U.S. Open Preview
June 11, 2018
By Dan Daly
Editor's Note: Be sure to follow @_DanDaly on Twitter this golf season for his off-the-cuff remarks and entertaining commentary!
What’s the old saying; ‘A weatherman is the only person that can be wrong more than 50% of the time and still have a job?’
Well, apparently Mike Davis (who runs the USGA for those that don’t know) is the only person that can be wrong ONE-HUNDRED percent of the time and still have a job. It’s truly amazing actually.
In the first 110 US Open’s, four players had ever reached 10-under par or better. In the seven US Open’s since Davis took over, ELEVEN players have reached 10-under or better including three of the four lowest winning scores in relation to par. Throw in the disastrous set-up at Chamber’s Bay in 2015 and the complete DJ debacle at Oakmont in 2016 and the Mike Davis era at the USGA is officially the worst tenure any one person has ever had at one organization…and it’s not even close.
I tell you this because the 2018 US Open, like the 2016 US Open, returns to one of the best golf courses in the world, Shinnecock Hills (one that should be on a very short list to even host a US Open) yet I’m certain that Mike Davis will find a way to ruin this majestic course as well. The course has been lengthened by 449 yards (or roughly 25 yards per hole) since it was last played there in 2004. That’s basically nothing when you throw in technology and the modern golf ball. So what did Mike Davis do…he WIDENED the fairways by an avg of 15 yards per hole (or roughly 60%) from 25.57 to 41.57 yards per hole. Like I said, Mike Davis is a complete moron who can single-handedly ruin the best golf courses in America.
So how will Mike Davis affect this year’s US Open? Let’s break down the field and find out.
As always, betting odds are at the time this was written and will likely change throughout the week.
Rory McIlroy 10/1 – Rory currently has the course record on the newly designed Shinnecock Hills with a 65, so he’s got that going for him. He’s also seen a drastic improvement in his putting the last three months which lead to a win at the Arnold Palmer back in March. I will also give him bonus points for openly ripping Mike Davis and the USGA. But part of that may stem from the fact that since winning the US Open at Congressional in 2011 (where he made Mike Davis look like a fool), Rory has missed the cut at the US Open three times, including each of the past two years with only one Top-10 finish since then at Chambers Bay. Basically, as long as Mike Davis continues to run the US Open I would stay away from Rory.
Jason Day 15/1 – The guy literally withdrew from the Memorial Pro-Am with a self-described "man cold." I don’t know what that is and I don’t care, I’ll pass. I’m sure he will somehow develop chicken pox in the middle of the second round and have to play with oven mitts taped to his hands.
Rickie Fowler 18/1 – This is the year. No, this is the year. No THIS is the year. Copy/Paste. One day the Rickie Fowler super fan is going to finally get to say “I told you so.” Then again, maybe not? Either way I’m not going into major debt to continually back a horse that simply can’t cross the Major finish line first and still has less than five PGA Tour wins. I like the guy, I really do, and I think he will be around the leaderboard this weekend, I just refuse to put money on a guy that can’t ever seem to close the real deal (on the golf course anyway).
Bubba Watson 45/1 – If you ever bet on Bubba Watson to win a US Open you either don’t like money or don’t understand anything about golf…or gambling...or life in general really.
Patrick Reed 22/1 – The guy was sneaky hot going into the Masters. Not quite so hot headed into the US Open. Only six golfers have ever won the Masters and US Open in the same season…I’m willing to bet Patrick Reed isn’t the seventh.
Jon Rahm 18/1 – As far as talent goes, Rahm certainly isn’t lacking in that department. He has two PGA Tour wins and three more on the European Tour in his very short career to date. Throw in a fourth-place finish at the Masters and quite frankly at 18/1 he seems like he is due to win a major at any moment. The problem is the guy still has the maturity level of a 3 year old and if he threw that big of a temper tantrum last year at Erin Hills I can’t even fathom what Shinnecock is going to do to the guy (think Roy McAvoy when David Sims fired him mid-round). Until Rahm grows up I’ll continue to pass on him winning a major…especially the US Open.
Phil Mickelson 30/1 - The guy is a SIX time runner-up at the US Open. Strike one. Phil turns 48 on Saturday of the US Open, which would make him nearly three years older than the tournament's oldest winner (Hale Irwin/’90) IF he were to win on Sunday. Strike Two. While his 2018 has been impressive so far, Phil has missed the cut in two of his last three starts in a Major and is coming off a forgettable T-36 at the Masters. Strike Three. He’s out. And to add insult to injury, 14 years ago at Shinnecock Phil was tied with Goosen before a three-putt double bogey (from no more than five feet) on the 71st hole cost him a US Open. Leaving what I would imagine is a horrible mental scare for him around this place. Sure, Phil winning and getting redemption from 2004 and becoming just the sixth player to win the career Grand Slam in the Masters era would be a cool storybook ending on several levels…but this is the real world and here in the real world, Phil isn’t winning this week.
Bryson Dechambeau 50/1 – Say what you want about the guy and all his quirks, but he has played some of the best golf on the PGA Tour the last three months which includes a recent win at the Memorial to go with three other Top-5 finishes since March. With that said, I don’t recall a time when a guy hit it as bad as Bryson did on a Sunday (at the Memorial) and still went on to win. His short game was nothing short of magical. The bigger red flag to me though is that he has yet to contend in a major, having yet to crack the Top-30 in a Major as a professional. I think he will this week, I just think he needs a little more contending in a Major under his belt before he is ready to win one.
Brooks Koepka 28/1 – My man! The defending US Open champ where we cashed on him last year at 40/1. The wrist injury seems to be an afterthought at this point considering Koepka fired three 63s in a recent five round stretch including a T-11 at the Players and a runner-up finish at Colonial. Sure he looked very pedestrian at the St. Jude but he did the same thing last year and went on to win the next week. My bigger issue here is winning back to back. Curtis Strange (’88-89) is the only player win back to back US Open’s since Ben Hogan in 1951. In other words…it’s really frickin’ hard to do and with all due respect to Koepka I just don’t see that happening this year.
Hideki Matsuyama 30/1 – I think people forget he is only 26-years-old. The guy already has two Top-10’s at the US Open, including a T-2 last year. I just don’t think this type of course sets up as well for Hideki. His only MC at a US Open came at Oakmont, which is much more similar to Shinnecock than any other US Open he has played in (Thanks again Mike Davis).
Jordan Spieth 12/1 – I’ve learned no matter how Jordan is playing going into the Masters he will always be a threat. To a lesser degree I feel the same way about the other three Majors as well. The dude has the ability to flip a switch, the likes of which have rarely ever been seen in any sport. But my gracious, he is in one of the worst putting funks I have ever seen a PGA tour player have…at least from someone that could actually putt and putt well at one point. Spieth has as many missed cuts as he does Top-10’s in 2018 (4 of each). I certainly know better than to bet against Spieth in a Major, but there is no way I trust my money this week on that putter.
Justin Thomas 15/1 – It’s almost impossible to find a flaw in his game right now but two things stand out this week for me with JT. First, and less important, I don’t love betting on guys that are switching putters in and out in the weeks leading to major. Second, and more importantly though, Thomas recently said he and Rickie Fowler made a trip to Shinnecock last fall and "both shot the easiest 65s ever." Yeah, that’s all I needed to hear. I love JT and lord knows he is more than talented enough to win this, or any week for that matter, but I believe in Golf Gods and karma and a comment like that will not sit well with either. I certainly wouldn’t blame you for liking the recently dethroned world number one this week and I’m all for confident and even a little cocky, but quotes like that are like kryptonite for me when it comes to betting.
My Top 5 for this week…
Tommy Fleetwood 50/1 – My darkhorse pick for the week. From tee to green there aren’t many better in the world. He finished fourth at last year's US Open and I think will contend again here where ball-striking will be even more at a premium. His putting is still the wildcard, but improving, and if he can putt even halfway decent for four days don’t be surprised to see Fleetwood there on Sunday afternoon. I think at 50/1 he is a good bet this week and I really like him in prop bets against guys with similar odds. If nothing else I think he is a great play for a Top-20 and Top-10 bet this week.
Henrik Stenson 33/1 – I think any golf course that puts a premium on hitting the fairway is a huge advantage for Stenson. He is going to wear out that 3-wood of his this week and play to his strengths. My biggest concern is his all-around short game. The guy chips and putts like a 10-handicap sometimes, but with even Par a good score on this course I think Stenson plays well this week.
Justin Rose 18/1 – Rose will be a very popular pick this week, and for good reason. He is a US Open winner (at a real US Open track), he is a recent winner on Tour, he has been playing about as well as anyone on the planet the last six months and his game has little to no flaws at the moment. I think he is a safe bet this week for prop bets, matchups, the works. My only concern, and the only reason I don’t have him winning this week, is the fact that he has missed the cut six times in 12 US Open starts.
Tiger Woods 14/1 – I am a Tiger homer, I admit it, but I also can’t overlook the fact that the guy lead the field at the Memorial (and a stacked field at that) in Strokes Gained…Tee to green, Approach to the Green and proximity. Basically the three things that determine who is hitting it the best in the field that week. And it wasn’t an anomaly, he is near the top in every one of those categories for the year. Unfortunately for him it didn’t matter because arguably the greatest clutch putter in the history of golf made Adam Scott look like Ben Crenshaw…and quite frankly has for most of the year. The guy missed 7 putts inside of 5 feet for the week at The Memorial. He missed 9 putts inside of 5 feet the entire 2006 PGA Tour season. So yeah, that’s a problem. Although driving is a premium at Shinnecock his struggles off the tee don’t concern me near as much. With a fast a firm course he can hit that stinger two-iron all day and when he does miss his driver they are so far off line that the difference between barely missing and missing badly is virtually the same for everyone there. I don’t care how good he hits it, if he putts like he did at Memorial he has no chance even though his short game is also back to being one of the best on tour. BUT, if he can hit it as well as he has all year, and especially at The Memorial and somehow remembers how to putt, then yes, I think he absolutely can win this week. Remember, the guy arrived at the US Open in a twenty million dollar private yacht, most of which was paid for because he didn’t miss a single putt that mattered in a Major Championship.
And your 2018 US Open Champion…
Dustin Johnson 9/1 – I know, wow, you’re picking the favorite, how very bold of you. Well, anyone that has followed me over the years knows I hate picking the favorite and very rarely do because quite frankly since peak Tiger they very rarely win. But this week the obvious choice is in fact that correct choice. Every person I looked at this week has at least one red flag…except DJ. I actually don’t love the fact that he won last week leading in but I certainly wouldn’t classify winning the week before a Major a red flag. Even with the wider fairways, length and accuracy off the tee are going to be at a premium this week and ask yourself this. If a gun was pointed at your head and you had to pick one person in the world to hit the fairway with a driver 300+ yards would you really pick anyone other than DJ? I know I wouldn’t. Until his MC at Erin Hills last year (coming off the fluke “injury”) he had gone T-4, runner-up, win in three consecutive US Opens. Oh and his win came at Oakmont, you know the true US Open style course that required length and accuracy. Throw in the fact that he is leading the tour in Strokes Gained…off the tee, tee to green and overall, and yeah, I like his chances a lot this week. Sometimes the favorite is the favorite for a reason. I don’t know about you but “only” making nine times my money seems perfectly ok to me.
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