Eyebrows were raised when the United States Golf Association decided to hand Merion Golf Club a first US Open since 1981, this 100-year-old layout, at just 6,996 yards long, surely couldn’t defend itself against the monster that the modern game has become.
But there is always method in the USGA’s madness, and despite wet weather threatening to dampen the Pennsylvania track’s history-drenched defences, I think we’ll still find that scoring won’t be easy for the world’s best players.
Many will think twice about taking driver off the tee. Course management and the ability to bounce back from inevitable bogeys will be key – not to mention mastering the countered greens.
One player whose game has clicked wholly into place this season is Matt Kuchar (20/1). The WGC Matchplay winner of 2013 followed up second place in the Crown Plaza Invitational with victory in the Memorial Tournament where he topped the greens in regulation stats. Sixth and 14th in two of the last three US Opens is another tick in the right box for the player with the best numbers in the entire field this week.
Graeme McDowell (20/1) has also won twice this year – once on each of the main tours – and is a former US Open champion. His lack of length will not be an issue at Merion.
Matteo Manassero (50/1) is another whose carefully plotted rounds should stand him in good stead. The BMW PGA Championship winner played down his chances of winning the second major of the season, but he has the game to prosper in Pennsylvania on a course that doesn’t put a premium on length.
Finally, Kevin Chappell (66/1) has finished third and tenth in this event on his last two starts and comes into the tournament on the back of second place at Muirfield Village.
My four to follow this week – Kuchar, McDowell, Manassero and Chappell.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.