14th June 2016: Steve Bamford has published his final 2016 US Open Tips - click here for his final preview!
June in the golfing world means only one thing…it must be time for the US Open. There's no doubt that the United States Open Championship is the hardest of the 4 Major Championships to win from a course difficulty perspective. The US Open has a history of visiting the most challenging classical layouts across the country and 2016 is no exception with the United States Golf Association's (USGA) selecting of Oakmont Country Club as the host course. This will be the 9th U.S. Open held at the course, which is located just outside of Pittsburgh, being played from Thursday 16th June to Sunday 19th June 2016. Previous winners here include Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Larry Nelson, Ernie Els and Angel Cabrera.
Now into our 7th season, Golf Betting System will be hunting for profit as ever with our US Open tips from Paul Williams and Steve Bamford. Golf Betting System has full 2016 coverage with US Open tips, long shot and alternative market tips, a full range of free course, event and player form statistics plus our famous statistical Predictor Model.
Recent US Open history features a new breed of Major winners. Last year saw 21 year-old Jordan Spieth win back-to-back Majors at a versatile Chambers Bay course which split the opinions of both players and the wider golfing public. 2014 saw Martin Kaymer in a class of his own as he made playing Pinehurst Number 2 look unnaturally easy on his way to winning his 2nd Major title. 2013 saw Justin Rose capture his first Major Championship with an emotional victory at Merion Golf Club. Those victories followed on from first Major wins from Webb Simpson (Olympic Club 2012), Rory McIlroy (Congressional 2011), Graeme McDowell (Pebble Beach 2010) and Lucas Glover (Bethpage Black 2009). So just who will be the 2016 US Open champion?
Let Golf Betting System's PGA Tour pundit Steve Bamford highlight his key US Open facts that will shape his final 2016 US Open tips commentary available on Tuesday 14th June.
So what do you need to know about the host course, Oakmont Country Club?
USGA Executive Director Mike Davis has already stated that a return to Oakmont will be far more 'straightforward' when compared to Chambers Bay last year. Naturally a venue that has hosted 8 US Opens, the most recent of which was played by many in this year's field in 2007, 3 PGA Championships and a US Amateur Open as recently as 2003 is far more of a known quantity. Indeed introduced in 1903 by designer Henry Fownes, Oakmont has hosted more combined USGA and PGA championships than any other course in the United States. However it may be familiar to many, but expect a far more traditional US Open in 2016 with tough rough, tight fairways, massive green complexes and green speeds which, if Mother Nature allows, will be the fastest of the year without doubt.
What to Expect at Oakmont
Oakmont, as you would expect of a US Open venue, tests every aspect of a player's game. A truly classical, up-state test with tight fairway landing areas to punish errant tee shots, the real key to Oakmont are the legendary fast and undulating green complexes. Mike Davis has described a fast Oakmont as 'truly one of the great tests in the United States'. The course, which played as a 7,230 yard Par 70 back in 2007 in a year where the course was receptive on the opening Thursday, played as an absolute brute with a scoring average of 74.75 (+4.75).
The track has virtually no water hazards and no trees after a pre-2007 Championship renovation which was directed by Tom Fazio. For the record other recent Fazio PGA Tour stop-offs (main design or renovation) include Atunyote (Turning Stone Championship 2007 - 2009), Conway Farms (2013/2015 BMW Championship), Raptor Course - Greyhawk GC (Frys.com Open 2007 - 2009), Riviera (Northern Trust Open), Seaside Course (RSM Classic) and Quail Hollow (Well Fargo Championship).
Starting back in 1999, Oakmont undertook a tremendous restoration project under the leadership of Fazio. Around 4,000 trees were removed with the course being taken back to the original design - an inland links built on pastureland. Fairway bunkers and ditches are now very much in play. In fact, these drainage ditches come into play on 10 of the 18 holes and are all marked as lateral water hazards. Fairways for 2007 were actually widened so as to bring the drainage ditches into play on a number of holes. Fairway widths vary from an amazingly tight 22 yards on some holes to 50 yards on others where there is no rough between fairway and penal bunkering.
The test at the 2007 US Open was formed by a course that has nearly 200 bunkers, many of them extremely deep. The Church Pews bunkers which sit between the 3rd and 4th fairways are some of the most famous in world golf and were expanded by Fazio, who also restored a smaller version on the back nine. In terms of difficulty, 2007 also featured penal 3" to 5" deep rough in defined primary and secondary formats. So it's clear that Oakmont isn't a course for the faint hearted from tee-to-green. Mike Davis has stated that rough length is likely to be slightly down in 2016 compared to 2007, but it will be essential to look for players who are either accurate from the tee or particularly strong at hitting greens from the deep stuff.
Below are some revealing comments about the course. Firstly from Mike Davis in April at this year's Media Day and then from 2007 from both organisers and players:
Mike Davis - USGA Executive Director: "If Oakmont has a signature, it has to be these lightning fast greens. So the greens themselves really are a wonderful and very different type of greens from an architectural standpoint. Some of them slope right left, some left right, some back front and there's some that slope, in fact three greens here, that slope front to back. These greens that have plateaus in them, valleys going through it. But the point of Oakmont is they are extremely fast, but they're extremely strategic. You always want to be below the hole. Which may mean that you want to be in the left side of the hole location, right side, short of it or even past the hole location in the cases of those greens that cant away from you. But they really are what makes Oakmont Oakmont.
And I think that as far as Oakmont the golf course, it's a very balanced test. This is not an overly long U.S. Open, by U.S. Open standards. But there's a nice blend between short holes, long holes. But what is interesting is when you look at and study the routing and architecture of Oakmont, the holes actually are very straight. 16 of the 18 holes play really straight away. And what Fownes did was really lay the golf course on those hills, used the topography to really make an incredibly exciting, but challenging golf course. But I think that element of being blind or semi blind really makes a golfer from a strategic standpoint have to commit to a shot.
In terms of course conditions expect plenty of sameness. From 2007 we are playing it the same yardage. Every hole is exactly the same yardage as 2007. The same fairway widths and contours as we played in 2007. In fact, these are the same fairway widths and contours the members here at Oakmont have been playing for years and years. They're the same grass heights from 2007. The same green speeds as 2007. The same general hole locations as 2007. Same bunkering and the same wonderful course conditioning that John Zimmers and his staff have done. So the point here is we can come to town and essentially take Oakmont as is. It's that great a test of golf and we simply can't do that other places we go."
Jim Hyler, Chairman USGA Championship Committee: "First are the green speeds, and I'll talk more about the greens here in a moment. But we ask for green speeds here of 13 and a half to 14 1/2 on the Stimpmeter, and that's exactly where we are, and we are going to work to try and maintain that green speed throughout the week. The second is consistent rough heights. And I mentioned the first primary cut and the second primary cut, and we are actually mowing the first primary cut every day, so that will stay at 2 3/4. The second primary cut of 5 inches is being mowed every other day. So we will not be letting the rough go and get longer throughout the course of the week.
There are not many doglegs at Oakmont. But most of the holes are fairly straight. There are a fair number of blind holes, blind shots here, or semi blind, and that is a unique feature for Oakmont and that requires the players to do a really good job in picking their lines. Really, the thing about Oakmont that perhaps sets it apart from the other venues are the putting greens, the green complexes. And ladies and gentlemen, these greens are scary. They are fast, make no mistake about it. They are indeed a true test of putting skill and nerves, and they really place a premium on approach shots, trying to get the approach shots below the holes."
Ernie Els: "The most difficult US Open venue? I would say, you know, length-wise and toughness-wise, I still think Bethpage and Winged Foot, because those two golf courses are so long. You know, with this U.S. Open rough, it was really playing tough. This week, the golf course plays a bit shorter. There's quite a little slope. So as I say, you can play different clubs off the tees. But the greens make up for it. These are the toughest greens we'll ever play in U.S. Open history, or even any other golf tournament we play. With the rough and these greens, this is going to be a very, very tough test."
Padraig Harrington: "If you miss the fairway, you know, as I said, those hazards, the bunkers or the couple of drains that they have on the course are very, very tight to the edge of the fairways. I think we'd all rather maybe be in the rough. I know the rough is severe, but usually by the time the tournament starts, you can get the ball up near or around the green, whereas in these bunkers, you'll see guys trying to get them up there and leaving it in the bunker. You know, there will be more trouble found because of those bunkers out there. I'm sure somebody will have some good stories of hitting greens from them, but there will be some horror stories, too, of guys attempting it and getting cut up. So there's a lot more variety on the golf course. I think it will be a more exciting tournament in terms of, you know, any player who -- you know, it's a tough course to avoid a disaster hole on. It's a tough course to, you know, as I said, you have to be aggressive a lot of the time and yet, you know, as I said, there is a lot of trouble out there. So it's interesting."
Zach Johnson: "Speed-wise, very, very similar to Augusta. They are very, very fast. The difficult part for me is the fact that you get on a Bentgrass or a Bermudagrass, where it is at Augusta, you see the breaks more, and you can see the speed based on the burnouts. Here, this poa annua, it still looks lush and green and soft when you walk on it. So it makes it very difficult to judge speed, in my opinion. Given that, you know, the greens for the most part go one direction, and they are fast. So you know, I think all in all, it's going to be a speed test and ones where you're going to have to make a lot of 3- and 4- and 5-footers for comebacks. It's going to be a remarkable test."
Geoff Ogilvy: "It's a great property. It looks fantastic without any trees on it. Collection of the best greens I've seen anywhere. The bunkers are tough and the rough is really tough. It's a great golf course. Difficulty? It all depends on how you set it up and where you put pin positions. Could you set this golf course up easy if you want to -- I know the members don't like to hear that, but if you put the pins on the low parts of the greens and had the rough playable, there would be quite a lot of birdies out there. But if you put the pins on the high parts of the greens where you can't get anywhere near, and with the rough like it is, it could be the hardest course in the world with no wind. You know, with no wind involved, it's incredible how hard this golf course can play. "The greens here are the obvious challenge to me. Everything else out there is similar U.S. Open. It's narrowish fairways, pretty good rough, bunkers, and the greens here are something different. They are amazing greens. I mean, they are probably some of my favourite greens I've ever seen. They run a bit faster than maybe they should in spots. The key here is to keep it inside the rough and to keep it under the hole on the green. You're probably better off even off the green under the hole than you are on the green above the hole."
So it's clear that in 2007 there was plenty of talk about the mix of holes. The two par-5s, both at 600+ yards, played over par with the tough closing par 4 18th playing as the hardest hole of the course with any ball in the rough off the tee pretty much equalling a bogey. The 8th played as a 288 yard par 3(!), but Oakmont also offers up a number of driveable par 4s with birdie opportunities. However it's clear that the Poa Annua green complexes are the stars at Oakmont.
Oakmont: A test where long-range aggression is rewarded.
Lets take the final skill statistics from Angel Cabrera, Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods from the latest 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont. This gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages:
In Angel Cabrera and Ernie Els across the past two US Opens here, Oakmont has been best tackled by a mix of power and consistent iron-play approaches into its notorious green complexes. It makes sense that there's an advantage for those that drive the ball a long way at Oakmont as they can approach the greens with more loft in their hands plus attack the driveable Par 4s - a must with Poa Annua greens that in 2007 were running astronomically fast. Accurate sorts like Furyk and Toms feature at the top of the 2007 leaderboard giving credence to the train of thought that grinders can prosper, but in Els and Cabrera, longer players who are prepared to take risks and can hit plenty of greens, finally took the title.
Recent Form Is Paramount
It’s hard to draw comparisons between Jordan Spieth, Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell but that's the beauty of the US Open course rota system. McDowell triumphed on a classical, poa annua greened coastal course. McIlroy created US Open history by taking apart a rain-softened, hybrid classical course which yielded the Northern Irishman an incredible 19 birdies and an eagle allowing Rory to shoot a US Open record low 268/-18 winning total. So it was guaranteed that the USGA wouldn't allow that to happen again, cue Simpson's +1/281 total at Olympic Club (2012), Rose's Level/280 total at Merion and only three players broke par at Pinehurst in 2014. Fowler and Compton shot -1/279; but the USGA were thoroughly defeated by the sublime play of Martin Kaymer who lapped the field by shooting -9/271. The manufactured, coastal challenge of Chambers Bay by comparison was generous, allowing 8 players to shoot under Par. Naturally Jordan Spieth won back-to-back Majors when he converted for birdie on the 72nd hole with Dustin Johnson three-putting from 12 feet.
So with such disparity it’s interesting to note that all 6 players have one thing in common. They had all found top form going into the US Open. Nothing earth shattering in that, but in addition they had all performed well on courses that had similar characteristics to those on which they then went on to win on to capture the US Open.
Spieth had won at the notoriously difficult Copperhead in February and finished 2nd at the technical TPC San Antonio prior to winning his first Major at Augusta. Kaymer had won The Players Championship at the technical TPC Sawgrass. Rose finished 4th at the technical PGA National and runner up at classical Bay Hill before warming up with a strong 8th at the classical tree-lined Muirfield Village a fortnight before his 2013 Merion triumph. Simpson finished 10th on the technical tree-lined Copperhead course at Innisbrook and 4th at classical Quail Hollow prior to his 80/1 triumph in San Francisco. McIlroy dominated at the most classical golf course on the planet, Augusta National for 54 holes, 2 months prior to capturing his first major championship at Congressional. However as part of his post Masters rehabilitation a chat with Jack Nicklaus produced a 5th behind Steve Stricker at the classical bentgrass greened Muirfield two weeks prior to Congressional.
Be Extremely Wary of the World Number 1
Tempted to get on the World Number 1 at the US Open? OWGR No.1 Jason Day (at the time of writing) has already proven that he has the game to win any Major and although the 2016 US Open at Oakmont will be difficult, his overall game will be an excellent fit for Oakmont. However fact is a player going into the US Open as the World Number 1 ranked player has only won the title once in the last 12 attempts and that was Tiger Woods, who had won at Torrey Pines 6 times prior to his 2008 US Open victory.
|US Open Winner||World Golf Rank|
Razor-Sharp Approach Play
Ask me what the key attribute is that a player needs to win the US Open and without hesitation I'll answer strong approach play with irons and utility clubs. The US Open invariably boils down to a key putt here, a missed putt there, but to be in the mix coming down the stretch on Sunday a player needs to be hitting plenty of greens in regulation compared to the rest of the field. None of this is rocket science I grant you, but invariably players who can hit the ball close from the fairway, plus make putting surfaces when their drives stray from the short stuff, will have a huge advantage at Oakmont.
Take the past two years where in 2014 Martin Kaymer before arriving in North Carolina had finished 3rd in the Greens in Regulation category at both TPC Sawgrass and Wentworth. Spieth (not known for his GIR%) has been 3rd for Greens in Regulation in Houston, 2nd at Augusta, 9th at Colonial and 2nd at TPC Four Seasons.
|US Open Winner||Greens in Reg %||Season Green in Reg%||Proximity to Hole|
|2010||McDowell||58.33%, 12th||76th (Euro)||1st|
US Open Tips 2016
Our final US Open tips for the 2016 US Open from Oakmont Country Club will be published as we approach June 2016 - watch this space. Author Steve Bamford. Our 2016 US Open preview was last published on the 9th June 2016.