The US Open seems to favor certain types of players, more perhaps than any other major. Names like Goosen, Els, Furyk, Woods and Westwood seem to always reserve a late tee time on Father’s Day.
In fact, despite their ages 4 of those 5 (all over 40 years old) finished in the top-15 at last year’s US Open. Patience, experience and consistency are the skills needed to compete at the US Open.
Recent form however, can sometimes be overrated. Look no further than Webb Simpson. Coming into the 2012 US Open, he had missed two straight cuts, yet went on to win his first major.
Since 1996, champions are just as likely to miss the cut (5) in their last start before the US Open, as finish in the top-10 (5).
So recent form may be overrated, but US Open form is crucial. High rough, tight fairways, big crowds and major pressure tend to weed out one-hit wonders and first time winners. 32 of the last 36 winners had recorded a top-15 finish at the US Open prior to their victory.
Here’s a look at the top-15 from last year’s US Open at Olympic Club:
As for playing statistics, I look at this year’s US Open similarly to how some people view basketball, by the 3s.
Apart from the basket flag sticks (above), Merion is not like a basketball court, however it will demand players “live and die by the 3”. In basketball that is the 3-point shot, at the US Open it relates to a player’s 3-wood, 3-iron, par-3s and 3-putts.
– Players will be playing a lot of 3-woods off the tee, favoring shorter grass over distance.
– Likewise, laying back they will be facing longer approaches and he who can hit a 3-iron high and stop it on the firm greens will benefit.
– That also plays into the par-3s. Merion has three par-3s over 235 yards. If anyone can finish near par for the week on the ‘short’ holes, they’ll be in good position to win.
– Lastly, greens at US Opens are notoriously hard and fast. Making birdies is a bonus, but preventing three putts is a necessity.
One last part of a player’s game that will aid them next week is scrambling. Find the rough off the tee and the chances are you’ll be laying up short of the green. Miss a green and your short game will be heavily tested in pursuit of par. Get up-n-down and you could take down the year’s second major.
So the key stats in my mind are:
- Ball Striking
- 3-Putt Avoidance
- Par-3 Scoring
Why not driving accuracy? I believe the short, quirky Merion layout will take driver out of play for many players and have them rely more on fairway woods, hybrids and long irons to find fairways.
Where am I am going with this? Well for those four stats, only 2 players on the PGA Tour rank inside the top-50 for all four: Lee Westwood and Brendon De Jonge.
Monday, De Jonge missed out on qualifying for the US Open by a stroke. Westwood, and his newly improved short game, will be making the trip to the Philadelphia area however.
So with those playing statistics taken into account, along with a top-15 finish last year, 30/1 Lee Westwood is a statistical certainty to win the 113th US Open.
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