US Open: Harding’s accuracy might be key

Of the seven South Africans who will tee-off on Thursday in the US Open, Justin Harding would appear to be the one who will have what it takes to tame the challenging Winged Foot Golf Club layout.

According to reports, the rough just off the fairway, beyond the first intermediate cut, is the thickest of all, simply because it’s closest to sprinkler lines and gets more water. That rough is cut every day to keep it consistent, and is between five and six inches deep in many places.

That is going to place a premium on accuracy off the tee, and Harding has been hitting 62.50 percent of fairways this year on the PGA Tour, and 58.05 percent on the European Tour. Given his experience, and the way he held on in tough conditions at last year’s Masters for a strong finish, he looks as if he could once again be the best South African performer in a major championship.

Louis Oosthuizen is next best in the list of accurate South Africans at 60.63 percent of fairways hit in the United States. Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who will be making his US Open debut, sits at 58.40 percent, Erik van Rooyen at 53.57 percent and Branden Grace at 51.79 percent.

Shaun Norris doesn’t have a figure for fairways hit in the US, but his European Tour statistics reveal he hits them 51.78 percent of the time, while JC Ritchie, who plays in the tournament thanks to his triumph in the last Sunshine Tour season’s Order of Merit, hits them 52.51 percent of the time in Europe.

“The course is absolutely impeccable,” Winged Foot head professional Mike Gilmore said of the setup. “It’s going to be a memorable championship. The fairways, the tees, the greens, the rough – everything is in perfect condition right now. I think it’s just going to be an old-fashioned, challenging US Open, the kind we watched when we were kids.

“I like plus-six to win. They have to be careful it doesn’t get higher than that. If we get windy conditions and the course begins to get crusty, who knows what could happen.”

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