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Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Relentless Rose ready to bloom at Shinnecock Hills

Rahm can be part of strong European bid

Justin Rose is hunting a second Major title
1 of 1

Sky Sports Golf from 1.30pm Thursday

Dustin Johnson has been all the rage for the US Open in the wake of his emphatic St Jude Classic triumph on Sunday, but there looks to be little value in backing the favourite at a short price.

Johnson did not have much to beat in Memphis – hardly any of the elite bothered with the tournament – and it is debatable whether four days of competition in sweltering conditions was good preparation for a notoriously gruelling Major.

Nobody has ever won the US Open having triumphed the week before, while Johnson missed the cut in the US Open the week after winning the St Jude Classic in 2012. Nine of the last 11 US Open champions took the week off prior to the event and while Johnson was fielding questions at TPC Southwind on Sunday night, most of his rivals were already ensconced at Shinnecock Hills adjusting to the venue.

Throw in an unhelpful threeball for the first two days – noisy New Yorkers will be going mad for the Johnson, Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas group – and there are enough negatives to overlook the market leader. Johnson must be respected, but another former US Open champion who is on offer at double the odds is much more appealing.

Palmer's top tip
Justin Rose 16-1
The 2013 US Open at Merion went to Justin Rose, who bravely fended off Phil Mickelson and Jason Day to become a Major champion, and the English lion looks ready to roar again in the second Major of the season.

Rose appears at the peak of his powers, having developed into arguably the most consistent performer on the planet, threatening the world number one spot due to relentlessly solid golf. His textbook swing has always resulted in greens in regulation – he has not been outside the top ten of the US Tour strokes-gained tee-to-green stats since 2011 – but this season short-game improvements have created a total package.

Rose is tenth on the US Tour for strokes-gained putting, a category in which he finished 123rd last season. He is 15th for strokes gained around the green and has become able to tidy up for pars on the rare occasions he misses his target on approach.

Understandably, it took Rose a few months to get over the disappointment of his Masters playoff defeat to Sergio Garcia last spring, but by the FedEx Cup playoffs his game-face had returned. Ten consecutive top-ten finishes followed, including victories in the WGC-HSBC Champions, Turkish Airlines Open and Indonesian Masters.

At the end of last month, Rose won the Fort Worth Invitational by three shots on a firm, fast, par-70 track, and he tackles another firm, fast, par-70 this week – a Shinnecock Hills layout of which he has become enchanted.

Rose was unimpressed by Shinnecock in the 2004 US Open, missing the cut as a 23-year-old US Tour maiden, but he returned to a much-changed venue as US Open champion in 2014 for some golf with the CEO of Deutsche Bank, and Rose fell in love with the revised layout. He has been full of beans in practice rounds and is relishing the assignment.

The devilish poa annua greens, like most of those found on the West Coast, are the chief defence of Shinnecock, and in the last three years Rose has proved he can handle them. He was sixth in the 2016 Pebble Beach Pro-Am, fourth and eighth in the last two Farmers Insurance Opens, and fourth in the Genesis Open last year, all at California courses with similar putting surfaces to Shinnecock.

Jason Day is a dangerman, but a recent shoulder niggle and a four-over-par weekend at Muirfield Village last time out are off-putting. Rory McIlroy turned into Superman at Bay Hill, but can his moody putter stay disciplined enough to set a winning 72-hole total at Shinnecock? Justin Thomas, the other player who was close to selection, also has to deal with that circus of a threeball with Johnson and Woods.

Day, McIlroy and Thomas are feared, but Rose, who has been handed a dream threeball with the equally calm duo of Louis Oosthuizen and Jimmy Walker, looks the safest each-way investment.

Next best
Jon Rahm 22-1
The main challenger to Rose could end up being his fellow European, Jon Rahm, who is something of a forgotten man this week because he has not been sighted since Colonial. The time off should help Rahm be at full throttle for a potential Major breakthrough.

Rahm finished fifth at Colonial, going eight under par for the weekend, providing further evidence that he can act on any course. And Shinnecock, at which he can regularly unleash his beloved driver, looks like ideal terrain for the 23-year-old brute to power his way into contention.

Rahm has won three times in the last seven months – the DP World Tour Championship, CareerBuilder Challenge and Spanish Open – and he finished fourth in the Masters. He was low amateur on his US Open debut in 2016 and is clearly a Major champion in waiting.

Rahm's maiden US Tour triumph came with a three-shot romp in the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open – at a tough course with poa annua greens – and he was fifth at Pebble Beach last year. An all-Spanish threeball with Garcia and Rafa Cabrera-Bello is perfect for relaxing Rahm.

Other selections
Bryson DeChambeau 45-1
Patrick Rodgers 250-1
Peter Uihlein 150-1
Bryson DeChambeau won a USGA organised event in 2015 – the US Amateur Championship at 2003 US Open venue Olympia Fields – and the Californian grew up playing on poa annua greens. Since his amateur heroics, DeChambeau has won once on the Web.com Tour and twice on the US Tour, most recently at the Memorial the week before last, and he may be ready for a Major breakthrough at the age of 24.

DeChambeau is mentally tough, he putted better than ever at the Memorial, and he loves the way Shinnecock is set up this week. He was runner-up at Bay Hill in March – one of five top-fives since February – and seems inspired by elite gatherings. Like at the top-class Memorial, he looks the man most likely to upset the market leaders.

Complete your staking plan with two former world number one amateurs, who represent excellent each-way value at juicy prices. Patrick Rodgers was a dominant force at Stanford, a California university, so is comfortable on poa annua greens, a fact he has underlined with fourth place in the Farmers Insurance Open last year and eighth place at Pebble Beach in February.

Formidable ball-striking is what made Rodgers a US Tour star, but this season he has suddenly started putting superbly, moving from 124th to 14th for SGP. Seventh place at Bay Hill in March, eighth spot at the Memorial, then a seven-under-par 36-hole total at the Ohio US Open qualifier indicate the 25-year-old will soon turn potential into silverware.

Peter Uihlein won the 2010 US Amateur at Chambers Bay, US Open venue three years ago, before forging a career in Europe, where his two best performances came on breezy seaside tracks – victory in the Madeira Islands Open and a playoff defeat in the Dunhill Links – advertising his likely comfort at Shinnecock.

Uihlein has since settled at home in the States, winning on the Web.com Tour in September and catching fire on the US Tour over the last month. Fifth place at Quail Hollow was followed by the same position at the Memorial, and it is conceivable that Brooks Koepka could pass on the US Open trophy to his best mate Uihlein.

Staking plan
J Rose
4pts each-way 16-1 bet365, Betfair
J Rahm
3pts each-way 22-1 Betfred
B DeChambeau
1pt each-way 45-1 Betfred
P Rodgers
0.5pt each-way 250-1 bet365, Sky Bet
P Uihlein
0.5pt each-way 150-1 bet365, BoyleSports, Sky Bet


More US Open

Specials

Jeremy Chapman's verdict

Lessons from Shinnecock Hills

Player guide part 1

Player guide part 2

Course guide


The lowdown

Course Shinnecock Hills, Southampton, Long Island, New York

Prize money $12m ($2.16m to the winner)

Length 7,445 yards Par 70 Field 156

Course records – 72 holes 276 Retief Goosen (2004) 18 holes 65 Lanny Wadkins (1986), Chip Beck (1986), Neal Lancaster (1995)

Cut The top 60 and ties after 36 holes

Playoff format The 18-hole Monday playoff has been abandoned, replaced by a Sunday two-hole playoff, with sudden-death from there if tied.

When to bet By 11.45am Thursday

Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 1.30pm Thursday

Time difference New York is five hours behind the UK and Ireland

Last week – Shot Clock Masters 1 M Korhonen (28-1), 2 C Syme (200-1), T3 N Colsaerts (33-1), S Webster (150-1), R Jacquelin (200-1), J Walters (100-1); St Jude Classic 1 D Johnson (7-1), 2 A Putnam (125-1), 3 JB Holmes (80-1), T4 S Cink (200-1), R Werenski (250-1), T6 A Cook (125-1), R Goosen (200-1), C Kirk (80-1), T Mullinax (150-1), B Snedeker (80-1), C Reavie (70-1)

Course overview Shinnecock Hills Golf Club was formed in 1891, hosting the second US Open in 1896, before a 90-year gap until again taking centre stage for the 1986 edition.

The other two US Opens at Shinnecock were 1995, won by Corey Pavin at level par, and 2004, when Retief Goosen triumphed at four under. The course the players face 14 years later is much changed, with the fast-running fairways lengthened and widened.

Lots of rainfall three weeks ago grew the rough, though, so seriously errant drives will be significantly punished. The small, well-guarded greens remain lightning fast, though, and a strong breeze typically whips across the exposed, links-like layout.

There are only two par-fives – the 589-yard fifth and the 616-yard 16th – and six of the par-fours are 475 yards or longer. The 252-yard, par-three second is a beast.

The notoriously boisterous New York galleries should make for a terrific atmosphere.

The story of last year Brooks Koepka took advantage of wide fairways and calm conditions to reach 16 under par, romping to a four-shot victory over Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama. It was just the third time the US Open champ had finished double-digits under par.

Weather forecast Sunny and warm, with moderate breezes, every day.

Type of player suited to challenge Power is an advantage at the modern Shinnecock, but fast-running fairways will keep the short-hitters competitive.

Accurate approaches to small greens are demanded, while ace short-game skills are required on and around the tricky, pacy dancefloors, many of which are like upturned saucers. This is a complete test of golf.

Key attribute Touch/putting


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Rose appears at the peak of his powers, having developed into arguably the most consistent performer on the planet
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