US Open preview and picks - Merion 2013

It's the US Open - second major of the year and the biggest talking point at the start of the week is arguably about the weather we will have leading into the event. The plan for Merion GC was to have it as fast and firm as possible but weekend rain is putting this into doubt. “I would contend that if you saw Merion firm for four straight days versus soft for four straight days, you may see an 18 - to 20-shot difference in the winning score" - Mike Davis USGA executive director.

Matt Shaffer, the director of course operations for the US Open at Merion had originally targeted the speed of the greens around 13 on the stimp and gave us some insight into the test when he said the following: "The greens are firm," Shaffer says. "I could get a bowling ball dropped from 500 feet to bounce on them. I don't normally even run Stimpmeter readings on my greens. My definition of good green speed is when you're able to read the brand of the ball while it's rolling. The greens will be somewhere north of 12 on a stimp but somewhere south of 14." This has been backed up by the likes of Graeme McDowell and some of the other pros on their twitter, some even saying they are runnng closer to 14 on the stimp.

If conditions remain fast and firm, the narrow Merion track playing just 6996 yards to a par of 70 and consisting of "rough that is a hodgepodge of rye, bent, fescue and Poa growing at different heights and densities", tough green side bunkers and slopey greens that are hard to hold could be a brutal test but if the rain keeps coming, albeit shots from the rough will be even tougher, fairways will play wider and pins can be attacked. Indeed there are some short holes but a quote I've read a few times in my research is "the short holes are short but the long holes are long" - players will not be using driver on the majority of the holes and may even opt for iron for position off many tees.

"It's going to be a chess match. I've been waiting all my life to play Bobby Fischer. I'm going to have some fun the week of the Open." is another quote from Matt Shaffer outlining the need for patience and good course management from the players. Bounce back-ability will be a huge factor with inevitable mistakes being made and the "plotters" and grinders should go well at the US Open. A high ball flight will be an adavantage if it is indeed fast and firm, although according to Webb simpson, you could be hitting wedge into the majority of the holes before the brutal final stretch if you keep it on the fairway. Shaffer also mentions that in some spots - if you stray offline - "hitting the ball from the rough is like swinging through a pile of ropes"

I've taken everything I've researched into account and targeted specific players who I feel meet the majority of the criteria needed for the US Open test this week and the staking plan is as follows: (all prices put up antepost). As always, follow me on Twitter @Nicspicks for more thoughts and insight throughout the week.

It's double points and prize money in our golf tipping competition with Stanjames this week for the US Open (free bets prizes of £30, £20 and £15). Stanjames are also places 1-7 on mobile on the US Open this week.

Pick #1: 1u ew Graeme McDowell @ 33/1
Pick #2: 1u ew Matt Kuchar @ 35/1
Pick #3: 1u ew Jim Furyk @45/1 (1-6)
Pick #4: 0.75u ew Bill Hass @ 80/1 (1-6)
Pick #5: 0.75u ew Martin Kaymer @ 80/1 (1-6)
Pick #6: 0.75u ew Zach Johnson @100/1 (1-6)
Update: 0.5u ew C.Pettersson @ 150 BV(1-7) added 11.35 11/06/13

Fancy some free US OPEN bets this week? Up to £200 in with Bet365 here

If you scroll down my favourites Twitter box below, you will see some recent quotes from the pros about the Merion set up for the US Open and also a video of Gmac going through the course.

"What Merion will really show is that length isn't a pre-requisite for difficulty. A great example for modern architects to study." - Luke donald

"Hit it straight" right to the point from Brandt snedeker

"Merion is in fantastic condition, rough is very dense and thick, greens are firming up and will stimp somewhere between 13 and 14. The last six holes are just Brutal" - Graeme McDowell

"Merion... What a golf course! Plenty of birdie chances mixed with plenty of potential disaster! Going to be an exciting US Open!" - Rory McIlroy

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Bryan Nicholson is the pioneer of the progressive form and course fit ratings for golf betting, with the associated progressive form model and course fit profiling model. Bryan is the author of the annual course fit profiling manual and #1 golf betting book Angles & Edges.

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