Thursday, 11 June 2015

US Open 2015 - Chambers Bay, Washington

Arguably the toughest of the four Majors, The US Open, tees it up Thursday 18th June and runs into Fathers Day on Sunday as per tradition. Traditional US Opens are played on tough courses where the rough is penal and scoring is high and the cream of world golf normally prevail. We have to go back a long way to see a serious outsider win and its something to consider when trying to pick the 2015 Champion. But this year , we have a real unknown to contend with; Chambers Bay GC. It will be the first time the course is being used for a Major or indeed a PGA event although it did host the US Amateur in 2010, three years after opening. Mike Davis, the PGA director who is responsible for the course setup for the Open, warned players that they need to prepare well if they want to take on this course and many players have heeded the advice and taken some practice sessions out there. The one story emerging from the various players is that the course is "different" and "very challenging" ! We had wicker baskets at Merion two years ago and this year we have two holes whose pars will alternate each day; the first and eighteenth will play as par 4/5s, an overall par 72 course.

The setup suggests that we will indeed have a challenging course , a course that will suit the thinking man, a player that can conjure up the shots required for all eventualities. From the copious amounts of course previews and flyovers that I've seen it sure looks as if its a course that will require accuracy as with all US Opens, but given the shape and contours of the greens it may come down to those that have the best imaginations around the greens and can putt well over the four days. Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth share favouritism here, of course, and despite the notion that Rory doesn't do well in the wind, I'm inclined to favour the Irishman over the younger Texan. Rory almost won at Whistling Straits when the PGA Championship was won there by Martin Kaymer in 2010, and I think this course has a lot of similarities. I wouldn't be too hasty in ignoring the 7/1 on offer (8/1 Spieth).

On my trip up to watch the Irish Open at Royal County Down during round two, I was genuinely amazed at the amount of players who had given up due to the "challenge", their body language indicating that they didn't like this type of golf and its those players that we can safely say will never win Majors. Those that grind and stay patient and rise to the challenge will always make a shortlist for a Major and I was impressed with the attitude and commitment of Rickie Fowler at RCD. Given he was socializing a bit with Rory & co on top of competing, Fowler showed his love for links golf and his ability to challenge in demanding circumstances and I cannot ignore his chances here. He would of course emulate the defending champions exploits of twelve months ago should he win here as Martin Kaymer also won the Players and the US open in 2014, Fowler having won at Sawgrass last month. Fowler has proven time and time again his fondness for links and will be a much confident player this time than the one who finished in the top5 in all four majors in 2014. He's 20/1 to prevail and its a fair price in my opinion and he can make his recent visit to Ireland count !

I got to watch Kaymer for a few holes at RCD and although, like Rory, he had blown any chance of making the weekend after his opening round, he played solidly that day and looked very relaxed. Another proven player on links courses, Kaymer is not having the level of success as he did last year but class is permanent as they say and if he gets anything of a decent start he's one to reckon with and I expect a bold showing from the defending champ! The former World Number One will be looking for his third major should he defend. He likes the biggies and can be backed at 50/1.



I've backed Graeme McDowell already @ 100/1. Like Kaymer, 2015 hasn't been great so far but he's determined to hit form soon and this is his cup of tea this week. He's Irish, so ignore recent comments about having lost the skillsets to play this type of golf ( we Irish folk do tend to tell stories from time to time), he's a confidence player and Chambers Bay may suit his eye and the Irish Open may prove to have been a blessing in disguise in preparation for the second major of the year.

Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia and Louis Oosthuizen were all on my initial shortlist and its the Japanese man that I'd favour of this quartet. Dustin Johnson I do fancy to go well, but at 20/1 I'm not pulling the trigger but perhaps will get involved on the exchanges once we're in-play. He withdrew during the first round round in Memphis as I started to write this post, just as he did the week before the Masters, he's in fine form and can excel at Chambers Bay if he keeps focused and patient.

Justin Rose however, blew the recent Memorial at Muirfield but won at New Orleans at the end of April and he is a former winner of this Major having won at Merion. Rose shone as an amateur at the British Open but hasn't really made a mark in his home Opens since but he's different in these ones, and will be quietly confident on adding a second title here. Rose was runner up to Spieth at Augusta in April, having posted a score that would normally win the Green Jacket (274, -14). He followed that up with a win in New Orleans and can repeat the trend to follow up his play-off defeat to David Lingmerth at "Jack's Place" @ 22/1.


I've also backed Thomas Aiken @ 500/1. One of the most accurate players tee to green. The South African has shown up on leaderboards plenty of times at The Open and put in a decent effort at Muirfield before slipping back down the leaderboard on the Sunday. Yet to win a big event, he's worth a dabble in the TOP 10 & TOP20 markets and could be an ideal back-to-lay interest. Marc Warren and Alex Noren have the game to play this course and could be added to my final staking plan in the TOP10 & TOP20 markets. I'd love to include former champion, Geoff Ogilvy, but again I don't see him jetting back to Adelaide with the trophy under his arm for the second time since winning at Winged Foot but he could be worth a dabble in the TOP20 market. This is his type of tournament.

I've backed the winner in the last two US Opens (Rose & Kaymer)and I'm hoping to make it a hat-trick to make a Father's Day to remember, but like the Irish Open of 2015 I'm looking forward to seeing "proper" golf here and again in Scotland next month. Good luck to all - Seán