It’s a three-way fight for the US Open title if you believe the oddsmakers – the major firms only having eyes for the trio of Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
But be careful putting all your eggs in one basket. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson dominated the market the last time the tournament stopped off at Oakmont.
Angel Cabrera, though, was the 100-1 winner that week and Nick Dougherty sprang his own shock when landing top GB&Ir honours by finishing seventh. The field as a whole found it hard work in 2007, the cut falling at 10 over par. Come Sunday night, 147 of the 156 competitors were unable to finish below that mark.
With the course par tightened to 70 for the first time, only seven managed to break par in a single round and the effort of the week was a mere four under – recorded by Paul Casey in the second round.
Cabrera came through with a five-over-par total and, after the experiment of Chambers Bay 12 months ago, we should expect a much more traditional test this time around.
With thick, high rough and formidable bunkering – take the famous Church Pews trap for instance – it’s going to be a certain type of player that flourishes. Accurate drivers, who can then persuade precise irons into the right spots on greens that will challenge the Stimpmeter, will have the best chance of success.
Just look at US Open contenders over the past couple of decades and you’ll see exactly what I mean – Retief Goosen, Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie, Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose and, of course, Tiger Woods.
At first glance at this year’s runners and riders, Jason Day’s appeal is obvious. After dominating the Players Championship, the Australian has won seven of his last 17 events – a run of form that would even impress Woods. The US Open is the Major I always thought Day would win first.
Ninth last year when he might have won but for a serious bout of mid-round vertigo, he also boasts finishes of 4th, 2nd and 2nd in three of the previous four years. If he arrives in Pennsylvania in the kind of form he has shown since lifting the PGA Championship last August, he will be hard to stop.
Rory McIlroy’s chances have been enhanced by his clutch victory at the Irish Open but his putting is still too inconsistent for my liking. His win in 2011 at Congressional came in conditions that perfectly suited the Northern Irishman and we surely won’t see the soft course that allowed him to sweep to success then.
Jordan Spieth is definitely not my idea of the winner. I’m not worried so much by his final round collapse at Augusta but by his missed cut at the Players and fourth-round performance at the Byron Nelson.
He doesn’t look to be swinging with any conviction and Oakmont is no place to go when you are trying to find your game. I’d be more inclined to back him to miss the cut.
If Day is too short in the market for your liking, who else could make a run at it? No golfer was in hotter form than Adam Scott at the start of the year, when he posted back-to-back victories at the Honda Classic and WGC-Cadillac Championship.
Not in contention since, there were shoots of recovery at the Players – where he was tied-12th – and finishes of 4th and 9th in the last two US Opens make him an interesting proposition a little further down the list of principals.
And though he has been the proverbial bridesmaid in a host of Majors, ignore Dustin Johnson at your own risk. An eagle putt away from winning at Chambers Bay, Johnson can also look back on a fourth place showing at Pinehurst No 2 two years ago and 8th in 2010. He easily has the game to finally make one of these chances count.
Top 10 – Brandt Snedeker
Hot at the start of the year, when he followed up a runners-up display at the Sony Open with a win at the Farmers Insurance, Brandt Snedeker has tailed off a little in the ensuing months and missed the cut at the Players Championship.
But he still managed to prevail in this market at the Masters and there’s no doubt he enjoys the US Open, where he has posted four top-10 finishes over the last decade.
Eighth and 9th over the past two years, Snedeker also has further 11th, 8th and 9th-placed showings in his national championship. There are few among the field who can point to that kind of consistency.
There is no doubt in my mind that, if he can fi nd his form with the putter, he can be among the main contenders.
Dark Horse – Rafa Cabrera-Bello
Three figure prices abound for the Spaniard and that’s more than a touch disrespectful given he’s been the model of consistency this year. Third in the Match Play, he has also posted top 20s at the Spanish Open and the WGC-Cadillac Championship before reinforcing his good form with tied-8th at the Irish Open. A good week at the Masters in April, where he recorded his best ever finish in a Major with a tied-17th showing, indicates the 32-year-old is now up to the challenge of the game’s biggest competitons. He has yet to make his mark at the US Open but is a different player to the one which missed the cut in 2012. It would be very surprising if he didn’t soon add to his tally of two European Tour wins.
Top GB&I – Justin Rose
Rory will naturally dominate this market, which means Rose should provide a bit more value. Twenty seventh at Chambers Bay, he was 12th in 2014 and, of course, won at Merion three years ago.
His game seems tailor-made for US Open courses – he hits a lot of greens in regulation – and, as one of the best bunker players and ball strikers on tour, he will surely revel in the tight conditions at Oakmont, where he was 10th in 2007.
A host of top-20 and top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this campaign suggest another big win may be just around the corner.
A back problem, which saw him withdraw from the PGA Championship at Wentworth, could be a slight concern but expect Rose to be fighting fit for a Major that should be at the top of his schedule.
To miss the cut – Phil Mickelson
Six times Phil Mickelson has been the bridesmaid at the US Open and it’s unlikely he will get the 46th birthday present he craves at Oakmont.
The American’s scoring average(69.8) may be second in the PGA Tour statistics but dig a little deeper into the numbers and you will find causes for concern.
Mickelson’s driving accuracy (53.88%, ranked 179th) and greens in regulation (65.43%, 101st) suggest he’s going to spend a lot of time in the really deep stuff.
You can’t hack your way to US Open glory. Scrambling and putting can still get him out of jail, but Mickelson missed the cut at the Players and sat out the weekend the last time Oakmont hosted in 2007. He may have to do the same this time.