This week, eight Australians and two New Zealanders get their chance to improve was has, to date, been a relatively lacklustre record for their respective countries at a US open at Pebble Beach.
In the five previous occasions the venue has staged the US Open, the best performance by an Australian or New Zealand golfer was when Bruce Crampton finished runner-up, 3 shots behind Jack Nicklaus in 1972.
The first time a professional tournament was played at Pebble Beach however was in 1926, seven years after its opening in 1919 and of course it became home, 21 years later, for the Bing Crosby Pro Am which continues today under the guise of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite, Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell are previous US Open Champions at the iconic layout 2.5 hours south of San Francisco but in 2019 Australasian chances of a fourth US Open title, following the success of David Graham, Michael Campbell and Geoff Ogilvy, appear good with Jason Day and Adam Scott the forerunners in terms of Australasian hopes.
Day still leads the Australasians in terms of world ranking but only just ahead of Adam Scott and this week it may well be a combination of trans-Tasman skills, knowledge and know-how, Day teaming with New Zealand caddy, Steve Williams, in a quest for the Queenslander’s first US Open title.
Williams was on the bag of Tiger Woods when he won the first of his US Opens at Pebble Beach in 2000 in that ridiculously easy win by 15 shots over Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ernie Els and was also involved when Woods won at Bethpage Black in 2002 and at Torrey Pines in 2008.
Day began his US Open career with a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy in 2011 in what was just his 4th major championship appearance and followed up with four top tens in his next five starts in the event. He has, however, missed the cut in each of his last two visits to the US Open.
His most recent form has hardly suggested that he is a genuine chance to win the event in 2019 although one thing in Day’s favour is a great record at Pebble Beach during the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am.
Day has recorded five top ten finishes in nine starts in the PGA Tour event at Pebble Beach and while this will be his very first US Open at the venue, and that it is played four months later in the year than the AT&T, he might be inspired enough to do well.
Only six players in the field of 156 have played the US Open on more occasions than Adam Scott (17) but although he lacks nothing in experience, his record in the event is below that of other majors in which he has competed.
Like Day, Scott has missed the cut in each of his last two appearances at the US Open and with just two top tens in those seventeen appearances his record in the event is questionable at best.
In his favour, however, is some very good recent form including when runner-up at the Memorial two weeks ago and when 8th at the PGA Championship.
Scott has never shown a capacity to perform well at Pebble Beach having missed the cut there at the US Open in 2010. Scott has not played well in his two appearances at Pebble Beach in the PGA Tour event either having missed the cut last time out in 2018.
If he can overcome his rather ordinary Pebble Beach record, then he is playing well enough to contend but that is the question.
Marc Leishman did bounce back from a series of indifferent performances with a 5th place at the Memorial suggesting things are back on track for the Victorian.
2011 was the last occasion that Leishman played an event at Pebble Beach suggesting he might not necessarily enjoy playing the layout but he is a big event player and has the right demeanour for golf at this level.
Leishman has, however, yet to record a top ten at the US Open and things might not necessarily improve this week.
Cameron Smith gets to play his 4th US Open, a 4th place finish on debut in 2015 the catalyst to a large extent for his existence on the PGA Tour. His form over the last three months has been well below what he is capable of and therefore his chances of a good week appear slim.
Matt Jones has made 11 of 13 cuts in 2019 including when 5th at the recent AT&T Byron Nelson. The former Australian Open champion is playing his 4th US Open having been forced to withdraw on debut in 2009 and missing the cut in 2014 and 2018.
Jones, though, has been a regular at Pebble Beach for the AT&T and has, on occasions, played well, twice finishing inside the top ten. It would be fair to say however that if Jones makes it to the weekend he will have had a good week.
Aaron Baddeley has shown glimpses of his best form in 2019 including when runner-up in Puerto Rico. He has made four of his last five cuts this season so his form is solid enough and he gets the chance to play his 11th US Open, one of those when missing the cut in 2010 at Pebble Beach.
There has yet to be a top ten in the event for the two-time Australian Open champion but he is playing well enough in 2019 to have strong hopes of making the weekend.
Marcus Fraser played his way into the field via Sectional Qualifying in England, an achievement in itself. He will play his fourth US Open Championship and his first since 2015 with a best of 45th in 2007.
Fraser has not recorded a top ten anywhere in 2019 however and his chances of making his first cut in his last four starts appear slim although just being in this field deserves praise.
New South Welshman Brett Drewitt has done extremely well to sneak into the field via Sectional Qualifying. He is not exactly setting the world on fire on the Web.Com Tour in 2019 but just to be here is an accomplishment.
Drewitt finished midfield in his only appearance at Pebble Beach in last year’s AT&T Pebble Beach tournament.
Two New Zealanders, Ryan Fox and Daniel Hillier, have played there way into the field via Sectional Qualifying.
For Fox it will be his second US Open having finished a respectable 41st last year. He is, however, struggling with his game at present after what had been a great start to the year including his win in Perth.
Hillier is one of the most exciting prospects to come out of New Zealand male amateur golf in many years. Perhaps not since the days of Danny Lee has there been so much anticipation about a New Zealand male amateur golfer, the Wellingtonian performing well in some of the world’s more significant amateur events.
Hillier did extremely well to make the field via Sectional Qualifying in London and what an experience it is going to be for him. Whatever he does this week he can only gain from the experience.
In his favour is his experience at Pebble Beach having played last year’s US Amateur Championship when he qualified and made it to the round of 32.
Daniel Hillier - what an opportunity
The ten Australasians in the field have no doubt mixed expectations of their week in one of the game’s most demanding tests.
For some it will be a case of just enjoying the ride whichever way it goes, for others it is the hope of making it through to the weekend while for Day and Scott their goals are no doubt set much higher.
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