This past week was the beginning of the 2020/2021 PGA Tour season as the golfers took to Napa Valley for the Safeway Open. This coming week will be the second major of the 2019/2020 season out in New York at Winged Foot. Confused? We all are. Regardless of when the tournaments are happening it is still an exciting week as we lead into one of the tougher tests in golf, the US Open. NFL may have started this past weekend and casual fans might not be following golf as closely anymore but it is still major championship week which is always a fun time.
- Field: 156 golfers / top 60 and ties make the cut
- Course: Winged Foot Golf Club
- Greens: Poa
- Length: 7,477
- Par: 70
- Defending US Open Champion: Gary Woodland (Pebble Beach)
Below are all of the different ways to qualify for the US Open:
- Winners of the U.S. Open over the last ten years
- Winner and runner-up from the previous year’s U.S. Amateur and winners of the previous year’s U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur
- Winner of the previous year’s Amateur Championship
- The previous year’s top-ranked amateur golfer in the world
- Winners of the Masters, Open Championship, and PGA Championship for the last five years
- Winners of the last three Players Championships
- Winner of the current year’s BMW PGA Championship
- Winner of the last U.S. Senior Open
- Players who win multiple U.S. PGA Tour events during the time between tournaments
- Top 10 finishers and ties from the previous year’s U.S. Open
- Players who qualified for the previous year’s Tour Championship
- The top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking as of two weeks before the start of the tournament
- The top 60 in the OWGR as of the tournament date
- Special exemptions selected by the USGA
- All remaining spots after the second top 60 OWGR cutoff date are filled by alternates from qualifying tournaments.
As with all major championships, the top of the betting board will be loaded with the premier golfers in the world, including Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, and Justin Thomas. We will touch more on the four of them in detail a little later on. Major Championship week also means we will get Tiger Woods back on the course. Tiger hasn’t posted a top 30 finish since January but you can’t ever really count him out in majors.
One key note leading into the week is that two-time US Open champion, Brooks Koepka, has withdrawn from the field with an undisclosed injury. This comes as a surprise and certainly gives a boost to the other favorites in the field.
Since the playoffs just finished and prior to that we had the PGA Championship, we have had the liberty of seeing most of the top golfers in the field very recently as opposed to normal years when a lot of them would be competing overseas or taking time off prior to the event. I’ll be considering recent form more than normal when looking for outright value.
Winged Foot Golf Club, located in Mamaroneck, New York, will be the host of the 120th US Open. This course has hosted the US Open multiple times in the past so we do have some course history notes that will be helpful when looking to break down the field. Most recently, the 2006 US Open was played here and saw Geoff Ogilvy take home the title. Maybe more so though, that event is remembered for Phil Mickelson hitting a wayward drive on the final hole to choke away the lead and finish 2nd. It was also the last major championship to be won by a golfer who did not shoot under par in any of his four rounds. That speaks to how challenging the course will play.
The course is a beast of a par-70 that stretches to over 7,400 yards. Typically this course plays as a par-72 but will drop the additional two strokes in order to make it more championship ready. The length will certainly be an obstacle for the golfers this week with four different par-4s reaching over 475 yards. There is also a par-5 that will play over 600 yards and will be a three-shot hole to almost everyone in the field. In 2006, only one hole averaged a score below par for the week. Par will be a good score on any hole. There isn’t a ton of water or hazards to deal with. Instead, the golfers will face 18 challenging holes that will test them mentally and physically. Oftentimes, they will be happy with a bogey and to move on to the next hole. Birdies will be rare to come by.
There are a number of challenges that the golfers will face throughout their 72 holes. First, the greens which Jack Nicklaus once called “the most difficult set of greens I’ve ever seen.” They will be fast, firm, and angulated making both holding approach shots and putting quite the test. The rough is the next difficulty. It will be long and thick which will surely penalize golfers for not driving the ball straight. And, of course, the length in itself will offer a big obstacle. When you combine length, thick rough, and firm greens, it sets up to be one of the tougher tests all year, and perhaps in recent memory.
Winged Foot should reward the combination of accuracy and power off the tee as well as a solid approach game. Avoiding big numbers and limiting mistakes will be of the utmost importance. The 2006 US Open saw greens hit, fairways hit, and scrambling percentage all well below the tour average. With how difficult it will be to hit these greens we will add an extra emphasis on around the green play as well.
- Strokes Gained: Approach
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
- Bogey Avoided
- Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
- Par 4s 450-500 yards
Dustin Johnson +800
What a summer it has been for Dustin Johnson. A runner-up finish at the PGA Championship springboarded an impressive stretch to close out the season. Since then, all he has done is posted finishes of 1st, 2nd, and 1st, which included winning the FedEx Cup. He has been truly dominant on the course which is confirmed in the stats. Throughout his past five starts he has gained 8.8 strokes tee-to-green and 4.7 strokes on approach. DJ seems to be putting for birdie inside of 20 feet on nearly every hole. When looking at all notable stats over the past six months, he is far and away the best golfer in the field.
The last time the US Open was at a course this challenging was in 2016 at Oakmont. That was a week that challenged the golfers in all the same ways that Winged Foot should. The winner of that major? Dustin Johnson. It is difficult to rationalize taking a golfer at odds below 10/1 but if there was ever a time it may be this week. A reasonable strategy may be to only bet him and then see how it plays out. I’m tempted.
Jon Rahm +1000
Rahm is also piecing together a great summer of golf posting four top-6 finishes in his past six starts. He sank a winding 66-foot putt to beat DJ at the BMW Championship and then backed that up by finishing 4th at the Tour Championship. He is rightfully the #2 ranked golfer in the world but if there is one point in his game where he has inconsistencies it is with approach. He ranks 41st in the field at strokes gained: approach and if the irons are not dialed in at Winged Foot then the golfers are in for a frustrating stretch of golf. I’ll be looking elsewhere for outright bets.
Rory McIlroy +1400
Prior to the PGA Tour needing to take a pause back in March, no one had been playing better than Rory. Since golf’s return, he has yet to finish inside the top 8 and his game has clearly not been as sharp. I had bet him each of the past two weeks and he was able to post his two highest finishes in the past six months by placing 12th at the BMW and 8th at the Tour Championship. I’m a huge Rory fan but I can’t bet him at 14/1 to win this week. His stats have been far too inconsistent as of late and he hasn’t had the good form I’d like to see coming into the event.
Justin Thomas +1400
Of the four favorites to win, Thomas is my preferred play. He is 1st in the field on approach, 10th on long par-4s, and 6th around the greens. He also tends to limit his mistakes when he does get into trouble which leads to him being 10th in bogey avoidance. He is long enough with the driver to be able to attack the course but is controlled enough to keep the ball in play. JT made a late charge at the Tour Championship but was a little too late and ultimately finished 2nd.
He does have a win in the past two months and hasn’t missed a cut since June. Another interesting item of note is that Thomas’ current caddie is none other than Jim “Bones” Mackay who, of course, was the long time caddie of Phil Mickelson and was on the bag for the almost-title that was 2006 Winged Foot. I’ll be looking long and hard at the 14/1 number and will see if we can get any line movement to add some more value.
Outright futures value
Xander Schauffele +2200
One of the more popular figures when it comes to betting, Xander continues to be one of the most consistent golfers in the world. He has proven that he has what it takes to compete in premiere fields, most recently finishing 10th at the PGA Championship and 2nd at the Tour Championship. At this point in his young career, he has seemingly won everything except for a major. He has a WGC, Tour Championship, and Tournament of Champions all to his resume.
We’re looking at key stats, recent form, and experience when trying to pick a US Open winner. Xander has it all going for him. Over the past six months he is 4th in the field Off the Tee, 1st in Bogey Avoidance, and top-20 in both around the green and par-4 scoring. His irons do tend to get shaky but at the Tour Championship, he still posted a 2nd place finish with losing strokes on approach. Recent form is great with Xander finishing top-25 or better in eight straight events. He hasn’t missed a cut on tour since January. Experience points in a good direction as well. Last year’s US Open saw Xander post a 3rd place finish in the same season that he finished 2nd at the Masters. A breakthrough in the majors is coming for Schauffele and I think it could be this week in New York. Give me all the 22/1 that I can find.
Webb Simpson +2800
If we are looking for consistent ball strikers who hit greens and keep the ball in the fairway then look no further than Webb. He is always near the top of the tour in scoring and that is due to his all around solid play. He is top 20 in this field in approach, par-4 scoring, and bogey avoidance. He may not be quite as long off the tee as some other guys in the field but where he lacks in distance he makes up for in accuracy. Over the past 50 rounds he is 11th in the field in fairways hit. If the rough really does play to the 4-5 inch length that is currently being projected then it is going to be incredibly important to keep the ball in the short grass and accuracy may end up being more important than length. If that’s the case, I love leaning on a guy like Webb at 28/1.
Daniel Berger +2800
Another week of golf and another week where Berger looks to be a good play. He has been playing some next level golf as of late and his results have been showing. Seven top-10 finishes in his last eleven starts, and that doesn’t even include the 13th at the PGA Championship. He has been gaining strokes on approach, off-the-tee, around the green, putting, etc etc. I see no reason why he can’t conquer the elements that the golfers will face this weekend at Winged Foot.
The last US Open that played this difficult was in 2016 at Oakmont and Berger posted a respectable 37th place finish. It could have been even better despite a rough 77 on the final round. He also posted a 6th place finish in the 2018 US Open which proves he is ready for the big stage. We are looking for relevant stats, good form, and experienced golfers. Berger checks all the boxes and I think 28/1 is a great value on him to break through for his first major this week in New York.
Matthew Wolff +6000
Another young golfer who has shown promise of being ready for the big stage is the former Oklahoma State Cowboy. I’m sure he’ll have some extra motivation after seeing the other young star on tour, Collin Morikawa, claim the first major of the year. But motivation isn’t the only factor pointing to success for Wolff. He finished 4th at the PGA Championship which silenced many of his critiques. He finished out the season with a 16th at the BMW but failed to make the Tour Championship. That does mean he’s had a couple extra weeks to get ready for the US Open which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
If this does turn into a bomber’s track then Wolff sets up great. He is one of the few golfers in the world that lines up with both distance and accuracy. Over his past five events played, he leads in both of those categories. He is typically near the top on distance but is starting to hit it straighter which lines up perfectly for Winged Foot. He can be a bit inconsistent with the putter but historically he gains more strokes on Poa than any other surface, and that is what the golfers will see this week. Winning upside, a recent top-5 major finish, and a great driver of the ball. I think 60/1 is way too high of a number for someone with the skill set of Matthew Wolff.
There are two main ways to attack the board this week. The first would be to take DJ at +800, maybe one more in the 25/1 range, and then move on. The other approach would be to target multiple golfers in the 20/1 – 30/1 range with guys like Xander, Webb, and Berger. There are arguments to be made for each approach. I’m not sure which route I will go yet but either way I am beyond excited to get this week to get started. Major Championship season is underway and I can’t wait for Sunday.