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US Open Preview and Picks
by Matt Fargo - 06/11/2013
We have hit the second major of the season as the 113th edition of the U.S. Open tees off this week from the East Course at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. This is the first trip for the Open back to Merion since 1981 which is a big gap considering this is the 18th time it has hosted a USGA Championship. Therefore we can toss experience out of the equation right away as no player has teed it up here in any sort of pro tournament, especially one with a meaning like this one.
Merion is not the typical U.S. Open course or any tour course for that matter as it sits just 6,996 yards in length and that is stretching it out as far as possible. It is just a par 70 which means two less par fives are in the mix and while there are short yardage holes, Merion still has its share of length on some. Three of the four par threes are 236, 246 and 256 in yardage while four of the par fours are 464 yards or longer including the 18th hole which measures out at 521 yards.
The weather has been an issue leading up to the tournament and it will remain an issue going into Thursday. The area received a lot of rain over the past weekend and Monday was virtually a washout. The course does drain well but the chances of it getting hard and fast, which is what the USGA had hoped, will be next to impossible. The 11th and 12th holes are prone to flooding and if any more significant rain does come, there is talk about playing two holes on the West Course to open the round and skip 11 and 12 altogether.
Hopefully that will not be the case but a wet course means more aggressive play. That brings a lot more players into the mix because the greens will be more receptive which gives lower iron shots a greater chance of actually staying on the greens. With the fairways not allowing balls to roll out, it cuts down on distance but it also will help prevent balls rolling into the extremely dangerous rough in some cases. The putting surfaces will still be fast as estimates of around 12 on the Stimpmeter are expected.
While the thought is that the Majors are dominated by the world's best players, that has hardly been the case. Of the last 18 Majors, there have been 17 different winners with Rory McIlroy being the only two-time Major winner. As far as the U.S. Open, seven of the last eight 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 nine winners have been from the United States.
The defending champion is Webb Simpson (+5,000) and while has been playing decent, he has not been contending very often. His best finish is a solo second at the RBC Heritage and he has just two other top tens. 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.
Graeme McDowell (+2,000) won the U.S. Open in 2010 at Pebble Beach and he backed that up with a T14 in 2011 and a T2 last year. He heads into this year's edition in good form as he has a match play win in Europe as well as a win here at the RBC Heritage. He is not long off the tee but that is not a requirement here and he makes up for that with incredible accuracy. He will be a threat again.
Phil Mickelson (+2,000) will be the first of two players that have come close to the championship but have yet to claim one. He has been a runner-up at the U.S. Open a record five times and while his T65 and T54 the last two years will lead people to think his time has passed, I am not one of those. While he did miss the cut at THE PLAYERS, he has four top three finishes including a win in Phoenix and a T2 last week.
The second of the two aforementioned bridesmaids is Lee Westwood (+2,500). In his last five U.S. Open starts, he has three top tens including a T3 and a solo third. He can still be considered the best player without a Major even though some may think he is on his way down. It is hard to make that argument when he posted a T10, T8, T4 and a T8 in four straight tournaments before his WD at the Memorial two weeks ago.
Brandt Snedeker (+2,500) has been on a lot of radar screens since he won the FedEx Cup last year and rightfully so. He opened the season with four top threes in his first five starts and while an injury has slowed him down, we cannot forget his T8 at THE PLAYERS. He has missed his last two cuts but Webb Simpson came into last year the same way. He has finished T11, T8 and T9 in three of his last four U.S. Opens.
We will be going with two longshots this week, the first being Henrik Stenson (+7,500). After pretty much taking off the final three years, he is playing some great golf with three tops tens in seven medal play made cuts including a T2 and a T5. He has always played well at the U.S. Open and this year he is ranked first in driving accuracy, third in greens in regulation and third in scrambling from the rough. Enough said.
Tim Clark (+8,500) will be the other longshot pick this week as a non-firm course keeps him in play with the big boys. He has been all over the map this year with five missed cuts but he also has three top tens including a solo second at the Sony Open in Hawaii. In his last four U.S. Open made cuts, he has a T12, T40, T48 and a T17 so even in the faster conditions, his accuracy keeps him around.
Recommended Tournament Win Six Pack at the U.S. Open (all for One Unit)
Graeme McDowell (+2,000)
Phil Mickelson (+2,000)
Lee Westwood (+2,500)
Brandt Snedeker (+2,500)
Henrik Stenson (+7,500)
Tim Clark (+8,500)
2012 Record to date after 36 events: +51.6 Units
2013 Record to date after 22 events: -14.4 Units
Hyundai Tournament of Champions -5 Units
Sony Open in Hawaii -5 Units
Humana Challenge - 5 Units
Farmer Insurance Open +3.5 Units
Waste Management Phoenix Open +19 Units
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am -5 Units
Northern Trust Open -5 Units
WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship +25.66 units
The Honda Classic -5 Units
WGC-Cadillac Championship -5 Units
Tampa Bay Championship -5 Units
Arnold Palmer Invitational -1.5 Units
Shell Houston Open -5 Units
The Masters -8 Units
RBC Heritage +27 Units
Zurich Classic of New Orleans -5 Units
The Wells Fargo Championship -5 Units
THE PLAYERS Championship -5 Units
HP Byron Nelson Championship -5 Units
Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial -5 Units
Memorial Tournament -5 Units
FedEx St. Jude Classic -5 Units