With no PGA or European Tour action over the Christmas holidays, Steve Rawlings has spent some of his free time looking ahead to the four major championships in 2019. Here's our man's look at the US Open...
"Tiger Woods’ winning score at Pebble Beach sticks out like a sore thumb but that was arguably the greatest U.S Open performance of all time and the gap back to Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ernie Els in tied second was 15 strokes!
The 2019 US Open
Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California
The US Open is a nomadic event and as a result we often visit courses we haven't seen for many a year, or, as was the case in 2015 and 2017, when the event was staged at Chambers Bay and Erin Hills, we take in a venue that's entirely new to us, but in 2019 we return to a very familiar track - Pebble Beach.
Pebble Beach has staged the U.S Open on five previous occasions, as well as the US PGA Championship way back in 1977, but it's also staged the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am every February since 1947.
Looking at the AT&T for clues makes a lot of sense but we do need to bear in mind how differently the course is set up, and that the AT&T is staged over three courses and Pebble is only played for two rounds of the event - once in rotation by everyone over the first three days and then by all those that make the 54-hole cut in the final round.
The winner usually gets to at least double figures under-par in the AT&T, even if the wind blows and when Brandt Snedeker won the title for a second time in 2015, he set the tournament record winning score of 22-under-par. In contrast, the five US Open winning scores at Pebble Beach are higher and listed below.
1972 - Jack Nicklaus +2
1982 - Tom Watson -6
1992 - Tom Kite -3
2000 - Tiger Woods -12
2010 - Graeme McDowell Level Par
Tiger Woods' winning score sticks out like a sore thumb but that was arguably the greatest US Open performance of all time and the gap back to Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ernie Els in tied second was 15 strokes! See below clip.
As many as nine players broke par when Tom Watson won in 1982 but in the four other US Opens at pebble only four players in total have broken par so don't expect a birdie-fest in June - the US Open is very often a tough grind.
Pebble Beach is a links track so in addition to the AT&T, the Open Championship, which is always played on a traditional British links course, provides a very good guide too.
In addition to winning the first of three US Opens at Pebble in 2000, Tiger also won the AT&T and the Open Championship that year and Jordan Spieth won the Open in 2017, five months after winning the AT&T. Phil Mickelson won the Open a year after winning his fourth AT&T in 2012 and a number of players have come close to winning both events. The US Open favourite, Dustin Johnson for starters...
DJ, who won back-to-back AT&Ts in 2009 and 2010, entered the final round of the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach with a four-stroke lead but he shot 82 on Sunday! Here's a somewhat dramatic reminder.
If you believe DJ's over that horrendous collapse, then he's going to be a straightforward play. He absolutely loves Pebble but he does have his demons. In addition to the 2010 US Open collapse, he three-putted the 72nd hole at Chambers Bay in 2015 to hand the title to Jordan Spieth, failed to convert from the front at Shinnecock last year, and he really should have won more AT&Ts too. He co-led this year's renewal with a round to go but the event was won by 1000.0 outsider, Ted Potter Jr.
Just like the US PGA Championship, which I looked at here, players that putt well on Poa Annua should be topping any shortlists and if forced to name someone that looks a fair price at this stage it would have to be Jason Day at around the 20/1 mark.
The Australian missed the 2010 US Open through injury but he has AT&T form figures that read 6-14-46-6-MC-4-11-5-2 so he's really getting to grips with the venue of late and he won't care how hard the wind blows. And that's definitely something to bear in mind - Pebble can be really tough if the wind gets up.
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