Monday, 10 June 2013

US Open - 2013 Merion GC

The second major of the year is upon us already and it promises to be one of the great majors played on a course steeped in golfing heritage and traditions. It's been awhile since the US Open was last played at Merion GC in Pennsylvannia and we may be asking why by the end of the week. Bobby Jones completed his 1930 Grand Slam here, Ben Hogan hit that 1-iron on 18 in 1950, and Lee Trevino beat Jack Nicklaus in a playoff in 1971, snakes and all ! (Lee talks about that win here ). David Graham won in 1981 with a brilliant final round that saw him hit fairway after fairway and return a 67. Hitting fairways is the key this week.

So what do we know about Merion for this year's US Open ? They say its short! It's only 6,996 yards long with 4 of the par-4s measuring less than 360 yds. Will we see the big hitters taking these on? There are only 2 par-5s and they come very early in the round at numbers 2 & 4.

We wont see the flagsticks flapping in the wind, because there aren't any. We'll see red wicker baskets atop the pins instead.

 Most players have recognized that patience is key this week and that the middle part of the course presents them with the best scoring opportunity whilst the finishing holes could wreck their card. The rough is ...well let's just say, is gonna be tough. Getting the ball back into play is going to be the order of the day so whoever can hit accurate tee shots and can scramble consistently will be feeling a bit more confident than those that don't. As Lee Trevino himself said when asked what is Merion's best defence being such a short course, he replied "its a US Open". And US Opens are made for US Open type players. The weather the past few days has brought a lot of rain and flooded some parts of the course and with more rain expected it could soften up the fairways and the greens making scoring easier. I hope not. A major needs to test all aspects of the game and I love these type of courses where course management is essential, and the players get to use their full set of clubs. Irons off tees, as was the plan for Tiger at Hoylake, will be a joy to watch amongst the driving the short par 4s. Its a thinking golfers course, and we'll see an ever changing leaderboard. It's a Padraig Harrington course, isn't it? My heart says have a wager on Padraig, but my head says no. He was just outside my top20 and perhaps should have been there. He's 80/1 and very tempting but this time round I'll pass and hopefully he'll have a great tournament, but I've decided on 5 that I think have a shout come Sunday.

I've already tweeted (@birdieclubtips) that Graeme McDowell is my headline pick this week. Like Harrington, McDowell grew up playing on tight links in Ireland, namely at Portrush, and as his US Open form shows, he is a true "US Open player". So close last year to adding his 2nd title following his win at Pebble Beach in 2010, "GMac" has been telling everyone he is excited by Merion and that the course fits his eye well. He and Rory McIlroy have been getting a lot of practice in at the course recently. A fantastic shot maker and scrambler, GMac has already shown season form by winning at Hilton Head in a playoff with defending US Open champion, Webb Simpson. Add to that a further 3 TOP 10s, his game is right, the course is right and he has US Open experience. I'm backing Graeme this week at 28/1 with Betpack
who are paying 6 places this week.

My second pick is Justin Rose @ 28/1 also with Betpack. I think Justin comes under the radar a bit this week but he's a real candidate here. He has shown his likeness for these kind of courses and his iron play will serve him well. In the last 4 majors, he has finished T25-T3-MC-T12-T8th. Rose too is in great form having posted 4 TOP 10s from 8 starts on the PGA Tour. This is a player simmering and where better to win than here. US & British Opens give Justin Rose his best opportunity to win a major and although its been awhile since an Englishman won this one, he'll be encouraged by recent success of McDowell & McIlroy.

Third pick is the defending champion Webb Simpson @ 55/1 with Paddypower. I don't normally back defending champions as a rule but did so regrettably at the Masters this year. This, afterall, is  a US Open and I really like Webb's chances here. One of the best performers in approach play on tour, Merion sets up well for him. The only issue I do have with Webb this week will be his putting as its not been great recently. He's working hard on it though and hopefully is all comes together this week. He did acquire a new Scotty Cameron putter last month so hopefully he's practised well with it and he gets the grip of these greens.

My fourth pick is Keegan Bradley  @ 50/1 with Paddypower. With a TOP 20 shortlist to choose from, it was always going to be tough to decide on the final picks but this pick is influenced by price and therefore Jim Furyk & Matt Kuchar are left to the side. Bradley is a major champion already, in fantsatic form this season too with 6 TOP10s. That's serious form despite 3 missed cuts but it is his major form since his debut win that encourages me this week. Bradley has the patience to battle a US Open and I wouldn't be surprised one bit to see him capture his 2nd major in just his 7th start.

My fifth and final pick is the 2010 PGA Champion, Martin Kaymer @ 80/1 with Kaymer is Major champion who will be well prepared for this week despite indifferent form this year. Merion should be right up his alley. Great all round game and should the putter get hot, I can see him in the zone come Sunday afternoon. Whether the course gets soft or stays dry, Kaymer will be unfazed and will relish the tightness of the course and the strategy required to beat it and his fellow competitors.

So that's my plan for this years US Open. No Lee Westwood ! Like Padraig Harrington I badly wanted to back Lee again this time round as I always believed the US Open was his best chance but I'm not sure Merion is the course for him. I would love to see him win mind you and hope he challenges. Adam Scott could win this week, he too is in serious Major form at present. Charl Schwartzel should love Merion  and was in my top10 as was Rickie Fowler who has fond memories of Merion from his Walker Cup days.

TIP 1: 1 pt e/w G.McDowell @ 28/1 Betpack

TIP 2: 1 pt e/w J.Rose @ 28/1 Betpack

TIP 3: 1 pt e/w W.Simpson @ 55/1 Paddypower.

TIP 4: 1 pt e/w K.Bradley @ 50/1 Paddypower.

TIP 5: 1 pt e/w M.Kaymer @ 80/1

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