STAR PREVIEW: US Open Golf

In an incredible sporting summer, the World Cup is sure to be dominating punting minds but there’s a double treat with golf’s second major, the US Open, starting on Thursday.

This year’s venue is Shinnecock Hills, formed in 1891 and located in New York. It’s held four US Opens, and on the last occasions only two players finished under par through the whole week. Alternations have been made since then, but Shinnecock remains a very exposed, narrow, links-style course where driving straight will be a big advantage.

Given the extremely tough nature of the course, links players have really thrived at the US Open, and Branden Grace (35/1 with starsports.bet) looks almost tailor made to this sort of test. It’s easy to make a form argument for the South African. He didn’t take to Memorial last week, but this course is a whole different ball game and previously he’d tied for third in the AT&T Bryson Nelson and the week before he’d finished fifth at Wentworth.

Grace, a previous winner of the Dunhill Links Championship, is a links master and has placed in two of the last three US Opens. He has a further trio of top-sixes in the Open and USPGA, to underline his skill in such situations, and outside of the Masters, he is one of the most consistent players of a Major one could find.

Emiliano Grillo (80/1 with starsports.bet) has just made it into the US Open for the third straight year following a strong summer and this could be the year that the 25-year-old Argentinian really makes an impact.

A good third at the Fort Worth Invitational put him into the world’s top 50 and his 23rd last time out at the Memorial was an ideal tune-up. His tour stats this season show a prodigious talent, and he’s in ninth position for strokes gained, a key feature of finding US Open winners. A ranking of 12th for driving accuracy bodes well and he looks too big not to have on-side.

This is an exceptionally strong renewal of the US Open, thanks to a stellar cast at the top of the market, and Justin Thomas (14/1 with starsports.bet) is just too talented to leave out of the portfolio. He hasn’t quite kicked on since losing a playoff to Phil Mickelson for the WGC-Mexico Championship, with his putter going cold at The Masters when he most needed it. He has since finished 11th with fast closing efforts in The Players and Memorial Championships. He was ninth last year at only his second US Open start and if he can put together a decent first round, he should be well placed to strike over the weekend.

Phil Mickelson (33/1 with starsports.bet) makes appeal to fill the last missing spot on his trophy cabinet. A US Open specialist – he has six runners-up finishes and should have won the tournament twice before, at Winged Foot and perhaps here in 2004 – his brilliant approach play has always given him an edge here and whilst his driving hasn’t been foot perfect, that has not been the key to success in the past at US Opens and it wasn’t here 14 years ago.

He’s hitting form at the right time, with a thirteenth-place finish at The Memorial Tournament and then a twelfth last week in the St Jude behind Dustin Johnson. Had he avoided a horror show for 10 holes in round one he’d have been seriously in contention there and he’s second ranked on the PGA Tour in putting. A win earlier this year should have helped his confidence and he’s worth chancing.

Last but never least, Rickie Fowler (18/1 with starsports.bet) is the last selection to make it onto the shortlist. Fowler is a perennial Major contender who will land one sooner rather than later, and his Masters effort this year only confirmed that his turn is coming soon. His record in the last five Majors reads 11-5-22-5-2 and he was fifth last year. His US Open record can be hit or bust (10-2-MC-MC-5 over the last five years) but fourteenth at Fort Worth and eighth at the Memorial suggest a big effort is coming soon.

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RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)

BACK BRANDEN GRACE 2 points each-way 35/1 with starsports.bet

BACK EMILIANO GRILLO 1 point each-way at 80/1 with starsports.bet

BACK JUSTIN THOMAS 2 points each-way at 14/1 with starsports.bet

BACK PHIL MICKELSON 1 point each-way at 33/1 with starsports.bet

BACK RICKIE FOWLER 2 points each-way at 18/1 with starsports.bet

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