The second Major of the year takes place at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania, USA, in June and this is the focus of Part 2 of my Majors 2013 Previews. Their East Course has hosted more USGA Championships than any other in America so expect the usual layout, plenty rough and ultra-fast greens come to mind. Bobby Jones won the 1930 US Amateur title there, considered a Major at the time, while the most iconic shot probably played there was Ben Hogan’s 1-iron on the last hole of the 1950 US Open. Merion’s pedigree as a US Open venue is not in question and anybody around that Level Par mark will be likely contenders down the stretch on Sunday in the Final Round.
THE US OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP, Merion Golf Club, Thursday 13th – Sunday 16th June
The last US Open held at Merion was 1981, won by David Graham, so not much course form will come into who may win probably the toughest Major in golf this year. Edoardo Molinari has most recent course form, having won the US Amateur there back in 2005 but his form has well and truly eluded him since his Ryder Cup bow in 2010 when he was superb in the final qualification tournaments. As usual at the US Open, expect contenders to come from those who are solid from tee to green, also great grafters and those with a good short game, most importantly clutch putters. My early picks to contend in the US Open are Northern Irish pair Rory McIlroy & Graeme McDowell, Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker. They all pretty much fit the bill and hopefully I will explain why………
G Mac is very much a US Open type golfer, gets it in play off the tee, without being overly long, and is one of the best putt clutch putters on the planet. His ability shown to hold his head while others were losing theirs (sorry Dustin Johnson!) was very much on display at Pebble Beach in 2010 and his performance last year at Olympic Club showed his battling qualities as he attempted to catch Webb Simpson down the stretch. His came so so close last year to adding to his Major haul and I expect another fine showing in Pennsylvania in June.
Jason Dufner is one of the finest ball strikers out there and his seemingly relaxed way of going about things is the sort of mentality you need to win a US Open. His only time in real contention for a Major so far did end up with him losing a playoff to Keegan Bradley when it did look like he was cruising to victory so this would provide the doubters with plenty ammunition but it did takes to likes of Phil, Jim Furyk and even Rory a few attempts while contending for a Major before they eventually claimed one of Golf’s big titles. I would not be surprised in the slightest should “The Duff” be in the final pairings when the final round of the US Open tees off at Merion.
Brandt Snedeker is the latest tour star to claim the crazy bonus on offer for winning the FedEx Cup, and according to the affable Southerner in a recent interview with David Feherty at the Farmers Insurance Open, he has not managed to spend much of that but rather use some of the funds for a charity foundation he is involved in. That is neither here nor there when discussing the potential winner of The US Open Championship but good things usually happen to good people all the same, and Snedeker is definitely in this bracket – his golf isn’t half bad either! One of the final proponents of the old odyssey mallet putter, he is one of the best putters from long and short and his long game is generally spot on albeit a poor showing over the final two rounds at The Open Championship last July does point to maybe a slight weakness when contending at the very top of the game. He has been a superb player for a few years now so well worth looking at for at least a top-5 finish in June.
World No.1 Rory McIlroy has got the perfect game to win a US Open, he has won the championship already so no need to offer any particular proof here. Whether he can keep up his record of only winning Majors by 8 shots is, of course, probably not up for discussion and I’m sure he’ll take a win no matter by what margin. Once Rors get into contention in a Major now he does seem to have the knack of closing them out, I know he has only won 2 but he has probably only genuinely contended in 4 so a 50% conversion rate from those he has had a chance to win going into the latter stages is pretty damn good. I can look to many contenders for the US Open Championship, and I’m sure due to form and other issues these will change over the next 5 months, but my man for Merion is McIlroy.
The US Open always throws up something that little bit different due to the difficulty of the layouts presented to the best players in the world, and I expect the second Major of 2013 not to vary here at all. The best of the best at the moment is Rory though and I fully expect him to keep up his record of winning 1 Major a year from 2011.
Another big event in June will be in Ireland as the Mount Juliet Junior Scratch Cup takes place on Sunday 2nd June. Interest is also already high for this amateur event which is also a fixture on the Top Golfer Tour 2013, the winner of the Mount Juliet Junior Scratch Cup will take their place in the Top Golfer Tour Championship later this year. The entry fee is €60 per person, online bookings can be taken via http://www.brsgolf.com/mountjuliet/opens_day.php while you can book by phone on 056-7773012 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rest of the Irish