2004 US Open Form Guide
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2004 US Open | Preview | 15 Jun 2004
www.iseekgolf.com analyst Bruce Young is the majors form guide analyst for Centrebet and the New Zealand TAB and in this form guide for the US Open, Bruce looks at the likely chances and the Australasians who will line up this Thursday at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.
Originally designed in 1891 by William Davis and Willie Dunn in 1891 the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, on Long Island, New York, is very much part of US Open history. While it has played host to the US Open on only three previous occasions, the fact that it was the venue in just the second staging of the event in 1896, cemented its place in the history of this great championship. That year James Fouilis won over the then thirty six holes, but despite being one of the great and perhaps unique courses in American golf, it took another ninety years before it would again stage the event, when in 1986 Raymond Floyd would win his only US Open.
Another nine years would pass until 1995 when Shinnecock Hills would again play host to Corey Pavin’s “David and Goliath” win in 1995. Pavin, one of the game’s shorter hitters but one of its great craftsmen, held off the power hitters down the stretch before emerging the winner by two over Greg Norman.
At 6996 yards Shinnecock Hills provides an opportunity for a wider range of player than may have been the case on some of the longer courses played in recent years. Make no mistake however, while slightly shorter than the average course on tour these days the course is an incredibly tough test of golf as the two most recent winners here would suggest. Floyd and Pavin are tough customers. The only significant changes to the layout since the 1995 event are the elimination of several trees, especially the non indigenous variety and the addition of another 52 yards.
The course has a real links feel to it winding its way through the dune type terrain. Tall fescue rough, small greens and the strong winds that can occur here on this exposed piece of land so close to the Atlantic Ocean, will ensure that the winner of the event has had every aspect of his game tested to the max. There is unlikely to be any fluke winner here.
Woods will go into the event as the favourite but perhaps only just. Despite being analysed, scrutinised and at times dismissed during a period where he has not performed at his best, Woods has still managed to contend to the death in his last three events on the USPGA Tour. A two time winner of this event and a top twenty finisher in each of his seven starts as a professional, Woods is sure to be a factor this week but will need to find more fairways than he has at any stage this season if he is to win his first major in two years. He knows that and that is likely the aspect he is working on as he prepares in Florida. He has this week expressed satisfaction with his game.
Gained the world number two ranking last week following his impressive victory at the Memorial. Like Woods he has been a two time winner of this event (1994 and 1997) and had four other top tens since his first appearance in 1993, when 7th. Missed the cut here in 1995 but that is hardly relevant now. It is hard not to see him figuring prominently. He has finished the Buick with a solid 16th place to keep the momentum going.
Five top tens in ten starts at the US Open along with his number three ranking in the world, indicate that a win by Singh would not be a great surprise, but he is not quite as sharp now as he was a few weeks ago. His third placing at Pinehurst in 1999 has been his best at the event. He is certainly a player to watch this week following his fourth place at the Buick. Big event player.
Funnily enough despite not having the style of game that one would think is suited to US Open golf, Mickelson has played very well at this event over the years. His second place finishes to Payne Stewart at Pinehurst and to Woods at Bethpage have been his best, but there have been several other top tens also. Mickelson has made huge strides this year in the adoption of a less aggressive style of play and that would appear to be of benefit on a typical US Open set up course where percentage golf plays such a big factor. His last couple of appearances this year have not reflected his great start to the year, but if his two weeks off prior to last week’s Buick have treated him well, then he will be in the mix on Sunday. He now no longer needs to worry about the pressure of not having won a major, Augusta putting paid to that concern. A solid 16th place at the Buick has him on track.
Davis Love III
Love has played well at the US Open on occasions including a second place to Steve Jones in 1996, but the last few years have not been quite as good. His recent form has been solid but not as good as it was early in the season when he could do little wrong. I can’t get excited about his prospects of winning here. 28th at the Buick was not bad, but not great.
One top ten (3rd in 2003) and three top twenties in five starts at the US Open suggest that Mike Weir’s game is suited to the US Open set up. His game is not built around power (although he did win on a long Augusta in 2003), but rather getting the ball around and that is the type of game that will be rewarded here. His accuracy overall has even improved in 2004. Like so many others who started the year well however, Weir has gone off the boil a little in recent weeks failing to feature in his last six starts. Contention here for the Canadian will take some sort of turnaround. He just missed the cut at the Buick.
Goosen has been quietly going about his business this season but mixing his form somewhat. His eighth placing last week at the Memorial was timely. He was 13th at the Masters and 3rd at Doral, but there have been some ordinary weeks thrown in as well, missing cuts at Bay Hill, The Players Championship and the Heritage. He did play well in Germany at the Deutsche Bank SAP Open and at the Volvo PGA however. He knows how to win a US Open as his 2001 victory would suggest. Despite the fact that he has had only the one top ten in six US Open starts, he is such a good and solid all round player he could well feature.
Harrington is creeping slowly but surely towards his first major championship. He has played the US Open very well in recent years with three top tens in his last four starts. He was 13th at the Masters in April after a good run of form prior which included a runner up placing at the Players Championship. He was second to Immelman at the recent Deutsche Bank Open and was 40th last week at the Memorial. Great week at the Buick for a share of second has him in exactly the right frame of mind.
The US Open has not been a great hunting ground for Perry but his third placing last year, easily his best in seven starts, indicates when playing well, he is up to the task. His 6th place at the recent Memorial comes on top of several other good finishes this year. Has a good solid all round game but will need to sharpen his weak link, his putting, if he is to contend at the business end. If he has a good week on the greens he can go close. Fine last round 66 at the Buick has him ready.
There is a general feeling amongst those who know that Campbell is destined to win a major very soon. His close call at the PGA last year in just his second full season on tour perhaps justifies that opinion. He plays the big events very well as his performances at the PGA, the Tour Championship (won) and the Bay Hill tournament (won) this year would suggest. He lost his way a little after the Bay Hill victory, but bounced back with a good second place at the Colonial a month ago and had a good last round of 68 at the Memorial. He does not possess a good record at the Open, missing the cut in his first three starts, but he is a different player now. He just missed the cut at the Buick Last week.
Brilliant win last week and also found the line recently at the Byron Nelson. He has found great consistency this season making all eleven cuts on the USPGA Tour. He has not missed a cut in four starts at the US Open and was fourth at the demanding Bethpage in 2002. His 24th last week at the recent Memorial was not great, but not bad either. He might be one for slightly longer odds away from the top three or four but now has to overcome the back to back wins syndrome.
Undoubtedly one of the game’s best players to not win a major, Clarke has made his last seven cuts at this event without seriously threatening. He has played well in Europe in recent weeks including a fifth at the British Masters, a third at the Deutsche Bank Open and a fourth at the Volvo PGA. That form may see him in with a real chance this year. Perhaps surprisingly he missed the cut at the Buick.
Choi showed at the Masters when third, that the big time does not faze him. He played well again last week at the Memorial when fifth. He has not fared well in the US Open missing two of three cuts, but the improvement he has shown along with his mental toughness, suggest that if he did win, it would not be the surprise it would have been before Augusta. He is not long from the tee but that is not going to be such an issue here. He is however a very good putter always an asset on US Open greens.
Toms’ recent win at the Fed Ex St Jude Classic indicates that he has now recovered from the wrist injury that has plagued him for much of 2004. His fifth last year at the US Open behind Furyk was by far his best in seven attempts in the event. He has already won a major (2001 PGA) but his putting that has plagued him for most of this year, needs to get better in a hurry for him to feature here. Surprisingly he missed the cut last week at the Buick.
This will be just the third US Open for Scott, the previous two in which he has missed the cut. He stepped up a grade by winning the Players Championship in March and, following a five week break, returned to a missed cut in Germany and then a good solid weekend for 11th at the Volvo PGA. Not sure he is quite ready to win a US Open or even go close as it a very different event to a USPGA Tour event, but in time he will. Just an average week at the Buick last week.
Rose was fifth last year in debut in the US Open and his form this season has gone up a level since then. Led Masters before fading but has had several good USPGA Tour finishes since. This style of course should not be a problem and along with Garcia seems amongst the best chances of the young brigade. Nice each way bet.
Jacobson might just be a very good longshot bet here. Fifth last year at his only start in this event was a great way to begin his US Open career. He has made rapid progress in world golf in the last eighteen months and his fifth at the recent Fed Ex St Jude Classic followed many other good finishes earlier this season in the US. 6th at last year’s British Open along with his 5th at this event suggest he is ready to go to the next level very soon. His game might not look like a US Open game but the runs are already on the board. Good solid 8th place at the Buick.
Couples showed last week with his fourth place at the Buick and a week earlier with fine second place at the Memorial, that he is still capable of contending at the top level. He has not played well at the US Open however, apart from a couple of good finishes earlier in his career, perhaps his lack of accuracy from the tee a concern on a US Open set up. He was 6th at this year’s US Masters. Share of fourth at the Buick was just the lead up he wanted. If he can stay fit all week he may go well as his back did bother him last week.
He may be fifty and already enjoying a US Champions Tour career, but Jay Haas is playing as well now as he has at any stage of his career. His eighth place at the Memorial after finishing runner up at the Seniors PGA Championship the week before indicates where he is at with his game right now. With that game built around control and not power, the Open set up in 2004 should suit him down to the ground. His missed cut at last week’s Buick is somewhat of a concern.
Not quite sure what to make of Price’s game right now but he did finish 7th at the Byron Nelson suggesting there is not too much wrong. He was also 12th at the Deutsche Bank Open. He has had top tens at his last two US Opens including fifth behind Furyk last year. The type of player to do well at longer odds but not sure if he is up to winning now.
This tournament owes him one following the debacle three years ago when he three putted the last to miss a playoff by a shot. Interestingly, putting is the area of big improvement in his game and with a win at the Heritage two months ago and a couple of other good finishes since, then he is a chance to do well. He did miss the cut at the Buick however.
Verplank has not been quite as solid of late after a good start to the year, but his game should be suited to the requirements of the US Open. He hits lots of fairways and greens and is one of the best putters on the tour this year. His comparative lack of length here will be of little concern. He will be a good long shot I feel. He had a solid week at the Buick.
Ames is a player who has come ahead in leaps and bounds this year. Five consecutive top tens in his last five starts on the USPGA Tour. Has played the US Open only twice finishing 68th in 1997 and being disqualified in 2002 but this is a much better player now. He is a fine wind player is Ames and with those conditions likely then he is a place chance. Hard to see his first USPGA Tour win being a US Open, but it would be less a surprise than Ben Curtis’ win at Royal St Georges last year should it happen. He missed the cut badly at the Buick but should bounce back.
I have put him in as he is the defending champion but it is too much to expect a big week from him after such a long break from competitive golf.
Although Appleby had a brilliant start to 2004, his form over the past two months has been ordinary at best. His US Open record does not inspire any confidence either missing four of his last five cuts. A reasonable week at the Buick.
Allenby has an abysmal record at majors for such a great player. Good strong finish at the Memorial with last round 66 but he needed a boost of confidence as his form has been ordinary of late. He has made a lot of cuts this season but nothing special since his fourth in March at the Honda. I can’t get excited about him attempting to beat his personal best major finish of tenth. A good week at the Buick but can’t get too excited about his prospects.
Leaney is here to large extent because he did so brilliantly at this event last year when second to Jim Furyk. While that may have appeared from out of the blue, he has gone on to show this year in events such as the Accenture, the Masters, the Byron Nelson and the Memorial, that he has the game and the stomach for the big time. He has produced those performances with a comparatively wayward putter. If he can correct that department, he has a very good chance of being the leading Australian again. Nice solid week at the Buick for 23rd.
Lonard is slowly finding the form that saw him win his National Open late last year and place 11th and 20th at his last two US Opens. When playing well Lonard relies on a strong tee to green game and that is why he has performed well in his three starts in this event. Has a good chance to be the leading Australian. A reasonable week at the Buick when 42nd.
Parry did finish third once at the US Open in 1993, but although he won the Ford Championship this year and is capable of winning events like the WGC N.E.C Invitational, his form of late had not been all that good until a much better week at the Buick when 16th. Hard to see him contending but a good week still a possibility.
Flanagan is a young man on a huge learning curve who will be better for the experience at Shinnecock Hills. This is a reward for his US Amateur win. He turns pro in two months time and this will be a base from which he can work towards future US Opens. Played in an amateur event last week where he played poorly, perhaps with this week on his mind.
It was a great effort to qualify and in the one US Open he has played he finished 42nd in 1999 after pre-qualifying for that event. Not having a great season although his 18th at Fed Ex St Jude was better. Bad missed cut at the Buick.
Good effort to qualify but that is the best we can expect I feel. Far too wayward from the tee to do anything here and not in good form.
Jones is coming off a great win last week on the Nationwide Tour to qualify for the 2005 US PGA Tour. Another who struggles with accuracy at times but is having a great year with a win in Japan and several good finishes on the Nationwide Tour including last week in Illinois. It will be another learning experience for him at this stage.
Hend just scrapped in after a lengthy playoff at final qualifying but he is here. This will be a part of Hend’s learning curve but he has done well just to make the field. Good solid week at the Buick for 14th.
Senden has played very consistently this season, hardly missing a cut. This will be only the second major championship in which Senden has played, but his game is in many ways suited to the type of play required to do well in such. He will need to improve his putting however if he is to have a good debut at the US Open. A reasonable week at the Buick, making the cut there.
Tschudin has done marvellously well to just make the field. Was the only golfer to qualify at his venue after making it through local qualifying prior. He leads the Hooters Tour this year and his game is making great strides with the experience he has gained. Finished 10th in a Hooters Tour event last week.
I can’t get excited about Campbell’s prospects. He has missed his last three cuts at this event after a 12th place behind Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000. He has played well but not great in recent weeks and it is hard to see him figuring.
*Adam Scott overview in the first half of the above article