The Punter's Early Look at the 2020 majors: The US Open

Golfer Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka with the US Open trophy

Steve Rawlings is using the brief pause on the PGA and European Tours to look forward to next year's majors and here's the third of four - the US Open...

"Koepka traded at a low of 2.26/5 in-running at Pebble in June, when attempting to win the event for a third time in-a-row, and with US Open form figures reading MC-4-18-13-1-1-2, he’s most certainly the one they all have to beat."

The 2020 US Open
June 18-21
The West Course, Winged Foot Golf Club
All four days live on Sky Sports

The third major of 2020 will be the US Open and if it's anything like the renewal witnessed on the last occasion the event was staged at Winged Foot, we're in for a real treat.

This will be the sixth US Open to be staged at the A.W Tillinghast designed masterpiece in Mamaroneck, New York, but this will the first time we've seen the venue since 2006, when a number of players blew their chance of glory before Australia's Geoff Ogilvy won his one and only major championship.

With flat but narrow fairways, thick rough (up to six inches deep) and Tilly's infamously contoured, well-bunkered, raised greens, measuring in at in excess of 7,200 yards, the par 70 West Course is an absolute brute.

The opening hole, a par four, and the ninth, which at the time, was the longest par four ever used in a major championship, both averaged 4.471 in 2006. The par five 12th measured a whopping 640 yards and the only other par five, the fifth, was the only hole to average below par for the week. Tiger Woods missed the cut in 2006, his first ever weekend off at a major championship, and Ogilvy won with a five-over-par 285 total.

Colin Montgomerie was matched at a low of 1.341/3 when he stood in position A on the fairway after is drive on the 72nd hole but a duffed approach led to a double-bogey six and Jim Furyk finished alongside Monty after he bogeyed the last but the 2006 renewal will be forever remembered as the closest of Phil Mickelson's six US Open near misses. He's finished second six times!

With Ogilvy leading in the clubhouse, Mickelson stood on the 72nd tee with a one stroke lead, requiring a par to win or a bogey to tie but a poor drive, a ridiculous attempt form the trees with his second, his third shot, from only 25 yards ahead of where he played his second, found a plugged lie in the greenside bunker, from where he could only blast out into the rough. He eventually knocked in an eight-footer for a double-bogey six to finish alongside Monty and Furyk. Ouch!

Mickelson at Winged Foot.jpg

Lefty had been matched at a low of 1.061/18 and if there's one hole he'll forever wish he could go back and play again, it's the 18th at Winged Foot on June 18th, 2006. He had this to say after his devasting finish.

"I still am in shock that I did that. I just can't believe that I did that. I am such an idiot. The biggest reason why this is so disappointing is that this is a tournament that I dreamt of winning as a kid. I spent hours practicing, countless hours practicing, dreaming of winning this tournament. I came out here months in advance to get ready and had it right there in my hand, man. It was right there and I let it go."

Looking back at that renewal, the stats were largely what one would expect given the nature of the course. Ogilvy ranked second for Total Driving and third for All Round and that makes sense given driving the ball both straight and long was important and that Winged Foot tests every facet of your game. The first five home had A/R rankings of third, first, ninth, tenth and second and Kennie Ferrie, who had been the surprise third round leader before going on to finish tied for sixth, ranked fifth.

Davis Love III won the 1997 US PGA Championship at Winged Foot by five strokes on -11 but only four players broke par so although it definitely played easier than it did in 2006, it wasn't a pushover and there was one very large contrast between the two tournaments.

In 1997, the first 12 players home were all American whereas nine years later, only seven of the top-25 were American. Following Gary Woodland's success at Pebble Beach in June, the last five US Opens have gone the way of an American but looking at the 2006 leaderboard, that run may well come to a halt next year.

The clues were there for the 2006 US Open. Mickelson had won the US PGA Championship at another Tillinghast course, Baltusrol, just ten months prior and Ogilvy had finished sixth there.

Form at Tillinghast tracks transfers particularly well so form at Medinah, Ridgewood Country Club or Baltusrol, which again hosted the US PGA Championship in 2016 (won by Jimmy Walker) is worth investigating but the best place to start is Bethpage Black, which hosted this year's US PGA Championship.

Matt Wallace will be an interesting runner if he can find his form and a bit of composure, given he finished third at Bethpage Black and given his strong all round game, and although he missed the cut at Bethpage, this could be where Jon Rahm makes his major breakthrough, but it's impossible to get away from the favourite, Brooks Koepka.

Matt Wallace arm aloft 1280.jpg

The world number one wobbled a bit at Bethpage having led by seven with a round to go but he got the job done there back in May. He was fourth behind Walker at Baltusrol in 2016 and his US Open pedigree is simply incredible. He traded at a low of 2.26/5 in-running at Pebble in June, when attempting to win the event for a third time in-a-row, and with US Open form figures reading MC-4-18-13-1-1-2, he's most certainly the one they all have to beat.

Brooks finished last season ranking 12th for Total Driving on the PGA Tour and second in their All-Around rankings and he has the Tillinghast form to boast too. The current second favourite, Rory McIlroy, actually ranked above Brooks in both categories last season but he's one to take on around a tough track like Winged Foot.

Rory's US Open win, back in 2011, came on a rain-soaked Congressional and his 16-under-par 268 aggregate score is the lowest in US Open history. Rory is yet to win anywhere with a single-figure under-par score so is much better suited to easier tasks and his US Open form is generally poor, reading 10-MC-1-MC-41-23-9-MC-MC-MC-9.

Suggested Wager:
Brooks Koepka @ 10.09/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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