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Teeing Off: The Coral Golf Blog

The second major of the year takes place this week at Merion which will provide a unique test for the world’s best players. The East Course, which measures just 6,996 yards, will be the shortest US Open venue for almost a decade. Accuracy and touch is likely to be the key to glory rather than sheer power on this classic track with thick rough the punishment if players miss the narrow fairways.

The course has some of the easiest holes to feature in the championship but also some of the hardest with a brutal examination in the closing stretch. However heavy rain in recent days has softened the course and is expected to make life much more comfortable for the field. Tiger Woods starts as the warm favourite after four wins this year but a dismal showing on his last start at the Memorial Tournament has raised some question marks going into this week.

Graeme McDowell already has a US Open title to his name and there is every reason to think he could land his second major title on Sunday. The Northern Irishman mastered another short course three years ago when he held his nerve to win at Pebble Beach. This was just one of a string of fine efforts in this tournament and McDowell contended again 12 months ago when he tied for second at the Olympic Club. In addition to this, he has not finished outside the top 18 in the championship over the last four years.

McDowell’s form this season is another reason why he should be the first player in your staking plan. The 33-year-old has won twice already in 2013 with victory at the Heritage on the PGA Tour followed by success at the Volvo World Matchplay Championship. His stats in America are superb where he tops the ranking in driving accuracy percentage and scrambling. This combination of short game skills and consistency off the tee makes McDowell the best bet of the US Open. Coral are going an industry best price on the market leaders this morning and punters should snap up the 22/1 available on McDowell.

Phil Mickelson has been the nearly man in this major having finished runner-up no fewer than five times. The popular American will be determined to get his hands on the trophy, with Sunday marking his 43rd birthday, and will still believe he has enough time to achieve this. ‘Lefty’ practiced at Merion last week and was hugely impressed with the course describing it as a wonderful setup and the best he’s seen. Warming up at the St Jude Classic was the ideal preparation, for a player who prefers to compete prior to a major, and his game was in fine shape as he tied for second. Promisingly, the last two times he’s competed in Memphis he has gone on to finish seventh and joint second in the US Open.

Mickelson may lack consistency but the four-time major champion can still produce brilliant golf at his best. He was in exceptional form in February when he shot 28-under-par to win the Phoenix Open and also went close with top-three finishes at Doral and the Wells Fargo Championship. The short game wizard leads the standings in birdie average and par breakers while lying eighth in strokes gained putting. Mickelson looks ready to challenge for the elusive title and can go close at Coral’s 25/1 top price each way.

Brandt Snedeker has matured into one of the best players in the world and the American looks well placed to claim his first major title. The 32-year-old has come close to breaking through having finished tied third at last year’s Open and joint sixth at the Masters this season. These near misses have provided valuable experience and he can take heart from the victory of Adam Scott at Augusta, after the Australian overcame the disappointment of throwing away his sizable lead at Royal Lytham and St Annes. Snedeker also has an impressive US Open record having finished in the top ten twice in his last four starts.

Snedeker’s form this season, particularly in the opening months of the season, has been exceptionally good. The five-time PGA Tour winner posted four top-three finishes in his opening five events including victory at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. His stats make great reading as he’s added accuracy to his talent on and around the greens. Snedeker is third in par four performance and fourth in approaches from 50 to 125 yards. Both of these suggest his wedge game is spot on for this course and he is well worth backing at a top price of 40/1 each way.

Matteo Manassero comes into the event as one of the form players in Europe and could make a bold challenge for the title. The Italian produced a superb display at Wentworth last month as he earned the biggest win of his brief career in the BMW PGA Championship. He backed this up impressively the following week with a tie for fourth at the Nordea Masters.

Manassero has remarkable maturity for a 20-year-old with four victories already in the trophy cabinet. The short, but steady, hitter has made both cuts at the US Open and this major looks to be the one which will suit him the most. Merion should set up well for the Race to Dubai leader as he can keep out of the rough and hit wedges into the short par fours. He has yet to contend at a major but given his age that is no real surprise. Manassero looks excellent value at 70/1 each way this week in Pennsylvania.

Michael Thompson has established a growing reputation as a player who excels on tough golf courses. The 28-year-old landed his maiden PGA Tour title this year when he won the Honda Classic on another extremely demanding par 70 course. The American showed admirable composure to close out the victory which proved he can handle layouts where pars are precious.

This was also evident last season at the US Open when Thompson tied for second behind winner Webb Simpson. In two appearances at this major, he has not finished outside of the top 30. He enjoyed an ideal preparation for this week when he secured a top-ten at Muirfield Village in his last outing so confidence should be high heading to Merion. Thompson could sneak under the radar and may well be a dangerous outsider at a tempting 125/1 each way.

Follow Simon’s bets on Twitter @watfordtipster.