With the forecast showing it is set to be pleasant and calm throughout Thursday’s opening day there does not appear to be any great advantage to be had for either a morning or afternoon tee-off, However, with the poa annua greens at Winged Foot renowned for getting tougher as the day goes on, I prefer the morning tee offs for my two selections.
The first who catches my eye is Martin Kaymer who tees off at 7.23am local time. It’s been a long time between drinks for the German who last tasted success on either tour back in 2014 at Pinehurst in this very event. This year however has seen Kaymer show definite signs of recovery and he arrives in New York on the back of consecutive top three finishes in Europe.
When Kaymer is on song, he is fast out of the gates in the big events, and he was in front after day one, when winning both the US Open and The Players Championship in 2014.
Although he stumbled badly on day two Kaymer also held a share of the lead after 18 holes at the PGA Championship recently and with his confidence in his game returning week by week, he is fancied for another strong start.
The other is Harris English.
Based on his propensity for a quick start I sided with English in this market in the PGA Championship recently and although he started solidly, he didn’t reward us. Since then, he has played four more events and opened with a 64 in two of them so he clearly still has the ‘Thursday knack’.
English’s solid all round game looks a good fit for Winged Foot and I am happy to chance him from his 7.34am tee time for another strong day one.
I am happy to take on Rory McIlroy in this segment and take my chances with Shane Lowry being the leading Irish player after Sunday’s final day.
McIlroy’s preparation will surely have been effected by recently becoming a dad and the suspicion also is that Winged Foot’s short game challenge may not play to his strengths. Lowry conversely possesses a wonderful touch around the greens and the reigning Open Champion could well turn in another strong US Open performance similar to his display at Oakmont in 2016, when second to Dustin Johnson.
With Graeme McDowell struggling since the restart and the fourth runner in the market James Sugrue surely out of his depth at this stage of his career, this looks a straight fight between McIlroy and Lowry and I’m happy to side with Lowry in the Top Irishman market.
Finally, I’ll look at the Top 20 finish and Top 40 finish markets for the four-day event.
The young Korean Si Woo Kim made a name for himself when landing the Players Championship in 2017 and has really turned a corner of late after he began working with Claude Harmon III.
Currently on a run of 10 straight cuts made including four top 20s Kim’s long game is in fine fettle and if you add this to his strong scrambling stats, he should cope better than most with Winged Foot.
He finished 13th recently at the tough TPC Harding Park in the PGA Championship, which was a fine effort. A similar performance could see him in the top 20 after Sunday’s final round.
Robert Macintyre meanwhile as a left hander should be suited by the layout and my hunch is that the young Scot – who possesses a magical short game – could be in his element on this track.
He finished 24th last time out at Valderrama – another course that rewards wizzadry around the greens – and that was his best effort since lockdown. I expect him to improve on his 66th place in his last Major outing at TPC Harding Park in the PGA. He looks good value to crack the Top 40.
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