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2nd Swing 2014 U.S. Open Preview
2nd Swing 2014 U.S. Open Preview
If you are trolling the 2nd Swing blog regularly, you are likely an avid golfer. And if that is the case you likely watch The Morning Drive on the Golf Channel while you get ready for work and your DVR is full of unwatched episode’s of The Golf Fix, Playing Lessons with the Pros (ahem… Holly Sonders), etc.
And if this is the case, you’re nauseated by all the U.S. Open preview shows and lame takes by common golf writers on the golf magazine sites already. I’ll try not to do the same.
I’m coming at you with something a little different. A betting guide if you will, to help you fill out your pools, put an unlikely dent in Ladbrokes’s (online betting site), or just make a few pronouncements this week on the course that you can next week claim as your own. Let’s get started.
Some Open Tournament Undercurrents to Consider:
The outcomes of 1999 and 2005 likely will not tell us much this week. From those in the know, this is a different Pinehurst altogether from what we saw then. Most notably, the typical U.S. Open rough — or the rough that was present for the previous two U.S. Opens at Pinehurst — has been replaced by sand and wire grass (In case you missed the media’s wall-to-wall golf course change conversations for the past two weeks.).
The course also will look more like a sun-splashed British Open off the fairways. Meaning, if you may hit it off line, you may find your ball unplayable or never find it at all.
I, for one, think this will make the viewing a little more exciting that most years. In addition to this course’s nuances, at 7,562 yards, Pinehurst No. 2 Course is officially the longest track in U.S. Open history. This is barely news, or a factor, any more in my opinion. My sense is it has to be this long for them not to light up the place given the absences of rough.
Meanwhile, as we will hear about how the difficulty of coming into Donald Ross-designed (Circa. 1907) greens with longer clubs, these cats don’t hit their 4-irons like you and I do. Their strikes look like our 8-irons. Length is a minor, minor issue this week, well, except for the amateurs.
This year feels a lot more 2005 (Michael Campbell, Jason Gore, Vijay Singh, with Tiger Woods lurking) than 1999 (Payne Stewart, Phil Mickelson, Woods, David Duval, Singh). I think 2014 will prove to be as wide open for this U.S. Open (pun intended), if not more so, than this year’s Masters was in Augusta.
Let’s face it, the PGA Tour is going through an awkward transition right now. No Tiger, which like it or not, vacates a ton of excitement. Phil is completely off his game — and I fear — the British Open may have been his final curtsy on a stellar career. He just looks tired and mentally spent (Of course, insider-trading accusations can’t help either.).
Inconsistent is a kind adjective I’d use for Rory McIlroy. As for the now-two time Masters champ after this April, Bubba Watson, well, he’s still fighting to change the perception of him as a one course horse.
Adam Scott has ascended to the top of the world, but doesn’t inspire a ton of excitement, except from the female set who ogle the Cover Boy like a piece of meat (for shame!). He’s a likable character, but Scott is without a foil at the moment.
Then, there is an army of capable young players at the moment that no one would be surprised to see win. It’s incredibly difficult to look at the top of the Vegas odds and make a stronger case for any one of the top-ranked players over another one.
When you put this field’s uncertainty rating together with an unknown course, and you may have a recipe for a Campbell 2005 U.S. Open out-of-nowhere situation.
5 Guys to Consider Taking With You to the Bank
*The odds are as of Monday.
Jim Furyk (35:1) — Forget his age, 44. Forget his supposed lack of length. The seemingly tougher the challenge, the better Furyk does. Interestingly as well, the more advanced his career gets, the more steely he’s becoming. It must be all that 5-Hour Energy he drinks. Furyk’s game is brutal TV viewing due to his pace and laborious routines, but I expect him to be in the game — and admit it, so do you!
Matt Kuchar (23:1) — Call him Captain Consistency and a virtual ATM. A grinder. A younger version of Furyk. That’s how I’d describe Kooch. Kuchar is accurate off the tee and has a fantastic short game — two things needed around Pinehurst. I really like him to be in the game come Sunday. And no one has more top-10 finishes on Tour this year. And it’s not just this year, I believe he’s been coming on the over the last couple seasons. This is as good a time as any for Kuchar to hit it big.
Jordan Spieth (20:1) — The Texas kid’s earned the right to be at the table in every tournament he tees it up in now. He’s extremely consistent, accurate and has the right mentality. Also, the story line sets up nicely after his disappointing fall from contention at Augusta. However, I’d be mistaken if I didn’t say his pattern of Sunday poor play isn’t a little worrisome.
Hideki Matsuyama (45:1) — The Japanese phenom is coming off of a big win at the Memorial Tournament in a playoff over Kevin Na, who also won previously this season. And Matsuyama, 22, has quietly been even better than Spieth, 20, in the same number of career events, and has had some nice showings across the globe as well. Look it up. He’s somebody to watch.
Sergio Garcia (35:1) – I really like Garcia to this week (Of course, how often has someone said that and been disappointed?). Garcia quietly leads the Woods-less Tour in scoring average, is a top-20 putter over the past two seasons, and his ball striking is excellent as always. Additionally, Garcia is operating just outside of the spotlight enough that he can make a move in relative obscurity, at least compared to a decade ago. He’s also rested up after injuring his knee weeks ago, but now and focused on this event by all accounts.
Save Yourself Some Money
Rory McIlroy (10:1) — He’s currently the field favorite, but I am unsure why. Has been erratic at best, albeit a consistent top-15 finisher each week, too. Seemingly, though, McIlroy has mastered the art of making a double bogey over the last two years at the most inopportune times during Majors. That is death at the U.S. Open.
Phil Mickelson (13:1) — With these odds, Vegas is even falling into Phil’s-never-won-an-Open storyline and how great it would be if he won after failing in 1999. Hogwash. Mickelson has played miserably by his standards this year (T11 is tops so far). He just looks tired and possibly hurting more than he has let on, and now has the added distraction of a federal investigation hanging over his head. (The feds don’t poke around for fun. So to say that it is not a distraction, is bogus.) To win a Major, it requires all of your faculties — and to be potentially left without the two most important — physical and mental — well, let’s not fool ourselves.
Justin Rose (25:1) — Rose has been very quiet since winning last summer. Who knows why, but I don’t believe you generally “find it” at the U.S. Open. Your money is better spent elsewhere.
Four Long Shots to Play
Billy Horschel (75:1) — Horschel was top finisher in 2013 (Who can forget the Octopus pants?), and he is rounding into form. Horschel has had a strong lead up, and is among the top-5 players on Tour for greens in regulation — always a stat that correlates well to the U.S. Open, especially considering how firm Pinehurst’s greens are said to be this year.
Jimmy Walker (55:1) — These odds jumped off the page for me. This is a guy who is a shoo-in for the Ryder Cup team. Through 18 events this season, Walker has stayed atop the FedEx Standings for most of them with three wins and seven top-10 finishes. He is second only to Kuchar for season-long top-10 showings. Walker’s also a long hitter (top-10 ranked), a very good putter (top-5 in strokes gained), and sits 23rd in GIR (greens in regulation) this year. His driver is the only question mark. If he can hit half his fairways, his track record is unreal.
The Mechanic (Miguel Angel Jimenez) — (100:1) – Just because.
Good luck and happy viewing!