This week we will be in Oakmont, Pennsylvania for the 2016 US Open. In what is one of, if not THE most brutal test in golf, the U.S. Open involves every facet of a golfer’s game to be at it’s very best.

What to expect? 

The U.S. Open is widely regarded as the toughest event in the golfing calendar, year in, year out and whilst many are desperate to play in this wonderful event, by the end of the week they can end up very demoralised.

U.S. Open’s courses are typically setup to play hard and normally straying from the fairway is often penalised. Whilst this makes a welcome change from seeing some golfers hit the ball 300-320 yards into the rough and then having a simple shot into the green, the rough can often go from penal to just plain unfair.

We should expect an over-par winning score, similar to that of the +5 winning score in 2007.

Recent winners of the U.S. Open

Last year, Jordan Spieth made it 2 wins in the first 2 majors after taking the Masters and the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. Spieth managed to hold on after a horrendous finish from Dustin Johnson, who is still looking for his first major.

Prior to Spieth winning last year, European players went through a great spell at the U.S. Open.

In 2014 Martin Kaymer ran-away with this event, finishing 8 shots clear of Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler. Kaymer finished on -9, whilst the two runners-up were -1 and they were the only 3 golfers to finish under par on the week. At times it looked like the German was playing a different golf course to everybody else.

This was the year after Justin Rose had won at Merion, three years after Rory McIlroy’s victory at Congressional in 2011 and four after Graeme McDowell’s triumph at Pebble Beach in 2010.

Webb Simpson did manage to secure a home victory in 2012 to break up the run, but nonetheless it is very promising for European golf that these players went on to win this event in recent years, as McDowell was the first European winner of a U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin’s win in 1970.

The course

Oakmont CC fits the bill for tough tests and has hosted the U.S. Open a record 8 times in the past, making it 9 times this year.

It last hosted this event in 2007 when Argentine, Angel Cabrera took the spoils with that +5 winning score.

With the rough being as deep as 5″ in places, making it almost impossible to advance your ball if you miss the fairway by  a significant amount it is unlikely we will see much difference in scoring this week.

There were just 8 under par rounds recorded in total in 2007 with Cabrera producing two of them and I imagine we will be in for something similar this year.

Oakmont was only made a Par 70 prior to the 2007 U.S. Open and around 7,000 trees were removed ahead of the event giving it more of a links feel. In addition to the removal of trees, the bunkers were deepened, making the course even more challenging.

Mike Davis (Head of the USGA) said that Oakmont will remain largely unchanged from the 2007 renewal, with the same yardage, tees, fairways widths and contours etc.

Approximately 7,500 more trees have been removed from the course, giving it an even more wide-open feel however this will not change the way the course plays as they were already far removed from the fairway.

Oakmont is home to the longest par-3 (288 yard 8th hole) and the longest par-5 (667 yard 12th) on Tour, making this difficult test that much harder.

Key contenders

Jason Day

U.S. Open record:

5 appearances

Results timeline: 2-59-2-4-9

Jason Day has dominated over the last year and has now won 10 times on the PGA Tour (including a major) after winning the PGA Championship last August.

He struggled when turning pro in 2007 but finally secured his 2010 PGA Tour playing privileges, after finishing 2nd at the 2009 Puerto Rico Open and since then Day hasn’t looked back.

When winning his first PGA Tour event in May 2010 (HP Byron Nelson) he became the youngest Australian to win on Tour.

He had to wait 4 years after near misses, mainly in major championships before winning the WGC Match Play event in 2014 but has since been on an incredible run.

Day won 6 times in 2015, starting with his win at Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance Open) in February and ending with a second win in the FedEX Cup play-offs at the BMW Championship.

Starting 2016 in familiar fashion, he won twice in March (Arnold Palmer Invitational & WGC Match Play) and again in May (Players Championship) meaning he already has 3 wins to his name this year.

This recent form equates to 7 wins in his last 18 starts, meaning he is winning just under 39% of the events he enters.

With four top-10’s in 5 starts at the U.S. Open (including two 2nd’s), Day should be the clear favourite for the event given his recent form and you would be practically insane to rule him out.

Jordan Spieth

U.S Open record:

Appearances: 4

Results timeline: 21-MC-17-1

Spieth played in the 2012 U.S. Open as an amateur and performed admirably, finishing T21 and as the low amateur however he missed the cut on his return to the event in 2013.

In the last two years however, when he has really been at the top of his game he has finished T17 and 1st.

Whilst it has looked like Spieth has struggled in 2016, he has still done better than most and already has two wins on the year, most recently at the Dean & Deluca tournament a few weeks ago.

Since his well documented collapse at the Masters his results read MC-18-1-57, so whilst he has not been at his best he has still won since and his T2 finish at the Masters can’t be looked at as all doom and gloom, considering he had the added pressure of defending his Green Jacket.

He is part of the “big-three” along with Day and McIlroy but he will no doubt want to return to World No.1 as soon as possible.

A two-time major winner already, Spieth is constantly contending in major tournaments and he will look to do that again at this difficult course, defending at a major for the second time this season.

 

Rory McIlroy

U.S Open record:

Appearances: 7

Results timeline: 10-MC-1-MC-41-23-9

McIlroy has endured a mix bag in U.S. Open’s so far, winning one and finishing in the top-10 a further two times, however he has missed two cuts and also finished 23rd or below in the other two starts, which is not exactly what is expected from the former World No.1.

The U.S. Open he won in 2011 didn’t follow suit to past years either, as he shot -16 and won by 8 strokes at Congressional Country Club. He simply won’t be able to produce those numbers here at Oakmont and in all the four majors he has won he has shot double-digits under par, so this will be a very different test.

Not only has he shot double-digits under par in all his major wins, but he has done so in all of his professional wins except the Australian Open when his winning score was -1.

Make of that what you will but I believe he is more suited to birdie-fest type events, instead of these gruelling tests. That is not to say he cannot win, because he can win anywhere, such is his ability, I just think don’t think he feels as comfortable in the tougher style events.

His current form is excellent so he may well take that momentum into this week’s event, at a course that is new to him. McIlroy didn’t play his first U.S. Open until 2009, which was two years after they last played here in 2007.

Like Spieth, he will be keen to take that World No.1 crown away from Day and also add to his Irish Open win last month.

Dustin Johnson

U.S Open record:

Appearances: 8

Results timeline: 48-40-8-23-MC-55-4-2

Whilst he has only missed one cut in his career at the U.S. Open, he had hardly excelled until recently, by his standards.

Johnson is a 9-time winner on the PGA Tour and we all know he is an exceptional talent at some point it seems inevitable that he is going to overcome his demons and win his first major title.

On the 18th hole at Chambers Bay last year, with a putt a little over 12ft left for eagle it looked as though Johnson was going to put all the past misery behind him.

Had he of made that putt he would have leapfrogged Spieth and won by a shot, instead he rolled it 4ft passed and missed the one coming back, meaning no birdie and no play-off, giving Spieth the win.

Clearly there are mental issues when it comes to Johnson getting the job done in a major, but given how good of a player he is and the skill-set he possesses I am adamant he will take home a major championship eventually.

He made his first start at the U.S Open in 2008 so like the “big three”, he is playing Oakmont for the first time and there is a keen sense of intrigue around him this week, as there always is.

Despite not winning yet this season, Johnson has six top-5 finishes (including a T4 at the Masters), and five more finishes inside the top-20 so he is in fine form and is due a win on the year.

Key stats

Driving Distance

Greens in Regulation

Scrambling

Bogey Avoidance

As you will read in multiple previews across the week, there is a somewhat myth that you have to be accurate off the tee to win a U.S. Open. A myth is too strong, it is important just maybe not quite as important as it first seems. You do need to be straight, even if it the least important of all statistics, and if you can hit it long and straight off the tee, you are in the money this week.

The reason I am favouring distance over accuracy off the tee this week is because everyone will miss these fairways at some point during their rounds, the difference is that some golfers may be some 40 yards further down than others. You cannot advance the ball far from the rough, so if you are going to be in it, it pays to be that bit closer to the green when you are.

Hitting greens is key, getting your shots to hold on these fast greens is a big aspect of scoring and if you do miss the green or the ball lands on target but doesn’t hold your scrambling is going to have to be top-notch.

Maybe most important this week is Bogey Avoidance. There will not be many opportunities to score on this course, so making par will definitely be good enough to move up the leaderboard especially at holes like 8 and 12.

Betting tips

With all this in mind, here are four players who I believe represent good value in the betting this week.

Justin Rose 28/1 (General) 2pts e/w:

I agonised over this pick the most as although he looks like the perfect selection, there are injury concerns. Rose has not played since the Players Championship, citing a bad back but he did tweet three days ago saying “Busy week in the gym and on the course preparing for the U.S. Open. Made really good progress”. Hopefully this means it was more of a case of resting since the Players rather than being physically unable to swing the club.

In 10 appearances at the U.S. Open, Rose has a win and two top-10s (including a T5 finish on debut in 2003).

Over the last four U.S Opens, Rose has gone 21-1-12-27 and given his form in the event, his form in recent majors and past (good) experience with the course, I am happy to side with him.

He played at Oakmont in 2007 and finish T10 and since then has gone on to win 11 times across the European and PGA Tour, including that 2013 U.S. Open win at Merion.

It may mean nothing, but Merion is also in Pennsylvania and given his form at U.S. Opens in that area reads 10-1, it may well be a good omen.

Since winning at Merion in 2013, Rose has finished no worse than T27 in any major and has four top-10’s in that span.

Statistically Rose is a good fit here too, ranking 4th in Greens in Regulation, 19th in Driving Distance and 42nd in Bogey Avoidance whilst he can easily improve on his 107th in Scrambling and 120th in Strokes Gained- Putting.

Rose has played 11 times on the PGA Tour this season, finishing in the top-6 three times and also adding a further five top-20’s (including a T10 at the Masters).

Patrick Reed 50/1 (General) 1pt e/w:

The 2015 U.S. Open was a story of what could have been in the end for Reed, who shared the lead with eventual winner, Jordan Spieth thru 36 holes.

Reed opened up 66-69 which was good enough for -5 which was of course the winning score, however round 3 did not go to plan. His game fell to pieces on the Saturday, making 3 bogeys and 3 doubles, which he could only counter with 3 birdies.

His final round 71 (+1) was enough to give him a still respectable T14 finish at only his second U.S. Open and with hopefully his biggest collapse now over, he can look forward to Oakmont this week.

In two starts at the U.S. Open, Reed has finished T35 & T14 and given the fact he finished in the top-20 of all four majors last year, he clearly has the pedigree for these events.

His T14 here last year is he best performance in a major to date, but I am confident he can go better 12 months on.

In 17 events on the PGA Tour this season, Reed has finished in the top-10 on nine occasions, including three 2nd’s so he is clearly playing some good golf.

Reed is not hitting greens regularly enough (94th in GIR) nor is he putting well enough (107th in Strokes Gained – Putting) by his standards, but the reason he is still managing to score well is the fact he ranks 1st in Stroked Gained – Around the Green and specifically 2nd in Scrambling as well as 4th in Bogey Avoidance, two of the Key stats this week.

We know Reed can hit the ball far enough, if he hit them and can putt a little better on greens that everyone will struggle with throughout the week, he could easily contend. At 50/1 I am happy to take that chance.

Brandt Snedeker 70/1 (Betfred & BoyleSports) 0.5pt e/w:

Snedeker is not standing out in any one category this year and he has also been fairly up and down, but that has not stopped him securing a win already on the year at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he shot the round of the year at a weather-effected Torrey Pines.

He ranks 15th in Bogey Avoidance, the highest ranking of his out of the Key stats, but it’s his past performances in this event that were enough for me to take the plunge on him at a fancy price.

In his last 5 U.S. Open appearances, Snedeker has finished 8-11-17-9-8 so whilst he has mainly finished in and around the top-10 he has proven he is comfortable in this event and he also has past experience of Oakmont.

In 2007, Snedeker finished T23 here and also ranked 2nd in Putting Average for the week. His putting has always been one of strengths and given the fact he had not won on Tour at that point and has now won 8 times, he should definitely stand a better chance this time around.

Since his T10 at the Masters he has been a bit hot and cold, missing the cut at the RBC Heritage, Players Championship and the Byron Nelson, but also posting top-25’s at the Texas Open and the Dean & Deluca (which was his last start).

The fact he finished 10th at Augusta when firm and fast and also won at Torrey Pines which was playing particularly tough that week gives me hope he can contend here.

Charl Schwartzel 80/1 (Coral) 0.5pt e/w:

Charl Schwartzel is an incredibly gifted golfer who probably gets overlooked at times purely because when he is playing bad he often looks awful. He can miss some short putts, he’s hit some questionable shots in his time but he has also won 11 times on the European Tour and twice on the PGA Tour, including his win at the 2011 Masters.

In his career at the U.S. Open he has gone 48-30-MC-16-9-38-14-MC-7, so generally speaking he does pretty well.

Three top-20’s including two top-10’s are promising and when 14th in 2013 he was T2 thru 54 holes. He got off to a bad start in round 4 and never really recovered, but it was an impressive week on the whole and given that was at Merion (Ardmore, Pennslyvania) I am happy to chance he can play well again in the same region.

He did play here in 2007 and finished a very respectable T30 and I think he can massively improve on that.

In 13 events this year on the PGA Tour, Schwartzel has a win (Valspar Championship), a 6th place finish and a further 4 top-25 finishes, so he’s been playing solid for best part of the season and he looks good recently.

In his last two starts he has finished T25 (Dean & Deluca) and T11 (Memorial Tournament) so he should have some momentum behind him leading into this week.

The South African ranks 14th in Greens in Regulation, 19th in Bogey Avoidance and 26th in Scrambling so he looks solid across the board which is exactly what we need this week.

DraftKings selections

I will be putting all four of the players above in my DraftKings line-ups so I will not bore you with writing about them anymore, but here are some other players who I think can be vital to you line-ups this week.

Jason Day ($12,100) – 

Simply put, he has the most obvious chance of anybody in the field to win this week and that is why he is the most expensive. Whilst you cannot afford to have him in too many line-ups, you certainly won’t want to leave him out completely.

Dustin Johnson ($11,000) – 

Johnson should have definitely won a major by now, including this one last year and eventually he will.

At $11,000 you need him to win to represent value for money, but he has every chance of doing that this week, as he does every time he tees it up.

Matt Kuchar ($8,500) – 

In his last 6 starts at the U.S. Open his results read, 6-14-27-28-12-12 which is very solid over a reasonably long-span. In his last four starts on Tour he has finished 3-3-6-4 so he is in as good a form as possible without winning. Kuchar provides a very solid option around the 8k range.

Paul Casey ($7,900) – 

Not a player I particularly like backing in terms of betting but he provides a solid fantasy option this week, given his salary. He is 9/12 on the season for cuts made and has posted 3 top-10’s, including finishing 4th at the Masters. He finished T10 here in 2007 after shooting a 66 in round 2 (field average was 76.933 that day).

Lee Westwood ($7,700) – 

Westwood has missed just one cut in his last 10 years U.S. Opens (2014) and has posted five top-10’s in his career in this event. His last 6 starts at the U.S. Open read 16-3-10-15-MC-50, so he plays solid enough on these sort of tracks. Westwood also came T35 here in 2007 and is in very good form in general this season. After finishing T2 at the Masters already his belief should be sky-high.

Daniel Berger ($7,200) – 

Berger finished T28 in his lone U.S. Open start (2014) and is coming off the back of his first PGA Tour win at the St.Jude Classic. That win took him to four top-10s on the season and 14/17 cuts made. His salary was set before his break-out win last week otherwise he would surely have been higher.

Webb Simpson ($7,000) – 

5/5 at the U.S. Open over his career including one win, the 2012 winner looks good value at 7k. He has finished T11 and T3 on his last two starts, finding form at the right time.

Tony Finau ($6,700) –

Added to the field late by way of alternate the 2016 Puerto Rico Open champion looks good value at sub-7k. He performed admirably on his U.S. Open debut last year at Chambers Bay, finishing T14 and followed that up with a T10 at the PGA Championship, not a bad start in his first two majors. If he can finish anywhere near the top-14 again this week, he will prove an absolute steal at $6,700.

Retief Goosen ($6,300) –

The two-time U.S. Open winner is in great form this season, making 12/13 cuts and has finished in the top-10 once and the top-14 a further four times, three of which came on his last three starts (12th, 12th, 14th).

 

 

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