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Nine Aussies set to tee up at US Open - This week's preview

Sep 16, 2020

This week is a big one…it’s the 120th US OPEN,  played in New York State (most US Opens tend to be played either in the mid-West or North-East of the country).
And after Collin Morikawa won the first Major of 2020 last month, the much-delayed and re-scheduled US PGA Championship, who will get their name on the trophy come Sunday..?
There are no less than nine Australian competing this week - Jason Day, Scott Hend, Lucas Herbert, Matt Jones, Marc Leishman, Curtis Luck, amateur Lukas Michel, Adam Scott and Cameron Smith - let's hope one can bring home the bacon!
Here’s a preview of the action in the “Empire State”…

The Tournament
The US US Open is a prominent feature on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour schedules. The event is actually under the control of the USGA (United States Golf Association) who treat it very much as the opportunity to “torture” the players with the ultimate test of golf – tight fairways, long and penal rough, treacherous greens. The winner of the US Open is always viewed as a player who really has earned their reward as the conditions can be that difficult. It is usually the third Major of the year, after the US Masters and US PGA Championship, but in this exceptional year it’s the second – albeit, being played in September and not June.
The tournament was first held in 1895 and since then the roll of honour has been dominated by home players with 85 of 119 champions coming from the US. The remaining 34 winners comprise Scotland (13), England (9), South Africa (5), Australia & Northern Ireland (2), New Zealand, Germany & Argentina (1). The leading individual winners are all some way back in the record books… Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus (all with 4 wins apiece). Next on the list come Hale Irwin and, more recently, Tiger Woods (each with 3 wins).
The field is typically 156 with the line-up drawn from a much wider catchment than, say, the US Masters as the US Open is “open” to any professional golfer, or amateur, with the necessary handicap who either qualifies or is exempt on account of their status (past champion, world ranking etc). The unique characteristic of this event is that should there be a play-off after 72 holes, the tied players come back the next day (Monday) and compete over 18 holes.

The Course
The US Open is played at a variety of courses, with the tournament so far being hosted in 19 different states. This year we’re at Winged Foot Golf Club (West Course) in Mamaroneck, New York State. It’s a par 70 that will play a hefty 7,477 yards. Designed by the famous course architect A.W. Tillinghast, the course was built in 1921, and opened in 1923. It was most recently updated by Gil Hanse in 2017. It last hosted the US Open in 2006, where the winning score was 5-over-par (Hale Irwin was a winner at 7-over in 1974!). So it’ll be the standard tough test for the players, just as it tends to be at every US Open.

72 Hole Record – 268, Rory McIlroy (2011)
18 Hole Record – 63, Adam Scott (2013)

Last 10 Winners (and Top 5 places)
(2019) Gary Woodland (Koepka – Rahm, Reavie, Rose, Shcauffele)
(2018) Brooks Koepka (Fleetwood – Johnson – Reed – Finau)
(2017) Brooks Koepka (Harman & Matsuyama – Fleetwood – Fowler, Haas)
(2016) Dustin Johnson (Furyk, Lowry & Piercy – Garcia & Price)
(2015) Jordan Spieth (Johnson & Oosthuizen – Grace, Scott & Smith)
(2014) Martin Kaymer (Compton & Fowler – Day, Johnson, Koepka & Stenson)
(2013) Justin Rose (Day & Mickelson – Dufner, Els, Horschel & Mahan)
(2012) Webb Simpson (McDowell & Thompson – Dufner, Furyk, Harrington & Toms)
(2011) Rory McIlroy (Day – Chappell, Garrigus, Westwood & Yang)
(2010) Graeme McDowell (Havret – Els – Mickelson & Woods)

The Field
As stated above, we have a full complement of 150+ golfers at Winged Foot this week. Dustin Johnson is the 8/1 favourite.

The Weather
There’s a slight chance of rain this week, but nothing of any consequence. Temperatures will be best of Thursday (hitting the 80s), but heading into the weekend it’ll cool down to the high 60s. Predicted wind speeds are also low (sub-10mph), so it looks a pretty decent week for the players.

Here are five chances, all at odds of 14/1 or more offered by the Golf Insider

JUSTIN THOMAS
“This week’s US Open is at Winged Foot, which is notorious for being one of the most brutal tests in golf. This year the test looks as challenging as ever with numerous videos of the rough doing the rounds on social media. It’s fair to say that the old saying of “you need to be in the fairway to compete at a US Open” definitely applies here. Thomas produced his best display since his St.Jude Invitational win at the Tour Championships two weeks ago. His tee-to-green game was superb, ranking 2nd in the field, but once again a poor week on the greens cost him a shot at the $15 million. His long game has been looking great for a number of weeks now, but he’s lost 10 strokes on the greens from his last five events. He even lost 1.8 strokes putting when he won the St.Jude, which is quite astonishing, and is testament to how good his long game is this season. Yes, the putting woes are a concern, but on a course where pars are good, and finding fairways and greens are your top priority, Thomas should be well ahead of most of his peers. Dustin Johnson is rightly favourite this week, but for me Thomas is just behind him.”

TOMMY FLEETWOOD
“Fleetwood decided to play the Portugal Masters last week and it could prove to be a wise choice. Fleetwood re-discovered his form with both his driver and his irons which had been missing for numerous weeks when playing in the US. Last week in Portugal, Fleetwood finished 3rd, but he ranked as the No.1 player from tee-to-green by a mile, and had it not been for a stone-cold putter all four days he would have won the event comfortably. Fleetwood’s game is ideally suited for tough courses, where the emphasis is on driving it long and straight, and hitting laser-like iron shots, so he’s an obvious contender this week. He nearly won the US Open in 2018, when he finished 2nd to Koepka, and the year before he finished 4th. Fleetwood also had a chance to win the Open last year but came 2nd to Ireland’s Shane Lowry. Fleetwood has shown time and time again that he’s capable of winning multiple majors, and this week’s assignment looks the perfect fit for the Englishman to get off the mark.”

BUBBA WATSON
“You will all have noticed that I’ve tipped Watson numerous times this season, and we are yet to benefit much from such picks, but I have to keep the faith with a player who’s long game numbers are continuously better than the field. Watson has been just about the best player off the tee since lockdown, gaining over 17 strokes in this category on the field in six events. His iron play has been solid, if unspectacular, but ultimately he’s setting up multiple opportunities off the tee with his superb driving, and one week soon, when he has his irons dialled in, he’s going to make a mockery of such a big price. Watson is a multiple major winner who must be respected on tough layouts, despite his poor US Open record. I’m willing to give the charismatic American one last chance to reward our loyalty.”

RASMUS HOJGAARD
“My friend who plays on the European Tour told me that Rasmus Hojgaard was the best young player he’d ever played with, and Rasmus won the Mauritius Open last year. Since then he’s proved himself as the real-deal. Post lockdown he’s been superb finishing in the Top 6 on four separate occasions, and his worst finish was 31st at the Andalucia Masters. His long game has been world class during this time ranking 10th, 1st, 2nd, 2nd and 12th in Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green for these five events. It’s this superb long game which means he should be well-suited to this week’s test. It’s definitely asking a lot for Hojgaard to win on his major debut’ but stranger things have happened. I think the classy Dane can at least get a Top 10!”

THOMAS PIETERS
The last man to make the staking plan is Thomas Pieters, who returned to the European Tour with two solid performances in Wales finishing 3rd and 15th. His long game looked great, ranking 4th on both occasions for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green. Pieters has recently become a father for the first time and said he feels a lot more relaxed on the course now, which can only be a good thing, as his temperament has definitely held him back in the past. Pieters has expressed his love for playing in the US and has claimed that to be the goal for the coming seasons. He also says he feels really confident that he can rely on his swing, and that his putting has also improved loads over the extended break. All in all, Pieters is a dark horse, but there are plenty of positives for him this week, and with no weight or expectation on his shoulders we could see a special performance this week.”