The Punter's Early Look at the 2018 Majors: The US Open

Branden Grace – The Punter’s fancy for the US Open
Branden Grace – The Punter’s fancy for the US Open
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With no PGA or European Tour action over the Christmas holidays, our man has spent some of his free time looking ahead to the four major championships in 2018. Here's his look at the US Open...

“Looking at the 2015 US open result, together with the last result here in 2004, and one man sticks out like a sore thumb - Branden Grace.”

The 2018 US Open
June 14-17
Shinnecock Hills, Southampton, New York
All four days live on Sky Sports

I always look forward to the US Masters (which I've looked at here) for a number of reasons. Its permanent host course, Augusta National, feels like an old friend you're always keen to meet again and it's timing in the calendar is perfect, signifying the start of spring, but I'm really looking forward to this year's US Open at Shinnecock Hills.

Shinnecock Hills was the host venue way back in 1896 and it's been the host course four times in total. The US Open was last staged at Shinnecock in 2004 when only two players finished the week under-par - the winner, Retief Goosen, and the runner-up, Phil Mickelson.

Despite Goosen putting like a magician, Lefty still led by a stroke with just two holes to play but a double-bogey at the par three 17th, just as the 2002 champ, Goosen, birdied 16, changed everything and Mickelson finished second for the third time. He would go on to finish runner-up on three further occasions.

If you want to relive the final round and/or familiarise yourself with the venue, this clip is worth a look.

Prior to Goosen's victory, Shinnecock Hills was previously used for the event in 1896, 1986 and in 1995 when the winner, Corry Pavin, hit this dream shot on the 72nd hole.

That was Pavin's only major win and he was the only player not to finish the week over-par. Greg Norman finished runner-up, two strokes back on +2. It was a similar story in 1986 when Ray Floyd was the only player to finish the week under-par. He finished on one-under-par to beat Chip Beck and Lanny Wadkins by two.

Shinnecock Hills is far from long by modern standards but as previous scores suggest, it's a proper examination. The rough is usually up and the bentgrass greens (especially last time) are very fast indeed so once the wind starts to blow, on what is a very exposed sand-based, links, coastal course, players are tested to their limits and it's absolutely no surprise to see excellent links and Open Championship specialists have prospered here.

St.Andrews-born Scotsman, James Foulis, won the 1896 edition here and the three modern day winners, Floyd, Pavin and Goosen, have all got multiple top-tens and placed efforts in the Open Championship.

Greg Norman, who finished runner-up to Pavin, and who led the '86 edition by three strokes after round one, was a links specialist extraordinaire and of course, a two-time Open Champion and although it took time for the penny to drop, following his victory in 2013 and his spectacular second to Henrik Stenson in 2016, the 2004 runner-up here, Phil Mickelson, has to be regarded as a truly great links player, so links form is most definitely the angle in here.

As much as I'd love to see it, I fear six-time US Open runner-up, Mickelson, has had all his chances in this event and he's probably just too long in the tooth now to complete the Grand Slam.

Last year's Open Champ, Jordan Spieth, looks a fair price at 11/1 given he also won this event at Chambers Bay in 2015. Chambers Bay wasn't particularly well received and its greens in particular were criticized but one thing most will agree on was that it was a links type course and the leaderboard supported that.

Looking at the 2015 US open result, together with the last result here in 2004, and one man sticks out like a sore thumb - Branden Grace.

Grace traded at odds-on at Chambers Bay before a wild tee-shot on the 16th hole cost him his chance in 2015 but he returned to the event in 2016 and contended when Dustin Johnson won at Oakmont, so he has plenty of US Open form to boast.

He became the first man in history to post a 62 in a major championship at last year's Open Championship so his links credentials are rock solid and just like fellow South African, Goosen, he's a winner at the Fancourt Links in his homeland.

Whether he'll be in form in June is, of course, a risk but he's ended this year nicely with a terrific victory in the Nedbank Golf Challenge, he'll have just turned 30 before the event (May 20th), and I fancy he could go really well at a venue made for his game. The 45/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook looks a very fair and juicy price.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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