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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 15, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

    Swede to spring surprise at Congressional

    Paul Gallagher

    Major number two of the season and it’s a pair of Majorless English swingers – also at number one and two in the world – who are top of the pile in the betting markets.

    Luke Donald and Lee Westwood head into this week’s US Open as the top-ranked players in the world and you sense both would give their right arm for a win at Congressional and rid themselves of the dreaded ‘best player never to have won a Major’ tag.

    Swede Peter Hanson looks a value bet ahead of the US Open at Congressional this weekend.

    Swede Peter Hanson looks a value bet ahead of the US Open at Congressional this weekend.

    On the eve of the action in Washington, Donald said he would have no hesitation in swapping his world number one title for the four Majors Phil Mickelson has under his belt.

    “Certainly being number one is a great achievement, but if you ask me if I would swap that for Phil’s record, sure,” said Donald, second favourite in the betting to Westwood.

    “I would love to take his Majors and the number of victories he’s had. But I’ll continue to feed off all the good things that have got me to number one and hopefully I can add to my victories too.”

    Westwood is a general 12/1 to win and is closely followed by Donald at around 14/1. Tucked in behind is Lefty (16/1) – who has five US Open runner up finishes to his name – while the odds compilers still fancy Rory McIlroy to bounce back from his final round collapse at the US Masters in April.

    McIlroy has been saying all the right things this week, especially when many are suggesting he is destined to become the best in the world.

    “There’s no point in everyone saying you’re going to be a Major champion when you’re not one. You have to go out and prove them right and prove to yourself that you deserve to be one,” said the 22-year-old, who is fourth in the betting at anything from 18/1 to 22/1.

    “It’s very flattering and it’s great that people are saying these things about me, but I need to do it first and I haven’t done it yet.

    “I just need to go out and play the golf that everyone thinks I’m capable of. And if I can do that for four days, then hopefully I’ll be sitting in front of you guys on Sunday night and saying maybe I could be a multiple major champion.”

    McIlroy said it was disappointing from a tournament point of view that the injured Tiger Woods is not competing this week, but the upshot is it affords him and others a better chance of winning.

    Defending champion Graeme McDowell comes into the US Open with the weight of expectation lifted from his shoulders. The 31-year-old is content the  whirlwind 2010 season is behind him and is ready to draw a line and begin another chapter of his career.

    “Somehow, having arrived here, I feel like I’ve done it now,” said McDowell. “I’ve handed my trophy back and I’m ready to sort of get on with the rest of my career.

    “I’ve got nothing to defend this week. I’m level par Thursday morning the same as everyone else.”

    If punters fancy his chances of a repeat of Pebble Beach 12 months ago there is certainly value to be had. G-Mac is 40/1 with Paddy Power but can be snapped up at 74/1 on the Betfair exchange.

    Pádraig Harrington continues to slide down the rankings and is searching for a more laid approach in the hope of “just letting it happen” on the course. It’s worth noting the triple major winner’s purple patch of two British Opens and a US PGA took hold from the summer of 2007 when a certain Mr Woods was sidelined once again with injury. Can history repeat itself? If Paddy’s yer man he’s available at 129/1 (Betfair).

    Irish Times golf correspondent Philip Reid took a closer look at Shane Lowry’s preparations at Congressional this week and was of the opinion the Clara golfer is completely at ease on his US Open debut. Lowry, winner of the 2009 Irish Open as an amateur, is a pretty cool customer and displayed his best form as a professional at the recent PGA Championship at Wentworth. Perhaps punters could do worse than throw a couple of euro each-way on the fourth Irish player in the field; sure why not, he’s almost 500/1.

    With European golf riding on the crest of a wave at present, who’s to say there won’t be another winner from this side of the pond. At present the yanks are finding it tough to get their hands on the four most coveted pieces of silverware in golf. McDowell (US Open), Martin Kaymer (US PGA), Louis Oosthuizen (British Open) and Charl Schwartzel (US Masters).

    The Americans were also sent packing at last year’s Ryder Cup and any one of that victorious European team competing this week will fancy their chances. For what it’s worth, Dead Rubber’s value bet will go on Swede Peter Hanson (160/1). He’s a composed character with decent form, long enough to cope with the 7,574yard layout and has a repeating swing which, like McIlroy’s, is aesthetically pleasing.

    If looking elsewhere, don’t rule out the unflappable KJ Choi (33/1), he won the AT&T National at this venue in 2007, while Anthony Kim (199/1) won the same title in 2008, though the latter’s form has been patchy at best.

    The last time the US Open was played at Congressional in 1997 Ernie Els came through and this time around the ‘Big Easy’ is touching 100/1 on the exchanges to repeat the feat.

    It’s anyone’s guess, really, but when running your finger down the list don’t dismiss a certain Swedish Ryder Cupper’s chances of a surprise win.

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