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US Open Preview and Picks
by Matt Fargo - 06/10/2014
Pinehurst No. 2 plays host to the 114th edition of the U.S. Open and it will be a dramatic change from what we are used to when it comes to the national championship. Thick, long and tiered rough was the calling card for the U.S. Open but we will be seeing a much different layout this week. Pinehurst No. 2 was set up with the typical unforgiving rough the first two times it hosted back in 1999 and 2005 but a complete overhaul of the course has brought it back to its roots.
While the first Pinehurst course opened in 1895, Donald Ross designed the famed No. 2 course in 1907 but it lost its original layout and look over the years. Fairways that bleed into sandy wiregrass areas were lost to the typical rough that we see on most courses these days and in 2010, Pinehurst started a $2.5 million renovation led by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. They set out to restore the natural look and intent that Ross put forth and they were successful in doing so.
Ross' trademark convex greens were left alone but the fairways were widened, some by as much as 50 percent, and 13 new tees were added with many of those going much further back than before. While the rough is essentially gone, that doesn't mean it sets up any easier as players will face lies in sandy areas covered with loose vegetation and wire brush plants. The course will play at a length of 7,562 yards, compared to 7,175 yards at the 1999 U.S. Open and 7,214 at the 2005 U.S. Open.
While the thought is that the Majors are dominated by the world's best players, that has hardly been the case. Of the last 21 Majors, there have been 18 different winners with Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson being the only two-time Major winners. As far as the U.S. Open, eight of the last nine winners hoisted the trophy for the first time, with Tiger Woods in 2008 being his third title. American players used to dominate but only three of the last 10 winners have been from the United States.
The defending champion is Justin Rose (+3,000) and while has been playing decent, he has not been contending very often. He has a pair of solo fifths and a T4 but has yet to crack the top three. History is not on his side as only one player has been able to defend his title since 1951 when Curtis Strange backed up his 1988 U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club with a win in 1989 at Oak Hill.
The odds are not great on Phil Mickelson (+1,300) but we are including him as the course setup arguably helps him the most of anyone. He has not had a good season by his standards and has not had a top ten finish but he is coming off his best finish of the season last week with a T11 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. His U.S. Open record is outstanding and his short game could help him complete the career grand slam.
The wrist injury to Jason Day (+3,000) has gotten better and he will be out win his first ever Major. He has been in contention numerous times as he has appeared in 14 of them, yet already he has four top-three finishes and that includes two of which have come from his three appearances at the U.S. Open. His WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship shows he can win on a big stage.
Jason Dufner (+3,500) has made 10 cuts in 11 medal play events and while he has yet to win, he has been consistently good. He has four top tens including a solo fifth at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and a solo second two starts back at the Colonial after losing in a playoff. He already is a major winner so he knows how to get it done and he is one of two golfers to have top fives at two of the last three U.S. Opens.
Jim Furyk (+3,500) possess the game to fit the U.S. Open and he is a past champion back in 2003. He has not missed a cut this season while posting back-to-back runner ups at the Wells Fargo and The Players Championship. Eight of his last 10 starts have resulted in a T20 or better and he leads the PGA Tour in scrambling and ranks fourth in bogey avoidance so he is another player whose game fits here.
Charl Schwartzel (+5,000) continues to not get much pub but his T8 at the Memorial in his last start was his fifth T12 or better finish in nine medal play events including three of his last four. He is a major champion, winning the 2011 Masters and has made the cut in the last four U.S. Opens. This includes a T16 in 2010, a T9 in 2011 and a solo 14th last year. Great odds for positive converging trends.
Hunter Mahan (+6,000) has been very quiet for a while as injuries have slowed him down but he is healthy and rested after taking the last two weeks off. He has four top tens this season and while he hasn't won since the Shell Houston Open in 2012, this venue can change that. He has made five of seven U.S. Open cuts with four top 20's including a T6 in 2009 and a T4 at Merion last year.
Recommended Tournament Win Six Pack at the U.S. Open (all for One Unit)
Phil Mickelson (+1,300)
Jason Day (+3,000)
Jason Dufner (+3,500)
Jim Furyk (+3,500)
Charl Schwartzel (+5,000)
Hunter Mahan (+6,000)
2014 Record to date after 21 events: -52 Units
Sony Open in Hawaii -5 Units
Humana Challenge -5 Units
Farmers Insurance Open -5 Units
Waste Management Phoenix Open -5 Units
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am +22 Units
Northern Trust Open -5 Units
WGC - Accenture Match Play +23 Units
Honda Classic -5 Units
WGC-Cadillac Championship -5 Units
Valspar Championship -5 Units
Arnold Palmer Invitational -5 Units
Valero Texas Open -5 Units
Shell Houston Open -5 Units
The Masters -7 Units
Zurich Classic -5 Units
Wells Fargo Championship -5 Units
THE PLAYERS Championship -5 Units
HP Byron Nelson Championship -5 Units
Crowne Plaza Invitational -5 Units
Memorial Tournament -5 Units
FedEx St. Jude Classic -5 Units