We look at which players to oppose at next Week's US Open
The distinct characteristics of the US Open tend to favour players with a specific set of skills. And just as the consequence is to produce a number of tournament specialists, there are at least as many otherwise decent players who rarely if ever look like prospering in this major.
Quite simply, US Open courses take no prisoners. Anyone struggling for accuracy off the tee will be severely punished, forced to take their medicine and chip out sideways from very penal rough. Similarly, the weekend can be a tortuous affair for anyone whose scrambling skills are short of top-class. Most of all, this is a psychological test. Players with a short fuse, or who would rather shoot the pin and chase birdies than patiently accumulate pars, are never likely to prosper in this major.
The tournament records of several otherwise plausible candidates provide plenty of evidence of these trends, including the following five. While nobody is going to get rich laying any of these in the outright market as none are anywhere near the favourites, there is plenty of mileage in laying them to reach the top-10, and taking them on in matchbets and 2-balls.
Having so nearly become the oldest major winner of all-time at the Masters, Kenny Perry is bound to have his supporters. And if this were almost any other event in the US, it would be easy to make a case for the 48-year-old. After all, he's won four tournaments in the past 13 months. However, Perry has struggled badly in this major over the years. A distant, never in contention third place at Olympia Fields in 2003 is the Kentucky man's only top-10; a disturbing record given that he's been playing the US Open since 1988.
Rory Sabbatini is another with strong claims on recent form, having won the Byron Nelson Championship. But he will need to improve dramatically on an absymal tournament record. Besides one near-miss in the Masters, majors have never been Rory's strong suit, and the South African has never even made the top-50 in this particular one from seven tries. The explanation for Sabbatini's US Open misery is straightforward; he is renowned for impatience, and tends to prefer courses that he can attack. That approach is suicidal in the US Open.
No such obvious explanation can be made for Justin Leonard's repeated failure in this major though. The 1997 British Open champion would appear to be well suited to the test, with accuracy and a classy short game his specialities. Nevertheless, the formbook doesn't lie, and the fact that Justin hasn't made a single top-10 in 13 attempts must make the Texan a man to oppose across a variety of markets.
Even at his best, Stuart Appleby would be hard to fancy in this major. The Australian star has generally under-achieved in majors, but has at least made a British Open play-off and shown the odd snippet of form at Augusta. His efforts in the US Open have proven an unmitigated disaster though, leaving the strong impression that he really needs a bit more room off the tee to prosper. In his last 10 attempts, Appleby hasn't even made the top-25. Add in a disappointing 2009 so far, and Appleby looks a good bet to miss the cut.
Finally, KJ Choi has shown promise in all the other three majors, but is another who has never come to terms with this gruelling test. Eight attempts at the US Open to date have produced five missed cuts and a best of just 15th place. So while the admirable Korean, a fairly prolific PGA Tour winner, often takes the eye at big prices in majors, he also looks one to oppose at Bethpage.