to have been held at Pebble Beach. The previous were in 1972, 1982, 1992 and 2000 and 2010. The US Open is scheduled to return to Pebble again in 2027.
After his success at Shinnecock Hills last year and Erin Hills the year before [and of course his recent success at Bethpage Black] all eyes will be on Mr Major Brooks Koepka, to see if he can pull of an astonishing ‘threepeat’, something which has only ever been achieved once before by Willie Anderson in 1903, 1904 & 1905!
If Brooks can pull this off it will be an incredible achievement and something that will put his name down in golfing folklore for ever, which of course he will be acutely aware of.
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!]
At the time of writing Brooks Koepka is just about hanging on to favouritism but it is a very close call with man of the moment McIlroy vying with him for those honours courtesy of his win in Canada. They are both then closely followed by DJ with Tiger just behind this trio.
Pebble Beach is a links style course situated in the West Coast of the USA adjacent to Carmel By The Sea in California.
Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful courses in the world it hugs the coastline and gives views of Carmel Bay and the Pacific Ocean on the south side of the Monterey Peninsula.
The course was opened in 1919 and was originally designed by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant. The course was then extensively redesigned by H Chandler Egan in 1928 while much more recently in 1998 Jack Nicklaus designed the new fifth hole.
The course was first used for a professional tournament in 1926 when it hosted the Monterey Peninsula Open, while in 1947 the course played as one of the host courses for the inaugural Bing Crosby National Pro-Am an event, which of course continues today in its present format of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AM.
As noted above the first US Open to be hosted here was not until 1972 as there were logistical concerns in relation to access, travel etc from the powers that be with regards to taking the event to the ‘far flung’ California Coast, however the event proved to be a roaring success and Pebble Beach has since become an iconic staple of the US Open rota.
So what of the course itself? Well to sum up whilst Pebble Beach plays as a Par 72 for the annual Pro Am event it reverts to a par 71 for the US Open with the par 5 second hole playing as a par 4.
The course will play to 7040 yards and the greens are poa annua.
With many par 4 holes playing to around or under 400yds distance off the tee is not an issue here. Instead accuracy of the tee and in particular on the second shot in to the far smaller than average greens is the key.
In addition with there having been little to no rain in the Pebble Beach area over the past couple of weeks and none forecast from now through to the end of tournament week the USGA look certain to get the desired firm, fast conditions, meaning accuracy will be even more key.
The most iconic holes visually are arguably the three hole stretch from the 6th through to the 8th which hug the Pacific coastline along the right hand side and then finally the par 5 18th, which again hugs the coastline but this time down the left hand side.
So lets take a look at the recent winners.
2018 Brooks Koepka
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
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 usually 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 start his Major lovefest by bombing his way to victory at Erin Hills where it was almost impossible to miss a fairway.
This year though we do have a bit more to go on as, as well as being able to look at players who have performed well at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am we can also look at players who have regularly performed well at shorter and/or coastal tracks such as Hilton Head, Torrey Pines, Sawgrass or at a combination of both.
Whilst the skill sets and 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, Koepka had made his last 6 cuts which included a 2nd place finish at the Valero Texas Open in 2017 when winning, while last year he had finished second a fortnight before at Fort Worth.
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.
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.
In addition of course it should be noted that in 2010 Graeme McDowell was victorious here at three figure odds and unheralded Frenchman Gregory Havret chased him home.
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.
I am pleased to say [as, as regular readers know I’ll be there!] we are in for a fine, dry week and the USGA will be delighted that they will be getting the desired firm, fast conditions.
Temperatures for the beginning of the week start of at around the mid 70s however by the time we reach the tournament days things will have cooled of slightly to somewhere around the mid 60s.
The wind, which of course can be a huge issue here at Pebble does not look like picking up to the levels where it will cause the players major headaches and it looks set to sit around the 10-15mph mark through the week.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with 6 players this week as follows in addition to the antepost bet I posted on Martin Kaymer during the Memorial Tournament ;
TIGER WOODS – 12-1 – 3pts Win. - FINISHED 21st
There is only one place to start for me this week and that is with fifteen time Major Champion Tiger Woods.
It would of course be foolish of me to dismiss completely the Major Championship Machine of late that is Brooks Koepka, however my hunch is that the pressure of trying to complete the incredible ‘threepeat’ will just prove too much for him.
In addition Both Rory, after his spectacular performance in Canada, and DJ with his record around here naturally demand respect, but of the leading names Tiger to me just leaps out as the standout selection.
The case for Tiger does not really need much outlining but I shall briefly do so anyway.
Firstly of course and firmly logged in our memory banks is Tiger’s 15 stroke victory here in 2000, if ever something tells us that a player can handle a course you would think that is it! In addition Tiger finished fourth here in 2010, a year that he didn’t start his season until the Masters and troubled by injury issues didn’t post a victory all year.
To me though the main reason I fancy Tiger this week is the way that the 2019 version of him plays the game, after all there is only so much we can look at form from 19yrs ago.
As we know the Tiger of old could basically out blast most of the games big guns of that time off the tee using his strength out of the rough in the way that the likes of Brooks or DJ do nowadays.
These days though naturally with age and the modern game having caught up with him, not to mention of course all the injuries and operations he has endured, ‘grip and rip it’ is not his game. Instead Tiger plots his way around the course in a more circumspect manner and that is ideal for this week.
In his heyday Tiger was of course a master tactician anyway and he showed this when victorious at a rock hard Hoylake without barely if at all using the big stick all week.
This week Tiger will be totally in his element, he will take the Iron on the firm fast fairways where he can and then his stand out approach game which sees him currently sit second on the season in GIR and 11th SGTTG will come to the fore.
One area where Tiger is certainly more vulnerable these days than historically is with the putter, however if it even half behaves this week it is hard to not see him having a big say come Sunday.
I was happy to oppose Tiger at Bethpage where I felt that the month long absence since his win at the Masters and the potential hangover from that victory would stand against him, however with that success firmly now in the rear view mirror and a nice warm up at Memorial a couple of weeks ago I feel Tiger is the man to beat this week and I am keen to have him onside.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD – 30-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 10 - FINISHED 65th
I’ve had Tommy Fleetwood in mind for this for quite a while now and I’m happy with where he’s at coming in to the week.
2019 on the PGA Tour has started in a pretty similar vein to 2018 for Tommy, plenty of good finishes, the highlight of, which are fifth at the Players and third at Bay Hill, but as of yet no victory.
Since that fifth place at Sawgrass it has been a fairly low key couple of months in the US for Tommy, with his last effort Stateside being his 48th place finish at Bethpage Black in the USPGA.
To be honest that relatively disappointing finish in the PGA did not surprise me at all as it came the following week from Tommy’s hosting of the British Masters at Hillside, a week which undoubtedly was a huge success but also undoubtedly mentally draining for him.
Based on this I am quite happy to have seen Tommy have a few weeks of since Bethpage to recharge the batteries.
Following on from this it’s worth saying that while with some players there perhaps would be a concern with regards to some rustiness after nearly a month off, with Tommy I actually see that as a positive as he has twice won in his first start of the year on the European Tour in Abu Dhabi.
With regards to the test that is in front of Tommy this week I have to think that with his ball striking being the undoubted strength of his game he will be in his element.
He has performed well over the years at the Dunhill Links and of course having been brought up by the coast in Southport he is comfortable on links style courses. In addition he is also a former winner of the Open De France, which, hosted at the tough Paris De National course, has a good form line to Pebble courtesy of Gmac.
Finally with regards to poa greens Tommy has shown with his performances at the WGC Mexico that he is comfortable on these putting surfaces.
Over the past two years the 28yr old has produced his best Major Championship form at the USA Open finishing fourth at Erin Hills and second last year at Shinnecock with a score of +2 and this result last year shows Tommy is more than comfortable on a tough US Open test.
With all the focus on Brooks’ attempt at the ‘threepeat’ and European attentions no doubt focused on McIlroy after his exploits in Canada, Tommy comes in to this week under the radar and I can see a refreshed Fleetwood having a great week in front of him.
MARC LEISHMAN – 66-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 10 - FINISHED 35th
There are some of fairly obvious potential selections around the 40/50-1 area of the market in the form of Webb Simpson, Shane Lowry and Brandt Snedeker and they will no doubt come in for plenty of support in the lead up to Thursday’s start.
Sneds and Lowry both came close to making this team however I feel like I have missed the boat on them both pricewise and, particularly for the ten places e/w, so while there will be a tinge of regret if either of these lift the trophy come Sunday I shall move on to slightly bigger odds for my next selection this week in the form of Aussie Marc Leishman.
Leishman began his 18/19 season in incredibly strong fashion with a win at the CIMB, a couple of top four finishes in Hawaii and another fourth place finish at the Genesis.
Since then the 35yr old has cooled off slightly, however he has seemingly returned to form at just the right time with a fifth place finish last time out at the Memorial.
Having been brought up in Australia this week’s firm and fast conditions should be ideal for Leishman and currently ranking 18th in SGATTG and 33rd in GIR his strong iron play should also be an asset here.
Leishman has performed well over the years at the Open Championship, notably when coming close to victory at St Andrews in 2015 and he has also performed well on the poa on the West Coast over the years so while he has no history of success at Pebble [he hasn’t played here since 2011 when he finished 21st] I am comfortable that he will be suited by the test.
The Aussie has for a long time been touted as a potential Major Champion and I have a feeling that this could be a week where he could come really close to making that breakthrough and I am more than happy to have him on side.
SI WOO KIM – 150-1 – 1pt e/w – 1/5 odds 1st 10. - FINISHED MC
With his wins at TPC Sawgrass and the Wyndham Championship along with his near miss at Hilton Head in 2018 [which still haunts me…] Si Woo Kim has earnt himself a reputation as being an excellent exponent of shorter golf courses and on that basis he has to come in to the conversation this week.
Still only 23yrs old the main problem with Si Woo over the years has been his inability to put any level of consistency together.
Earlier this season however it looked like he was finally beginning to put that right as he posted some solid results including back to back top four finishes on the poa at the Genesis and here at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
After a further fourth place finish in Texas and a 21st at the Masters Si Woo then though unfortunately went off the boil with three consecutive missed cuts.
Last time out however the South Korean stopped the rot with a 41st place finish at Memorial and all parts of his game seemed in reasonable working order.
When Si Woo won at TPC Sawgrass he showed his undoubted talent and that he is capable of beating the best there is when at his best and it was his short game and scrambling in particular that week, which went along way toward helping him achieve that victory.
In keeping with this it is therefore worth noting that the South Korean ranks this season 13th in scrambling and seventh in Strokes Gained Around The Green and this is an area that should stand him in huge stead this week on Pebble’s smaller than average greens.
There is no doubt that when backing Kim you run the risk with his inconsistency that you will be tearing your slip up come Friday evening, however on a course which undoubtedly in my mind suits him I am happy to chance him this week at the three figure prices on offer.
AARON BADDELEY – 300-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 10 - FINISHED MC
With 10 e/w places on offer there is undoubtedly some value in the big priced odds further down the field and the one that has particularly caught my eye is another Aussie Arron Baddeley.
It has been a fairly lean time for Badds over recent years, however 18/19 has seen him turn a corner and produce his most consistent golf for many a year with three top 10s to his name already.
The key to this upturn in form from Aaron has been the return of his magical short game, which historically was always his main strength, and this is reflected by the fact that he currently ranks fourth in Scrambling, sixth in SGATG and 10th in putting.
A former champion at Hilton Head Aaron has also posted two top tens at Sawgrass over the years and two top six finishes here at Pebble Beach in the Pro-Am, so a short course with smaller greens obviously holds no fear for him. He is also a former winner at Riviera so he is comfortable on the poa greens.
After a couple of weaker results Badds played solidly last time out to finish 22nd at Memorial and he then followed that up by making it through Sectional Qualifying to get to Pebble Beach.
Based on this Aaron should arrive here in good heart and I can see him giving us a big run at huge odds.
GRAEME MCDOWELL – 66-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 10 - FINISHED 16th
This is the bit where I am afraid you will have to humour me…There is obviously absolutely no room for sentiment in betting however there are four things here, which are having me break this rule…
1 I backed Gmac when he won here in 2010 at, which point I said to myself “If at all possible I will go to Pebble when it next hosts the US Open”
2 So here I am in Pebble and if Gmac did happen to win or even place and I wasn’t onboard I would be somewhat irritated…
3 He obviously qualified for the Open on his home course at Royal Portrush on Sunday so he will arrive in Pebble flying.
4 With a win under his belt already and several other strong finishes Gmac is having his best season in many a moon so he could actually win….
Now I appreciate most of the above is probably not relevant to regular readers [apart from the ‘he could actually win’ bit of course]…and would I be backing Gmac if the above wasn’t relevant to me? Quite possibly not and you can decide accordingly on that basis whether the Northern Irishman is for you this week.
PREVIOUSLY ADVISED ANTEPOST BET – MARTIN KAYMER – 150-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED 35th
Regular twitter followers will know that I posted this bet at the halfway stage of the recent Memorial Tournament when Kaymer had got himself in to the mix and I am quite happy with how things then played out over the weekend with the German posting his best finish in a very long time of third place.
I received plenty of comments from people at the time who pointed to how he stalled on the back nine on the Sunday as evidence of the fact that the German is not the player he was and that he cant be trusted any more in contention.
To me however at 34yrs of age there is still more than enough time for Martin to emerge from the long slump he has been in and return to being a world class force in the game, after all you don’t win two Majors and a Players without having something a bit special about you.
The other concern that was raised to me is that his chipping around the greens, his nemesis over recent years, will stop him from winning, however in thick rough around the greens, which is what he will face this week he actually copes very well and we saw this at Memorial, it is the bare lies that he struggles with far more and that is not what he will be faced with this week.
Martin was eighth here in 2010 so he clearly can play well here and he also showed when winning at Sawgrass that a shorter course with smaller greens is right up his alley. Let’s also not forget that he was eighth at Hillside recently, another short links track, prior to his third at the Memorial.
The best price available for Martin now for 10 places e/w is 70-1 and I still feel this represents reasonable odds for those place terms, however I am happy to stick with our 150s for the six places and am hopeful there is a big week ahead in store for the German.
UPDATED 12th JUNE
FIRST ROUND LEADER PICKS - MARTIN KAYMER 66-1 1/2pt e/w - 1/5 odds 1st 8 & TOMMY FLEETWOOD - 40-1 - 1/2pt e/w - 1/5 odds 1st 8. - NO RETURN
I am going with two selections in this weeks First Round Leader Market, Martin Kaymer & Tommy Fleetwood.
Both men have an AM tee time, which I think will be preferrable based on how poa becomes tougher to putt on in the afternoon.
In relation to Kaymer as regular followers will know I am on the German antepost e/w at 150-1 and my hunch is he can get out of the blocks quickly.
His last two big wins in 2014 were built around fast starts, particularly his opening 63 at Pinehurst and buyoed by his recent good performance at Memorial he should tee it up on Thursday in great spirits.
As for Fleetwood, like Kaymer I have made my case for him in the main outright preview so I wont go in to detail again here, suffice to say he is currently ranked eighth in Round 1 scoring average on the PGA Tour and I am keen to have him onside in this market from his preferred AM tee time.
TRADER - BERND WIESBERGER - FINISHED 76th - LOWEST PRICE TRADED 260
Wiesberger got in this weeks field as an alternate after he made a bunch of birdies on the closing holes at the Walton Heath qualifying event recently and it could just be that the stars are aligned for the Austrian to now go on and have a big week.
After a lengthy period out with injury Bernd struggled initially on his return to the European Tour at the back end of last year however he came good three weeks back when winning the Made In Dermark event on another links style course.
Wiesberger who also has a victory to his name at the tough Le Golf National, which correlates nicely to here with Gmac, has always been renowned as a great iron player and I can see him building on his recent strong play and having a great week.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 500+