Dave Tindall

Across the Pond

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U.S. Open Preview

Monday, June 12, 2017


After drawing blanks year-after-year following Tony Jacklin’s win at Hazeltine in 1970, Europe has a strong record in recent U.S. Opens.

 

Graeme McDowell ended the 40-year drought with victory at Pebble Beach in 2010 before Rory McIlroy produced his astonishing eight-shot win at Congressional 12 months later.

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Justin Rose (2013) and Martin Kaymer (2014) added to the Euro dominance and Shane Lowry looked set to continue it last year before losing a four-shot 54-hole lead.

 

Europe holds another strong hand this year and will be going for back-to-back majors following Sergio Garcia’s dramatic Masters triumph.

 

 

Erin Hills

 

It’s a new venue for this year’s U.S. Open which adds to the challenge. Mr. Course set-up, Mike Davis, has given his usual clues, explaining that, although it’s down as a lengthy 7,692 yards, he’ll alter the course day by day depending on conditions. The fairways are wider than usual for a U.S. Open and, for the first time since 1992, par will be 72. Good news for the Par 5 merchants? Players have been raving about the state of the putting surfaces while the areas around them are mown, just as they were at Pinehurst No. 2 where Kaymer won.

 

 

The Weather

 

Temperatures are set to be in the high 80s but the sun could give way to thunderstorms on Friday and Saturday. More rain could hit on Sunday when it should be cooler. Thursday looks the calmest day in terms of wind but locals say it’s always likely to blow at this course so dealing with some gusts is very much part of the test.

 

 

Keys to U.S. Open success

 

Here’s how the last 10 U.S. Open winners fared in various categories during the week of their triumphs (presented below as an average position):

 

Driving Distance: 19.8                     
Driving Accuracy: 26.4                    
Greens In Regulation: 8.4                             
Scrambling: 12.5                                               
Putting Average 10.9                      
All-Around: 4.1   

 

Yes, folks, hitting the ball straight off the tee as a first and foremost requirement above everything else is something of a myth as Driving Accuracy is the least important.

 

Okay, hitting the fairways is obviously a help but length is a real asset in this event. Just check the list of recent winners. Is this really the major you expected Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson or Angel Cabrera to win first?

 

Hitting greens in the right number is a key skill but the idea that you need to do everything well really is borne out by those above stats, with the winner over the last 10 years ranked 4.1 on the All-Around.

 

 

The Leading Contenders

 

Rory McIlroy

He’s not teed it up since T35 at Sawgrass but let’s recall that in 2011 Rory didn’t play between the Masters and the U.S. Open and yet went on to lap the field and win at Congressional by eight. The difference this year - physical problems rather than mental ones (he’d blown a four-shot lead at Augusta in 2011) and he’s been limited to just six starts. He’s managed four top 10s but remains winless since the 2016 Tour Championship. Four par fives will at least benefit him this week.

 

John Rahm

Managers playing the European Tour Fantasy game took a while to realise that Rahm was available or perhaps they just underestimated him. That’s long gone after his money-spinning third and second in back-to-back WGC events. After being able to do no wrong, the Spaniard has just found golf slighter tougher in recent weeks, trading big cheques and weekends off (4-MC-2-MC). So he perhaps isn’t a sure thing here after missing the cut at Sawgrass and Muirfield Village. 2nd on the All-Around is reassuring though.

 

Sergio Garcia

The Masters champ plays his first U.S. Open as a major winner. Impressively, he’s made the cut in the last nine and last year’s T5 was his fifth top 10. Dig through his records and you’ll find another five top 25s. This event should suit some Sergio-ball and who knows what he’s capable of now after getting the big gorilla off his back. Progressive form of 30-20-12 since his thunderclap moment at Augusta, Sergio is also 10th on the All-Around this season.

 

Justin Rose

A brilliant winner of this event at Merion in 2013, another U.S. Open win for Rose would come as no surprise as he has the physical and mental game for such a test. That said, his record in the event is somewhat mixed (his 2013 win is his only top 10 since 2007) although his recent finishes in majors show high-class consistency and he’s been outside the top 27 just once in his last 13. A brilliant and unlucky runner-up at Augusta, the Englishman is 4th on the All-Around in 2017 and 16th for GIR.

 

Henrik Stenson

It’s well documented that Stenson is best played in the final two majors of the season. Evidence? In the Masters/U.S. Open combined he has just two career top 10s; in the Open/USPGA he has nine. T4 at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014 is notable though, as is walking onto the tee in this event as a major champ for the first time. T16 at Sawgrass, the Swede has since finished third at Wentworth and T26 in his home Nordea Masters.

 

Thomas Pieters

If big hitters do better than we expect in this event, step forward Pieters. Smashing the ball miles has already helped him to T4 at Augusta National this year (he was 5th for Driving Distance at the Masters) and he’s also finished runner-up at Riviera and cracked the top five in the WGC-Mexico. He throws in his share of missed cuts but the upside makes him a tempting proposition for gamers/bettors. This is his U.S. Open debut.

 

Alex Noren

His superb string of results in Europe hit new heights with a brilliant come-from-behind (R4 62) in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth but the Swede has also started to make his mark on the other side of the pond. Pre-Wentworth, he was T10 at Sawgrass while Noren also made the quarter-finals of the WGC-Match Play in Texas. He has three MCs and T51 in four previous U.S. Open starts but do we ignore that given his huge upturn in form over the last year?

 

Paul Casey

Not available for the official ET fantasy game given his lack of membership in Europe, Casey should still hold plenty of interest for gamers in other formats and those who like a bet. There’s lots of good stuff in his recent form (6th Masters, 10th Colonial last time out) and he’s made the top 25 in seven of his last eight starts. 7th for Greens in Regulation this season, if his putting holds up (125th), Casey has a good chance of beating his previous best in this event (T10) and perhaps more.

 

Martin Kaymer

The 2014 U.S. Open champ could be a smart pick here given that he won at Pinehurst No. 2 which has similar shaved run-off areas around the green. It’s a big help to Kaymer as he can putt his way back to the green and negate the weakness of his short-range chipping. A cool temperament is another big asset for the two-time major winner and he’s coming in off his best ever Masters finish (T16). Recent form since Augusta of 32-69-MC is a slight concern though.

 

Shane Lowry

A surprise 54-hole leader to some in this event last year but his presence at the front of the field at Oakmont shouldn’t have been a surprise due to his brilliant short game and previous win at the WGC-Bridgestone. Lowry messed up that four-shot lead but still did enough to take T2 and has the skills to win a major. He returns for this year’s bid showing some nice form with T6 at Wentworth (3rd for GIR) followed by T15 at Memorial (10th for GIR).


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Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky Sports.com in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on tindall_david@hotmail.com and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.
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