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US Open preview

Major golf championships played at courses which haven't seen an elite professional tournament for 30 years aren't the easiest ones to pick, and a week of steady rain makes it quite different to the standard hot, steamy weather with fairways and greens cut incredibly short. Taking up the challenge of the preview is Lara Pocock, @lara_pocock.


US Open

Although the weather ahead of the 113th US Open Golf Championship has been well reported and affected many of the players warm up rounds, the tournament, which is to be held at Merion Golf Club over the next four days, appears to be another vintage edition. The heavy rain is set to continue in the coming days and this could affect the amount of play each day, with Saturday the only currently predicted dry day. This may well play into the hands of some of the more experienced players, as well as those used to the conditions, i.e. anyone who plays on the European Tour!

Many of the Bookmakers are offering good deals, with Paddy Power, Bet Victor and Stan James all offering seven places in the outright betting. However these firms are not always offering the best prices and with ties likely, you could get paid out if your player ties for fifth or sixth at a better price.

Tiger Woods is the hot favourite, reaching 5-1 in places but still available at 6-1 with a few firms. Although he played well in the US Masters, finishing a tied fourth, and winning the Players Championship at the beginning of May he was disappointing in the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago. I have no doubt Tiger will another Major but at this price he is far too short for this and many others appeal. There are some good Tiger Specials available, including 33-1 that he will be leading after Round One, leading each stage and win the tournament.

Thursday will see the dream team of Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott playing together. Scott, the US Masters winner is in the betting at 25-1, with McIlroy also available at the same price. Scott had been on the brink of winning a Major for a number of years and won the Masters in a playoff but is unlikely he will follow up again so quickly. McIlroy has been in-and-out of form, finishing tied 25th in the US Masters and his best recent result coming when second in the Texas Open. He could creep up the leaderboard if things play into his hands.

I have divided the players up into four categories and have given my tips in each.

1. Players 25-1 and under
Graeme McDowell (22-1) and Matt Kuchar (22-1).
Both experienced players, McDowell tasted US Open victory in 2010 and Kuchar's game has been improving in recent years, he recorded top ten finishes in two of last year's Majors and was tied for eighth place in the US Masters earlier this year. McDowell enjoyed top 12 positions in all Majors last year and although he did not make the cut in the US Masters he won RBC Heritage in April.

2. Players 26-1 to 50-1
Keegan Bradley (50-1), Brandt Snedeker (33-1) and Sergio Garcia (30-1).
Garcia may get some cop in the US media after falling out with Tiger Woods last month but his game has been solid and he has four top ten US Open finishes under his belt. He was tied for eighth in the US Masters and could go close again. Keegan Bradley has been knocking on the door a number of times but has not been the most consistent player. I think he will win a Major one day and he has solid each way chances if he can reproduce his best game. He was second in the Byron Nelson last month and won his first Major, the PGA Championship, in 2011 so can handle the pressure. Brandt Snedeker is steady, he was sixth in the US Masters and has two top ten finishes in the US Open from five rounds.

3. Players 51-1 to 100-1
Hunter Mahan (66-1), Matteo Manassero (60-1) and Zach Johnson (80-1).
An interesting statistics is the fact that only two of the last eight tournament winners have started shorter than 80-1 so there is some definite value here if you can find it! Hunter Mahan was a very short price in the US Masters and disappointed in dramatic fashion and did not make the cut. However he has played well since in the Players Championship and Memorial Tournament. Matteo Manassero has been mentioned by many. The 20-year-old Italian won the BMW PGA Championship earlier this year and was the youngest player to ever win that tournament. He is now in the top 30 of the Official World Rankings and could play a major part in this weekend, playing well off the greens and hitting the ball straight. Zach Johnson has won all three play-offs he has played in on the PGA Tour and won the 2007 US Masters. He is an accurate player and this course could play to his strengths. Another player who may enjoy the course is Rickie Fowler, who won all four of his matches in 2009 Walker Cup at this course but his recent form has been questionable. His outfits are the current highlight of his game but is one to watch closely.

4. Players over 100-1
K J Choi (125-1), Francesco Molinari (100-1), Lucas Glover (200-1).
This is a hard category to crack as it covers the majority of the field but one or two are likely to surprise so it is worth looking at, it is rather exciting if your 200-1 shot is leading after day one and can you make some money laying off the bet if you wish to do so. The veteran K J Choi is good off the tee and as accurate as they come. He has a fantastic record in the US Masters and this course and conditions could really suit him. Lucas Glover won the Championship in 2009 but his form is often terrible. He can produce a good round from nowhere and is worth a point or two at 200-1. Francesco Molinari can play well under pressure, ensuring the team won the 2012 Ryder Cup. His record in Majors is not magnificent but he could be another surprise. Look for accurate form on a short course and some luck in this category, any form at the course is another major positive, the possible reason on the gamble Kevin Chappell.

A low score is likely due to the weather affecting the course and play. The course will suit a short, accurate player as the rain on the fairways will mean the ball does not travel as far. The par is 70 and many have said -8 or -7 could win it, although betting on the score is hard to find it could be worth taking the odds of a play off deciding the title, currently around 12-5, as with many players could end up tied for placings.

The Americans have a fine record in this tournament and they are the hot favourites to win again, with the host's being the odds-on favourites to be the winning nation. The Europeans are next at 2-1 and this could worth a punt with the likes of Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald possibles to put in good cards.

As mention before the Tiger Specials are tempting if he is to break his duck and win his first Major for five years. However he has been drifting in the betting due to weather and I would be avoiding him altogether.

One of my favourite and most consistent players is K J Choi and he is likely to be the leading Asian player if he puts in some accurate scorecards and he is still available at 11-4 for this. With the possibility that Adam Scott will crack up, and serial jibber Jason Day another in the leading Australasian player category, the 2006 US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy as the leading player from this region at 11-1 is tempting although he does need to hit a patch of form.


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