It may be only early June however we are already halfway through the 2019 golfing Major Championship schedule. The year’s first two Majors have undoubtedly been absolute belters. Tiger Woods’ victory at Augusta will, of course, sit long in all of our memory banks, while last month’s latest chapter from ‘how to win Major’s for fun’ by Brooks Koepka was also gripping viewing.
Next up it’s the turn of the iconic Pebble Beach, host of this year’s US Open where Paddy’s paying 10 places before Thursday’s tee off and it promises to be another cracker. A par 71 measuring 7,040yds situated near the Monterey Peninsula on the California coast, Pebble Beach is renowned for serving up some of the most spectacular scenery on the golfing calendar each year when it hosts the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in January.
This week though, while the spectacular views will be as breathtaking as ever that will be about the only similarity to the regular tour stop as the soft greens and pro-am friendly pins will be replaced by rock-hard fairways and greens, with thick rough waiting to catch any errant tee shots or approaches. Basically, in total contrast to last month’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, this week you can forget distance, it is all about keeping the ball in play.
So, let’s take a look at some of the leading contenders, starting with Brooks Koepka and his attempt for the ‘three-peat’. With Brooks’ Major pedigree it would be incredibly foolish of me to dismiss his chances completely, however, I can’t help but feel that whereas Bethpage played to his strengths, Pebble Beach, a venue that will give everyone an equal chance with regards to distance off the tee, will negate some this.
Couple this with the attention and pressure that will be on him to achieve an incredible hat-trick of US Open wins and that is enough to have me swerving him this week.
Rory McIlroy performed fantastically in Canada to romp away to victory. However, similarly to Brooks I just don’t see Pebble with its firm and fast conditions being the course for him.
Two players who have proven Pebble Beach form are Jordan Spieth and in particular Dustin, who should have won here in 2010, and with his stand out record here he is naturally is tempting, however at the prices on offer to me there is only one place to start this week and that is with 15 time Major Champion Tiger Woods (10/1).
With his iron play dialed in this year, Pebble Beach to me is perfect for the 2019 prototype Tiger.
In fact, it was perfect for the 2000 prototype Tiger when he won here by an incredible 15 shots. Tiger has proven in the past, notably at Hoylake, that he is a master tactician on firm, fast, courses and assuming his putter even half behaves, he is in my eyes the man to beat this week.
Next up for me is Englishman Tommy Fleetwood (28/1). Behind Koepka Fleetwood has been the strongest performer in the US Open over the past two years with fourth and second-place finishes. With his strengths lying from tee to green and with great pedigree on links style courses on the European Tour, Pebble Beach should be a perfect fit for Tommy and I can see him going really close this week.
On a similar vein I like the chances of Marc Leishman (66/1) to take that next leap forward. Fifth last time out Leishman seems to have found his form at just the right time and like all Australians, the anticipated firm fast conditions should be right up his alley.
Finally, I shall take my chances on a couple of bigger priced e/w plays with Si Woo Kim (125/1) and another Aussie Aaron Baddeley (300/1). Kim showed when winning the Players Championship at Sawgrass and coming close to victory at Hilton Head that he favours a shorter track and he was fourth here earlier this year.
Badds meanwhile is a former Hilton Head champion, who has shown some great form this year and is a previous winner on the poa annua putting surface at Riviera. He played really well to come through the qualifying event last week to make it here and I fancy him to give a really good account of himself at huge odds.
*Prices correct at time of publication