This years US Open at Merion will be the first time since 2004 that the course is under 7,000 yards at any Major Championship.
The tight, tree-lined fairways, hazardous bunkers and unplayable rough mean only the most technical players will rise to the top. However, it is all good and well being a top ball striker, but poor performances on the tough undulating greens will ultimately make the difference.
Therefore, as in every tournament he enters, Tiger Woods will be the man to beat. Even with his wayward accuracy off the tee at times, he will potentially not use a wood on 8 of the par 4s and if he putts like he did before The Memorial then he will walk away with the trophy. Admittedly, I have not seen Tiger miss 6 footers like he did at Muirfield for a long time, so does that mean another lesson from Mr. Stricker?
Funnily enough, I do feel the 46-year-old Stricker will have a lot to say come Sunday. He has purposefully cut down his schedule to concentrate on the big tournaments and I have a feeling he would have seen Merion and thought this will be his best opportunity to win a major. On the PGA Tour stats he lies in the top 20 in Driving Accuracy, Strokes Gained Putting, Greens In Regulation and Scrambling – a lethal combination for this course. He also has 3 top 10s in his 6 appearances this year, so will be full of confidence.
As will Memorial winner Matt Kuchar, who has now won twice in 2013. His tee to green abilities are second to none and his putting is in the best shape it ever has been. He has the temperament to win his first major having already won The Players and WGC Match Play and has a superb record on short courses.
In terms of recent tournaments on courses under 7,100 yards, Graeme McDowell, Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker consistently find the top of leaderboards. Snedeker seems to have overcome his wrist injury and for me, there is no better player to watch on Tour. A natural in and around the greens whose accuracy with his irons could threaten the leaders and he will never be caught for slow play!
My head is screaming Tiger, but any one of Stricker, ‘Kooch’ and Snedeker could really upset the applecart and win a first major.