Steve Palmer's US Open predictions, best bets, free golf tips, course guide
Collin Morikawa can claim back-to-back Major success with his laserlike irons
Golf tips, best bets and player analysis for the US Open at Winged Foot Golf Club.
Where to watch
Live on Sky Sports Golf from 12.30pm on Thursday
3pts each-way 16-1 Hills
3pts each-way 16-1 Hills
2pts each-way 30-1 Hills
2pts each-way 25-1 Hills
1pt each-way 300-1 bet365
The post-lockdown PGA Tour schedule has been largely filled with low-scoring shootouts on easy courses, but the purists get something to savour this week as the US Open returns to the famous West Course at Winged Foot.
The leaderboard-topping totals in the five US Opens at this brute have been six over par, two over, seven over, four under and five over, with the notoriously demanding greens sending competitors crazy. Even the typically unflappable Dustin Johnson, clear favourite this week, may find his patience tested on his first visit to Winged Foot.
Johnson can be clumsy around the greens and is just a shade too short a price to be trusted to maintain his hot streak this week. He was in similar nick when arriving at another AW Tillinghast design (Baltusrol) in 2016 for the US PGA, having just won the US Open and the WGC-Bridgestone and boasting form figures of 1-1-9-2. Punters leapt aboard for the US PGA, but he opened with a 77 and missed the cut by seven shots.
After a draining FedEx Cup campaign, there must be a chance that Johnson fails to maintain his stellar form on uncharted terrain this week and preference is for healthier odds about five of his compatriots. A sixth consecutive American US Open champion seems likely.
Steve Palmer's top tip
Collin Morikawa 16-1
When Tiger Woods held all four Major titles at the same time, but did not win them in a calendar year, the achievement was quickly labelled the Tiger Slam. Only one player is capable of winning all three Majors of 2020 and it is feasible that golf fans could spend Christmas discussing the Covid Slam of Collin Morikawa.
Comparisons with Woods have been understandable given both were born with an ability to hit their irons to a ridiculously high standard. Morikawa is arguably the best iron-player in the sport and that asset stands him in great stead at Winged Foot, where finding the right sections of the massively undulating greens is one of the main keys to success.
Morikawa's career progression has been rapid - he turned pro just before finishing 14th in the Canadian Open in June last year and he shed his PGA Tour maiden tag in the Barracuda Championship the following month. Two more victories have followed - both proving that he has the guts to match his game and superstar quality.
A Muirfield Village playoff victory over Justin Thomas in July was followed by a two-shot US PGA triumph, where weekend rounds of 65 and 64 saw Morikawa overcome Johnson and others to become a Major champion.
Inexperience probably cost him the chance of being a more serious title contender in the Tour Championship last time out - the 23-year-old was making his East Lake debut at a track known well by others - but after a slow start he finished strongly to end the week as the seventh-best scorer in the 30-runner field. The vast majority of the US Open runners are making their Winged Foot debut, so Morikawa suffers no handicap this week.
The Nevada-based Californian closed with a 69 for 35th place on his US Open debut last season and he can be a more serious contender this time. Morikawa won the 2017 Northeast Amateur (Rhode Island) in this region and the former world number one amateur could end up the king of New York on Sunday.
Next best bet
Xander Schauffele 16-1
Californians could end up taking charge - they are comfortable on these bentgrass/poa greens but more importantly many of them are bursting with form - and Xander Schauffele can throw down the gauntlet to Morikawa.
Schauffele was the best scorer in the Tour Championship by three shots - 15 under par for 72 holes - but the handicap system meant that was good enough only for second place behind Johnson. Since his last victory, Schauffele has finished second five times, and there may not be anyone else in the US Open line-up more determined and ready for the Winged Foot grind.
Schauffele has said himself that his game is better suited to difficult courses - he can hang tough while others wilt - and US Open form figures of 5-6-3 underline that fact. His Majors record is incredible for one so young and a W may be added to the glittering CV on Sunday.
Patrick Cantlay 30-1
Webb Simpson 25-1
Brandon Wu 300-1
Four Californian-born youngsters have made the five-strong staking plan. Patrick Cantlay has relocated to Florida, so had an easier journey to Winged Foot, and he should be relishing the all-round examination of this legendary layout. It puts demands on every department of your game - and Cantlay's is without weakness.
The 2019 Memorial champion has failed to seriously contend post-lockdown, but 12th place in the super-tough conditions of the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields last time out bodes well for his chances of success on another devilish par-70 this week.
Cantlay, third in last year's US PGA at another Tillinghast design (Bethpage), is fresh for the fight, having failed to qualify for the Tour Championship, and the same can be said of Webb Simpson, who skipped the BMW to retain energy for more important future battles. Simpson's caddie Paul Tesori would have appreciated the breather too - he has had back problems - but both are fit and focused as they bid to win the US Open together for a second time.
Simpson won the 2012 US Open at a tough par-70 (Olympic Club) and has finished tenth and 16th in the last two editions. Given how deadly he has become with his wedges and how he has established himself as one of the best scramblers on the circuit, Winged Foot seems an excellent opportunity for further Major glory and a third victory of this season.
Compete the attack with Brandon Wu, who has spent most of his life living a ten minutes' drive from Winged Foot and is thrilled to have qualified for a hometown Major. He left it late to get the gig - winning the Korn Ferry Tour Championship at the end of August - and is good enough to make an impact.
Wu moved to Dallas in February, but his parents still live in Scarsdale, up the road from Winged Foot, and his comfort in the area, allied to golfing gifts which allowed him to finish 35th in the US Open last year while an amateur star, make three-figure prices attractive. This is a class act going places who could upset the more established names.
Winged Foot course guide
Course West Course, Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York
Prize money $12.5m ($2.25m to the winner)
Length 7,477 yards
Course records - 72 holes 269 Davis Love (1997 US PGA Championship) 18 holes 65 Justin Leonard, Jeff Maggert (1997 US PGA Championship)
Cut Top 60 and ties after 36 holes
Playoff format Two-hole playoff, with sudden-death from there if tied
When to bet By 11.50am on Thursday
When to watch Live on Sky Sports Golf from 12.30pm on Thursday
Time difference New York is five hours behind the UK and Ireland
Last week - Safeway Open 1 S Cink (200-1), 2 H Higgs (100-1), T3 D Redman (35-1), C Reavie (35-1), K Streelman (40-1), B Stuard (150-1), T7 S Burns (50-1), K Ventura (90-1)
Course type Parkland
Course overview Winged Foot is a private club which opened in 1923 - AW Tillinghast designed two 18-hole courses - the West and East. The West is the more famous of the pair and it has hosted several prestigious events, including the 1984 US Open, the 1997 US PGA and the 2006 US Open. The 2004 US Amateur was staged on both the West and the East. In the soft conditions for the 1997 US PGA, Davis Love romped to 11 under par to triumph by five shots, but life was much tougher for the 2006 US Open competitors. A five-over-par total was enough for Geoff Ogilvy to win that US Open, the last time Winged Foot has been on the PGA Tour schedule. The winning score has been over par in four of the five US Opens at Winged Foot. In 2006, the scoring average was 74.99 and only one hole - the par-five fifth - played under par for the week. This week that hole has become a 502-yard par-four. There are no lakes or large water hazards - just a couple of creeks - but every hole is a stiff examination. The fairways are flat but narrow, there are several doglegs, the rough is juicy, and the elevated green complexes are hugely undulating. Tillinghast also created two other famous New York tracks - Bethpage Black (2019 US PGA venue and 2002 and 2009 US Opens) and Baltusrol (2005 and 2016 US PGAs).
The story of last year Gary Woodland took a one-shot lead into the final round at Pebble Beach, California, and carded a 69 to stretch his advantage to three shots and become a Major champ, leaving defending champion Brooks Koepka as runner-up.
Weather forecast Cloudy start before a sunnier weekend, with light breezes throughout.
Type of player suited to the challenge As with most A.W. Tillinghast courses, the approaches are hugely demanding to closely-guarded, severely sloping greens. Accuracy on approach, sharp scrambling and a silky putting touch seem the keys to success.
Key attribute Touch/putting
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