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U.S. Open 2014

12th-15th June

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Made for Maryland

Our experts pick out the ones to watch at Congressional...

Last Updated: 15/06/11 1:59pm

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The year's second golf major is coming your way on Sky Sports this week.

We'll bring you comprehensive coverage of the 111th US Open with more than 30 hours of live golf from the Congressional Country Club in Maryland, Bethesda.

As Graeme McDowell prepares to defend the title he won at Pebble Beach last year, we caught up with two of the faces of the Sky Sports golf team, Mark Roe and Howard Clark, to get their tournament predictions.

Which players will enjoy the course and format? Which stars are going to be in contention? Can a European player win again? Our pundits gave us their views...

What sort of player are you looking for in a US Open winner?
The US Open doesn't necessarily favour the long hitters. If you look at the one I played in at Shinnecock back in 1995, then the winner was Corey Pavin. Curtis Strange won three times and he wasn't long at all. For me, you're looking to hit it straight and so you're looking for a constant ball-striker. I've heard Congressional is very long though, so if you're long and straight then it really is a big advantage.

HOWARD CLARK: It's a matter of who can make the least mistakes. So you're looking at a good driver of the ball, a player that is confident with his irons and a player that can adjust to the bad breaks that he will inevitably get during the week.

Graeme McDowell ended a 40-year wait for a European winner last year. Do you think we'll see another in 2011?
Well I don't think it'll be Graeme McDowell, that's for sure. His form going into this is simply not good enough and I'd be very surprised if he repeats what he did last year. You can expect a strong week from Lee Westwood. I believe that one day his ball-striking will carry him to the major he deserves. I always felt in the past that his short game wasn't strong enough to win the biggest tournaments and I still think there's work to be done in that area. Winning a major is very different to winning ordinary tournaments - or even getting to the number one spot. You have to have every component of your game on form on a particular week and that's why it's so hard.

HOWARD: I think Graeme McDowell has got a big job on his hands because he's a little inconsistent with his form at the moment, but there are very strong European contenders. Westwood and Luke Donald are definitely big contenders and I think Alex Noren will do well. He's going in with a lot of confidence; he led the qualifiers at Sunningdale last Monday and is on a bit of a roll. He's had a week off before the US Open, which is a bit of a shame because he might just have too much time on his hands and that can be detrimental. But it can also be a good thing - it depends how he handles it and I hope he handles it well.

MARK: I expect a good week from Ian Poulter. I say that because of his resilience. For me, he's got one of the biggest hearts in the game of golf; we saw that at the World Match Play when he managed to escape a few times when his golf was slightly under par. I like him under pressure and I like him when he smells an opportunity. He loves the biggest stages of all and I'll never forget the putt he made at Royal Birkdale when he thought he needed it to win The Open Championship. He banged it right in the middle and even though Padraig Harrington went on to win, it proved that Poulter is the man for the big stage.

Who else could be in contention at Congressional this week?
MARK: I fancy Dustin Johnson. He's learned from his final-day debacle at Pebble Beach last year and he was very unlucky at the PGA Championship as well when he was denied by a harsh ruling at 18. Those experiences will have taken him mentally closer to becoming a major champion and I really believe he has a good chance. You can also look to a player like Hunter Mahan as a strong contender. He's an awesome ball striker and he's somebody I've been a fan of for a while. His game should really suit a course like Congressional.

HOWARD: On the US side, I expect Steve Stricker to do well, even though he finished so edgily over the last half a dozen holes at The Memorial. I think if he'd finished that tournament in a confident mood he would have been a definite contender. He should be one, but he showed that he was nervous trying to close the deal and I wasn't expecting that. He looked like he was in absolutely perfect form and you don't just lose your form like that. Once you get nervous you usually hit a couple of loose shots, but he hit a lot of loose shots and he had to get up and down quite a few times to keep his lead.

MARK: My outside bet is Matteo Manassero. I know people say he's very young, but I believe he's ready to go and do it on the very biggest stages.

HOWARD: I think one of the Molinaris will do well. Francesco has been playing well in Italy and he's a tee-to-green man, who certainly has the game to contend at a US Open. It may come down to his short game and if that is sharp enough then he's got a chance. But there's 20 players that have got a chance so who knows, you could see an outsider win. They've all got a better chance than normal because Tiger Woods isn't in the field. Peter Hanson is not a bad bet either. He was 125/1 last week and he's a good player, it's as simple as that. He's got a good all-round game with a good caddie on the bag who will help him with difficult decisions. He can do well if he can keep his emotions in check.

Finally, give us one name. Who are you tipping to win?
MARK: My one tip would be KJ Choi. He's just won the PLAYERS Championship and his form has been brilliant all season. He's a class act and I just believe he's ready to go out and win a major. He ticks all the boxes when you're looking at the credentials of a US Open winner.

HOWARD: If I was to pick one player I would have to pick Luke Donald to break his duck and win a major. He's so consistent, he's playing so well and I don't think he'll beat himself up on the course. He has a very sound mental approach to the game and I think it's about time one of our English players follows on from where Tony Jacklin left off at Hazeltine 41 years ago.

Don't forget to tune in to the 111th US Open. Our coverage starts from 3pm, Thursday on Sky Sports HD2.

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