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2013 US Open Preview 

June 13-16

The 113th US Open will be the 5th held at Merion Golf Club’s East Course in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. Last years champion Webb Simpson did it in spectacularly boring fashion, winning by one stroke, with a +1, from the clubhouse as Graeme Mcdowell and Michael Thompson choked away their opportunity to win. As always the US Open is the most difficult golf tournament on the planet. The winner of five of the last eight US Open champions did not shoot below par overall. Two of them were won with a +5. Also one of those three others saw Tiger win at Torrey Pines in 2008 with a -1. There will be some really thick/long rough and greens that are really fast. They really do all that they can to make the course as tough as it can possibly play. And don’t forget the US Open drinking game, every time they say “fescue” drink.

Before we get into the TV schedule and notable tee times I need to voice my displeasure with the US Open playoff format. Do you really want nobody to be able to watch the end of your golf tournament? There is a reason you are the only golf tournament with a full 18 hole playoff played the following day. Imagine Game 7 of the NBA Finals goes to overtime and the NBA decided that they would play a start from scratch 48 minutes on Monday while everyone is at work. Stop being stupid US Open. Nobody wants to watch through Sunday night only to have to wait until they are at work Monday to find out the winner. If you happen to be a NASCAR fan then you should be on my side. There is nothing worse than a race being rained out Sunday only to be ran on Monday at noon. It’s stupid. Get your heads out of your asses.

TV Schedule 

Thursday and Friday

ESPN 9am-3pm

NBC 3pm-5pm

Saturday and Sunday

NBC 12pm-7:30pm

Notable Tee Times:

Teeing off on hole #1 in Round 1 and #10 in Round 2:

7:07am (1) 1:07pm (2) Nick Watney, Hunter Mahan, Peter Hanson

12:52pm (1) 7:22am (2) Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer

1:03pm (1) 7:33am (2) Jim Furyk, Graeme Mcdowell, Zach Johnson

1:14pm (1) 7:44pm (2) Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott

1:36pm (1) 8:06am (2) Webb Simpson, Ernie Els, A-Steven Fox

What a group Tiger is in. We get the Tiger vs Rory storyline and the Tiger and Stevie in the same group storyline for each of the first two rounds. Also in there is a great foreigner group of Donald, Westwood and Kaymer.

Teeing off on hole #10 in Round 1 and #1 in Round 2:

7:00am (1) 12:30pm (2) Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Nicolas Colsaerts

7:11am (1) 12:41pm (2) Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley  

7:22am (1) 12:52pm (2) Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker

7:33am (1) 1:03pm (2) Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Tim Clark

7:44am (1) 1:14pm (2) Sergio Garcia, Stewart Cink, Padraig Harrington

7:55am (1) 1:25pm (2) Ian Poulter, Jason Dufner, Boo Weekley

8:06am (1) 1:36pm (2) Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Matteo Manassero

Wow, I know where I would be hanging out Thursday morning if I were attending. Just loaded right from the start. The first group off is without a doubt the longest group, provided Colsaerts can keep his ball out of the nearest outhouse. Then you get Phil, Stricker and Keegan, all capable of winning this thing. Of the these 21 guys that will kick things off Thursday morning on hole #10, you could argue that 16 of them have a legit chance at winning.

There should be an advantage to playing the back nine early on in the first two rounds. The first fourteen holes should be rather manageable, it will be the final four holes that will eat guys up and by playing them early you get them when they are fresh before they get trampled down and dried out. For the record the weather report as of now calls for some rain during the week and we could even seen some on Thursday, after that it looks like 80’s and sunny. Depending on the timing of the rain could provide a huge advantage for the guys starting on hole #10 on Thursday. Rain can make the rough tougher to manage but it slows down the greens dramatically. The course will without a doubt be at it’s toughest coming down the stretch Sunday.

Now let’s take a look at the course these guys will all be playing against, and I chose my words carefully there, before we get into who might actually win.

This is where the weekend action will kick off. Hole number 1 is a 350 yard Par 4 and as you can see requires a left to right approach shot, unless however you decide to belt it down there and play it straight on. There should be some different strategies going on here. Most tour players prefer the right to left shot shape and some of them may choose to take out a bigger club off the tee to take the trees and bunkers out of play. The few guys that do have the left to right shot shape will probably choose a long iron off the tee to make sure they keep it in the fairway and stay out of the thick stuff. Either way this should be a birdie hole that will give guys some early confidence.

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The 2nd hole is the first par 5 on the course, totalling 556 yards. The fairway is narrow and offset to the right. If you are right of the fairway you are in the woods if not out of bounds, not to mention you have absolutely zero angle at the green. If you are left of the fairway you are in some of the thickest rough on the entire course with a long ways to get to the green. What you can’t see in this picture is the bunker about 35 yards short of the green, strategically placed to interrupt all attempts at reaching the green in two. The guys who can avoid the trouble and find the green, whether it’s in two or three shots, will have a chance at making birdie or eagle given the flat green surface. There should be quite a few guys whose moods are ruined when they lose the ball off to the right off the tee.

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Just looking at the picture you might think this is a scoring hole. But take a closer look because making a par on this 504 yard par 4 5th might pick up a stroke on the field. We should be treated to some really long drives on this hole, given the right to left slope of the fairway but over swing and you will find yourself in the creek that runs the entire length of the hole. If you can keep it straight and in the fairway you still aren’t out of the woods. This is without a doubt the most sloped green on the course and if you leave the ball to the right of the hole you will face probably the fastest putt on the course.

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The 7th hole is the exact opposite of the 5th. A severely sloped fairway won’t have much of an impact because the hole is only 360 yards. The important shot is the approach shot. If you end up left of the green you are left with a hell of a tough uphill chip that will land on the downslope of the green. Most of these guys should birdie this one though.

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The back nine starts off with a 303yd driveable par 4. But to accomplish that it will take a monster right to left hook. The other play is to throw it out in the middle 200 yards and play a nice wedge into the green and make birdie. We should see a mixture of those two strategies but regardless we will see some scoring.

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The 11th hole should provide some excitement. We should see plenty of birdies but a fair share of bogeys and double bogeys as well. If you hit the fairway you have a shot at birdie. If you miss the fairway you will likely be forced to lay up short of the creek making par the ultimate goal for this one.

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The Par 3 13th is by far the shortest on the course totalling just 115 yards. With a wedge in hand most guys will expect to make birdie but the green is rather tiny and surrounded by bunkers that obscure your view of the putting surface from the tee. Anything worse than birdie will be disappointing but it is no gimme.

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The fun really starts here at the 411 yard par 4 15th. Perhaps the most intimidating drive on the course with the left to right dogleg. If you miss hit it left you will quickly find yourself out of bounds and if you bail out right you will find yourself in a deep bunker or maybe worse that deep, thick rough. Missing the fairway on this one will almost certainly result in a bogey while hitting the fairway guarantees nothing with one of the courses most difficult greens still ahead.

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I’ll skip ahead to the par 3 17th with it’s amphitheatre seating set up but not before mentioning the 16th... the accurate players should turn it into a birdie hole but you need to be just that, very accurate. As far as 17 goes, it will be played from both 246 yards out and 195 yards out. On the front of the green is a big time downslope that will feed balls back off the green if not carried far enough. If you go past the hole your ball will likely be fed to the back right portion of the green and while I don’t know the specific pin placements for this week's tournament I can almost assure you it won’t be in the back right portion of the green. Birdie is possible but with a lot of pressure riding on a tough tee shot means par will be more than welcomed.

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The 18th should play as the most difficult hole on the course this week making for some memorable shots, for better or worse. The players longer off the tee should have a bit of an advantage if they can keep it in the fairway. A long drive will carry the big hill and should feed down to the left to a relatively flat spot for the approach to the green. Coming up short leaves one hell of a long shot to the green at which point par will be an incredible score. The approach shot is what will make or break the eventual champion. There is a second tier of the green that you must hit. If you hit the green slightly short or left you will be rolling quite a long ways away from the hole. If you miss the green completely to the left you will find some bunkers or maybe even worse a shot out of the thick rough over the bunkers. Missing the green short and right puts you in that tall bunker you can see in the picture in line with the flag pole. Missing back and to the left could put you in some trees while long to the right leaves a tough rough shot with a weird stance off of one of the few hills over there or even worse in the fescue... drink up. Whether it be someone choking on this hole or someone earning themselves a US Open title this hole will play a major role in deciding this year’s champion.


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Best Bets:

Tiger Woods 7-2

The Jimmie Johnson rule is in effect for Tiger despite his short odds. If you plan on wagering he must be bet. Trust me if he wins you won’t forgive yourself for not at least hedging a bit with him.

Phil Mickelson 20-1

Another top dog in the golf world but this one comes with a hell of a lot more value. He didn’t get the win this past weekend but he showed he can still be as clutch as anyone. He wasn’t on the top of his game all weekend but managed to find himself two back on 18 where he stuck his approach shot about three feet from the cup making birdie and putting him into a tie in the clubhouse only to have Harris English make some big shots to eventually walk away with the win. Regardless, this was more of a tuneup for Phil. Of course he wanted to win but the main focus was to get ready for this coming weekend and that he did. He looks prime to grab himself another major championship and his first career US Open trophy.

Best Long Shots:

Jim Furyk 40-1

Steve Stricker 40-1

Two wily vets with only one major title between the two of them, (Furyk won the US Open in 2003), but it feels like they should own more hardware between the two of them. These guys seem to always step their game up on courses like this. They aren’t the longest hitters but they are two of the smartest players on tour and two of the best ball strikers. That fits perfectly into the short yet treacherous course. Steve Stricker really deserves to win at least one before he hangs em up and this could be his best chance.

The Pick:

Matt Kuchar 22-1

Kuch is playing some of the best golf of his life and really wants to get that first major win. He won The Memorial Tournament June 2nd by two strokes but it really felt like more. He has the right mixture of distance, accuracy and the ability to handle himself under pressure. He has finished in the top 10 in three of the last five major tournaments so he has been within striking distance just hasn’t been able to capture that elusive first win. This is his time and 22-1 is at the very least the best value play on the board.


Monday, June 10, 2013

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