In 2015, the U.S. Open golf course will be the big news. The peculiarities and unknowns of Chambers Bay makes handicapping this field a little tricky, but with some reverse logic we can arrive with a solid pick to win.
We know the course is links style with a single tree standing out on the entire property. It’s long, with four par-4 holes measuring over 500 yards, and the greens are huge. There’s no shortage of consternation in anticipation of the USGA setting up a carnival ride, at least that’s what you hear from pros like Ian Poulter on social media. I think it’s in the USGA’s best interest to set up as fair a test as possible because they took a good amount of criticism for the non-traditional setup at Pinehurst last year. Folks want long, narrow, and slick for the U.S. Open and they’re not going to get it for the second year in a row, so expect the setup to be tough but reasonable.
Let’s look at the contenders. World #1, Rory McIlroy is the betting favorite at 7:1 but is coming in with zero mojo and off two missed cuts in Europe. When Rory is on his game, he is the best player in the world, no doubt. But why is he slumping now? Over the years, he’s had two recurring problems when he under-achieves: 1) Poor practice habits. 2) Distractions from a love interest. #2 appears to be in play and I don’t like Rory this week because of it. Jordan Spieth is next at 8:1 and I love his competitive “anywhere on any course” attitude. He oozes winning and I would bet the house that he finishes ahead of McIlroy this week. The rest of the field is way back. Mickelson, Fowler, Rose, and Dustin Johnson are all at 18:1. Chambers Bay is unique and will require an inordinate amount of imagination and patience to play well and Phil has the most of those attributes. Over the years, he’s learned to be patient despite his gambler mentality, but when you picture him and his imagination, you envision high flopping lob shots to impossible pins, not the low running ground game that Chambers Bay will require. For this reason, I’m feeling good about the defending champion, Martin Kaymer. Chambers Bay is cutting the fringes to almost the same heights as the putting surfaces. You may see guys putting from 50 yards off the green and Kaymer loves the putter from the fringe and essentially won at Pinehurst with that play. He’s an excellent dark horse pick at 40:1. Lastly, watch our rabble-rouser, Poulter. He’s playing well on the American tour and the venue suits his hit it anywhere-work the chipping and putting. If he comes in with a good attitude about the golf course, he could do some damage.
While I’d love to see Phil close the deal on the career slam, he’s got two main obstacles: his age and Jordan Spieth is in the field. So your 2015 U.S. Open picks:
Okay, here me out before making my reservation for a suite at St. Elizabeth’s. Right now the British bookmakers are sending the European Team off as an overwhelming 1:2 favorite in the 2014 Ryder Cup. These are the same guys who had Tiger Woods at 16:1 for the 2014 Open Championship, and those were phony odds. These are phony as well and are simply the reflection of the betting public’s irrational biases.
The miscalculation is being driven by the recent whippings administered by the Euros. Since 1985 they are sporting a dominating 9-4-1 record but this year will be different. A quick look at the data yields an interesting revelation. The secret to Euro success has been their team approach to competition. No individual is above the team. They also enjoy terminal underdog status and have leveraged the American’s penchant for individual play over team. Nobody epitomizes the “me first” mentality on the U.S. side more than Tiger Woods. Is there a more narcissistic player on the planet? The American’s have followed the lead of their best player and got caught up in the individual career achievement mentality, so much so that they struggle with the mindset of placing the team ahead of themselves.
Since 1985, the Euro’s hold a 58.5 to 53.5 advantage in points in foursomes (alternate shot) and a dominating 65.5 to 46.5 advantage in four balls – the two team formats. Even as they have been dominated, the U.S. has still been able to maintain a slight edge in singles play (84.5 points to 83.5). It’s clear they prefer singles to team. With Woods off the U.S. team the mindset will change. Forget about the big names on the Euro side, or lack of on the U.S. I can’t wait to see who the U.S. version of Ian Poulter is and I don’t think the Euro’s are comfortable in the role of overwhelming favorite. The huge underdog U.S. squad will get it done.
Throwing Tiger under the bus one more time, I’ll make my Final prediction: U.S. 14 1/2 – Europe 13 1/2.
Picking a winner for the 2014 British Open Championship is an exercise in deciphering the actual probabilities of victory from the preferences of the betting public. There is considerable money to be made betting against the current John Q trend lines. Consider, U.S. Open Champion Martin Kaymer is at 20:1 in early action with Tiger Woods leaping ahead of him at 16:1. Are you kidding? Kaymer is in awesome form, has his head screwed on right, and is a multiple recent major winner. The smart money is on him and Adam Scott. Tiger looks about as well oiled as the 38-year old Huffy sitting in my garage with the chain off. The stiffness and restricted back swing on display at the recent Quicken Loans National should have Tiger in the 150:1 range.
Rory McIlroy is the pre-tournament favorite at 10:1, but doesn’t play well enough in this perennial home game and will not win it. He is looking good in early action at the Scottish Open and we’ll be watching to see if the positive momentum he gained from Woz-gate changes his personal and professional performance around major time.
Could one of the B.P.T.N.H.W.A.M. contenders take it this year? How do you officially get on this list? Is it fair to keep someone on past the age of 40? I think not, so Steve Strickercomes off at 47. Of the five remaining principals, Henrik Stenson has been the closest and doesn’t appear to psych himself out and warrants considerable support. Sergio Garcia has played well on this course but he doesn’t have the stones with the flat stick to ever win a major. It’s not happening this week for Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, or Jason Day. Actually, Day has some good potential, but I’d like to see him playing more frequently and try less to time his game around the majors.
So, when do we put Jordan Spieth on this list? He’s clearly one of the best players in the world even if he still can’t order a beer with his wings at Hooters. I’m a huge Spieth fan and like him for a top 10 but he’s too young for the list and will likely break through at The Masters or U.S. Open.
Dark horse look-outs: Jim Furyk is at ease with himself again, is playing well, and contended on this venue in 2006. Every year we see an older player make a move at The Open and this year it’s him. Phil Mickelson has the mind and experience to win this, but different parts of his game go out of sync too frequently and I fear the age of Phil contending in every major is quickly vanishing.
Your 2014 British Open predictions:
Adam Scott: Champion
Martin Kaymer: Runner-up
Jim Furyk: Sneaks into third
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