If you read a lot online, are an avid social media user or are simply a fan of the sport, you will be sick and tired of the US Open – and Oakmont Country Club in particular – being labelled as the ‘toughest test in golf’ in the next few days. But when the cap fits and all that…..
Oakmont is famous for its horrific bunkers, deep rough and pencil-thin fairways, and in that sense it is the perfect location for the second major of the golfing calendar year. The greens are some of the most undulating on any recognised golf course anywhere in the world too; this course will sort the men from the boys.
The course has held a US Open contest in recent memory; 2007 to be precise, where Angel Cabrera won with a score of +5. Most weeks he’d miss the cut with that, so there’s a little insight as to the scale of the task facing the players this week.
The good news for punters is that the course has barely changed in the decade or so since Cabrera won his first major title, so the stats and playbooks from ’07 should still prove very much relevant in 2016.
What We’re Looking For
As this is a supreme test of ball striking, obviously negotiating a path from tee to green with the minimum of fuss is essential. But in 2007 an ability to tonk the ball off the peg proved advantageous – Cabrera ranked second for driving distance – so that needs to be factored in too.
But you certainly don’t want to be sliding your tee shot into the rough at Oakmont, so we need accuracy too: a blend of beauty and beast is the angle in.
Cabrera and runner-up Tiger Woods ranked third and first respectively for GIR, so clearly we need an absolute merchant in hitting the dancefloor in our selections. Scrambling is another key skill to recover any wayward ball striking, and you aren’t going to win a major if you are putting badly.
Given the unique nature of the course and conditions, it will come as no surprise to learn that current form is less relevant than normal. Indeed, Cabrera had gone MC-19-19-37-MC in the run-up to his breakthrough title win, so for once we’re willing to consider those who appear out of touch.
Jason Day (7/1)
When faced with the toughest test of golfing prowess, it makes sense to have the best player on the planet on board. Of the ‘big three’ which features Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, the Aussie looks far and away our best bet for a winner. The other two thrive in conditions conducive to low scoring, while Day has the ability to triumph in wars of attrition.
It helps that he has won three times this season in varying conditions, and is a former major winner so we don’t have the quiet warning chimes of ‘will he bottle it?’ ringing in our ears.
Day is a proven performer in both US Opens and the Masters, which as we know is played at Augusta every year. Cabrera won that too, so is there a similarity between the Augusta course and Oakmont? Maybe, maybe not, but it certainly bodes well for the Aussie.
Charl Schwartzel (66/1)
There is something slightly off-putting about many of the players in the 10/1 – 40/1 bracket of the market, so we’re happy enough to dig a bit deeper with our last two picks. As a former major winner (at Augusta too), Schwartzel ticks many boxes for us this week.
The South African also bagged a top ten finish at The Masters in 2015 and has two top-10s at the US Open to his name, so we’re not found wanting here in the pedigree stakes.
We’ve intimated that current form may not be too important in the shake-up here, but it is always an encouraging sign nonetheless. Schwartzel finished 11th in his last outing a fortnight ago and has a title to his name this term, so we’re happy enough with how his game is shaping up.
On such a hellacious test of mettle, his ranking in the top-ten on tour for stats like Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, Strokes Gained: Approach the Green and Back 9 Scoring Average identify a player we must have onside this week.
Marc Leishman (100/1)
A three-time each way money placer in a major, Leishman has all of the key attributes we require for this Oakmont rollercoaster. His no frills, tidy play should help him to stay out of danger, and with a Total Driving (Accuracy and Distance averaged) ranking of 16th we can trust him off the tee as well.
The Aussie is one of the best scramblers on the planet too – always a good trait to have around these parts – and a Total Putting stat of 12th showcases his talents with the short stick.
Leishman’s form on the tour is rarely that eye-catching, although a 13th and 11th in his last two starts show handy progression, but his ability to up his game for the majors is very much welcome at what is a very generous price.