US Open 2017: Fowler fits the bill at Erin Hills

Rickie Fowler can bag his first major
Rickie Fowler can bag his first major

Dave Tindall looks for more profits in his preview of this week's US Open at Erin Hills...

"Four of the last six US Open winners had made the top 10 at Memorial a couple of weeks earlier so Fowler’s second place at Muirfield Village a fortnight ago adds another tick to a box already littered with them."

Main Bet: Back Rickie Fowler @ 21.020/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 8 places

Main Bet: Back Rickie Fowler e.w. @ 20/1

As soon as I first read Mike Davis' quotes about Erin Hills in May's US Open press conference, the two names that popped into my head were Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler.

The Wisconsin course, said Davis, was always windy, had wider than usual fairways, was extremely long at 7,700 yards so suited big hitters, would play as a par 72 (first time for a US Open since 1992), had shaved run-off areas around the greens similar to Pinehurst No.2 and visually, with its ragged bunkers and exposed terrain, had some echoes of Royal St. George's, scene of the 2011 Open Championship, a comparison strengthened by both having firm and bouncy fairways.

Davis almost made a clear point of saying it was an all-round test.

The Fowler klaxon blares out loud and clear.

The orange-clad American is 1st on the PGA Tour's All-Around ranking heading to Erin Hills, 1st in Sand Saves, is a great player in the wind, will benefit from some extra width of the tee, is favoured by the extra two par 5s (he's 4th for Par 5 Scoring Average) and is 19th in Strokes Gained: Around The Green.

As for those courses with similar traits, Fowler was T2 at Pinehurst No.2 in 2014 (13th in Scrambling that week) and also T5 at Royal St. George's.

Big hitters have thrived on the longer US Open tracks (DJ last year, Rory McIlroy in 2011, Lucas Glover at Bethpage in 2009, Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines in 2008) and Fowler gets it out there (33rd in Driving Distance) and 15th spot in Bogey Avoidance is another plus even though he can rack up the odd big number.

One other massive asset he has is a cool, even temperament. US Opens are a huge test of mental strength and being able to keep calm in adversity and Fowler is as level-headed as they come.

Also T10 in the 2013 US Open and T11 at this year's Masters when he had a great chance to win, Fowler finished top five in all four majors in 2014.

He's also a winner of the Players Championship, a champion at Quail Hollow (scene of this summer's US PGA) and added a fourth PGA Tour title when winning The Honda Classic in February so he's won some big events on some top courses.

A string of other big performances on the hard, firm tracks of Florida should also aid him on this course where the ball will ping about and imagination is needed.

Four of the last six US Open winners had made the top 10 at Memorial a couple of weeks earlier so Fowler's second place at Muirfield Village a fortnight ago adds another tick to a box already littered with them.

A missed cut at St Jude last week doesn't concern me. I'd rather see the positives of having two extra days off.

Watching Fowler putt at Memorial should fill backers with confidence that he can brush in those crucial four footers for par. He looks so at ease over the ball as he hovers his putter in the air and rattles them in. Perhaps it's no coincidence that five of the last 10 US Open winners were 20-somethings who haven't had their brains addled by years of missing short ones.

The 20/1 has had some juice sucked out of it but let's not forget there are eight pay-out places and Fowler's wins at Sawgrass and Quail Hollow shows he can beat high-quality fields.

So much of the above reasoning applies to Dustin Johnson too. I expect him to challenge but winning back-to-back US Opens is a rarity (Curtis Strange in 1998/1999 the last to do it).

There's also that nagging feeling that since falling down the stairs at the Masters, he's not quite been right since and it may take a little while longer yet before we see him at his very best again.

Main Bet: Back Justin Rose e.w. @ 25/1

While defending a US Open crown is incredibly difficult, it's not unusual to see players follow up a previous win in the event relatively quickly.

Lee Janzen won in 1993 and five years later in 1998, Ernie Els took the trophy in 1994 and 1997, while fellow South African Retief Goosen also had a three-year gap between wins in 2001 and 2004. Tiger's victories came in 2000, 2002 and 2008.

Tiger was a law unto himself but Janzen, Els and Goosen were all cool as a cucumber while others got hot and bothered and I think Justin Rose's temperament, as well as his game of course, makes him a likely multiple US Open winner.

Rose made the big breakthrough when plotting his way to victory at Merion Golf Club in 2013, was T12 the following year at Pinehurst No.2 and had earlier top 10s in 2003 and 2007.

Of course, he was an oh-so-unlucky play-off loser to Sergio Garcia at the Masters but that second place represented his fifth top 10 in his last nine majors.

Three of the other finishes were a pair of T22s and T27 so he really is building an outstanding record at this level. Quite simply, these are Rose's peak years, as further highlighted by his Olympic gold last summer.

There's good reason to think he can cash in again. A superb record on bouncy Florida tracks is one link while, statistically, he's fourth on the All-Around, 19th in Par 5 Scoring, 16th in Greens In Regulation, 27th in Driving Distance and 11th in Strokes Gained: Around The Green.

One other notable stat which relates back to his temperament and an ability to respond to setbacks is his No.1 ranking in Bounce Back (the % of time a player is over par on a hole and then under par on the next).

Speaking about the course this week, Rose revealed: "I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the back nine. The back nine's fantastic.

"The greens are absolutely perfect. I've pretty much had the course to myself so I haven't seen a blemish on them for two days."

That's an interesting quote because it tells us that Rose got to the course last week to put in his practice, something he did before winning at Merion.

The 25/1 could look very good come Sunday night.

Final Bet: Back Matt Fitzpatrick e/w @ 100/1

I could easily put up Paul Casey or Louis Oosthuizen here as both have lots of really good recent form and suitable stats. The same applies to Sergio Garcia while Jason Day could be a really good fit.

I'm also a big fan of Brooks Koepka and made him my selection in the Betfair golf team's each-way column at 40/1.

But with eight each-way payout places on offer, I feel compelled to pick a player at three-figure odds.

Last year a young lad from Sheffield with a recent win in a big event in Dubai but relatively little experience in the majors defied the odds to win the Masters.

For Danny Willett in 2016, how about fellow Yorkshireman Matt Fitzpatrick this year?

Fitzpatrick ended 2016 by beating Europe's elite to win the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

That's significant, not only for showing an ability to come through in a high-class field; it also showed he could thrive on a long, exposed, windy layout.

The Earth Course, just like Erin Hills, measures in at just under 7,700 yards but Fitzpatrick demonstrated there is more than one way to skin a cat. That week in Dubai he was 1st on the All-Around, 1st in the overall Putting stats, fourth for Ball-Striking and fifth in Scrambling.

He also defied the popular wisdom that shorter hitters can't do well at Augusta National by finishing T7 in last year's Masters, registering first for Greens In Regulation.

A winner on the European Tour in the month of June in last year's Nordea Masters, Fitzpatrick returned to that event, albeit at a different venue, to finish runner-up two weeks ago.

As that was a fortnight ago and in Europe, it's perhaps gone a little unnoticed. But those with good memories may recall that Graeme McDowell won at Celtic Manor in 2010, had a brief break and then went out and won the US Open at Pebble Beach.

That second place in Sweden came on a windy track so could actually be very useful preparation.

"It's the best I've played in quite a while," he said after his closing 68 at the Nordea, although it followed a nice display at in the BMW PGA Championship when he was T12 at Wentworth. "I was hitting it nicely tee to green and I managed to make the putts as well, so particularly in this weather it was great."

Due to winning the 2013 US Amateur, Fitzpatrick first played the US Open at Pinehurst No.2 in 2014 and finishes as Low Amateur with T48.

He also made the cut on his only other appearance (T54) last year but this could be the week when he really steps it up in this event.

His sharp short game is a big asset and he's got the temperament for major golf too.

There won't be much focus on him and I have a feeling that Fitzpatrick could just sneak under the radar and grab a top eight finish.

Dave's 2016/17 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 e/w per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £860
Returned: £1929.06
P/L: +£1069.06

(After the St Jude Classic)

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