Tomorrow we get underway with the second of golf’s major tournaments, the US Open. Golf’s best have migrated to the Milwaukee area in preparation for one of the best weekends of the year. Let me be the first to say that I think it should be a hell of a tournament. Erin Hills has never been used as a professional course. Hardly anybody in the field has any experience there. It should be an exciting weekend full of surprises.
Erin Hills is a bit of a mystery. Nobody quite knows how everyone is going to play here. Further complicating the matter, the only players in the field with solid experience here are Jordan Spieth and Bryson Dechambeau, who played it at the 2011 US amateur. Spieth actually won said tournament.
The US Open always tends to be the most difficult tournament of the year. Once again, it looks as though Erin Hills is set up to deliver carnage once again. Spieth is on the record as saying he thinks the winner will be between 5 and 10 under.
Our word of the week has been fescue. The tall grass surrounding the fairways is the definition of thick and tall. Kevin Na put out a video a few days ago showing off the mess that is our lovely fescue. However, I think some of the concern is a bit overblown. Though the course has a nice, open links layout that should play to a pretty windy environment, the fairways are so wide that it shouldn’t matter. They’re consistently at 60 or 70 yards wide. Guys struggling to keep it straight off the tee, which, let’s be honest, it’s the PGA Tour, that’s nobody, shouldn’t have much trouble keeping it out of the rough. Not to mention, the USGA has cut down a whole bunch of that deadly rough after all the player complaints.
The bunkers here could provide a pretty interesting challenge. There are a bunch of them scattered around the course. From everything I’ve heard, the lies in these bunkers are tough, and it seems to me they could be a bit of an underrated part of the carnage this weekend.
To wrap it up, it sounds as though these greens should be fairly forgiving in comparison to the rest of the course when it comes to putting. Some of the hole locations may make for some difficult approaches, and greens-in-regulation along with proximity to the hole are certainly good stats to keep an eye on in the leadup here. However, once guys are on the green, it doesn’t sound like they’ll have too much trouble.
A Look at the Players
Here I’ll take a look at the clear four best in the world, and then I’ll mention some guys who I think are worth discussing ahead of the tournament.
Dustin Johnson: DJ is the most popular pick this week, which should come as no surprise as the pretty overwhelming favorite. However, with a missed cut at Memorial in his last run out, and a slight dip in form following his Masters mishap, I think there’s just enough risk to go away from DJ here. At 8/1, he’s also way too short for me to risk some capital on him. Though DJ is currently the best in the world and could very well come out firing here, I’d look somewhere else.
Rory McIlroy: Rory has had a pretty strange year. He’s dealt with injuries constantly, and it kind of seems like he’s in the Tiger Woods “I’m just here for the majors” state of mind. I loved his press conference this week where he got upset that the USGA was trimming down some of the fescue. It looked like fiery, competitive Rory, and I love that. It almost made me want to pick him. Unfortunately, I just can’t trust him with the inconsistency and struggles he’s had this year.
Jason Day: J-Day is another guy who’s had kind of a weird year. He’s been dealing with his mom’s cancer diagnosis and vertigo symptoms, though he has looked better of late. A lot of people have written that they think he’s got a shot at a bit of a 2017 breakout here, as he’s never intimidated by a puzzling course, but I’d stay away from the inconsistencies.
Jordan Spieth: The last of the 14/1 trio, I absolutely love Spieth this week. He’s in fairly good form, coming off a 2nd at the Dean & Deluca along with a t-12 at Memorial, and has had a pretty solid year overall. He’s also one of the few players with a fair amount of experience here. Along with all of this, Spieth is the best in the PGA in the proximity to hole stat, and 4th in GIR. Not to mention, it’s been a little while since his last major.
The Mid-Range Guys
Jon Rahm: Rahm is at 20/1! Crazy how high he has climbed this year. However, I think he’s too short this week. I’m a tad worried about his putting, and I don’t think he’s quite at the level 20/1 warrants.
Rickie Fowler: Rickie is another guy I like a lot this week. I wish he was a little longer than 20/1, but I think he’s got a great shot here. He’s been remarkably consistent this year, and as a guy from Temecula, California, won’t be fazed by the windy conditions whatsoever. Rickie is another guy who I think is due for a major victory, and with the Sergio Masters win, it might be that kind of year.
Justin Rose: Rose was a guy I was all over at the Masters, and I think he’s got a shot here after a nice response to a tough loss in the Masters playoff. The only thing I don’t like is his struggles in approach play this year. Course designer Dana Fry thinks a European is going to win this weekend, as it is set up very much like a British Open kind of course, and if you’re picking one of the top Euros this week, I think the Olympic Gold Medalist is solid at 25/1.
Adam Scott: Scott’s a steady player who plays well in the wind. I think he could be very well suited to this course. I don’t love that he hasn’t really seemed to be able to quite pull out Ws, but nice performances at the Masters and Players suggest he certainly has a nice shot here.
Kevin Kisner: Kisner is an interesting play. It’s been one of his best years on tour, as he leads the tour in top 10s. At 40/1, he’s certainly intriguing, but you have to wonder if he’s got those Majors chops.
Thomas Pieters: Another 40/1 guy, I loved Pieters at the Masters, and I like him again here. Solid all-around stats, plays without fear, and I think he’s another one of those Euros who could be sneaky good here. 40/1 is a little bit short, but he’ll certainly get a look.
Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas, and Branden Grace: The rest of the mid-range guys under 40/1 all have cases to be made for them, but I don’t particularly love any of them at the prices they’re at, though I wouldn’t go so far as to fade any either.
Marc Leishman: Leishman at 80/1 has me licking my chops. This course is being rumored to be a bit of an endurance contest favoring the young guys. However, I like Leishman’s chances to hang around as a wily veteran. He’s pretty long off the tee, and he putts pretty well. If he can clean up his approach game, a top-10 finish could easily be on the cards.
Ben An: Though An’s stats aren’t fantastic this year, he’s had some pretty consistent high finishes this year. He’s started fast in a few tournaments, and at 100/1 to win, he’ll be an interesting play, and well worth a look in First Round Leader and top 10 markets.
David Lingmerth: Lingmerth has top 20s in 4 of his last 5 starts, and he looks pretty good in those proximity to hole stats. He’s also a good putter, and at 200/1 to win and 8/1 for a top 20, he’ll be on my card for sure.
Picks from the Armchair Staff:
First Round Leader: Ben An 80/1
Sleeper: Marc Leishman 80/1
Fade: Jason Day 14/1
Winner: Jordan Spieth 14/1
First Round Leader: Justin Thomas 40/1
Sleeper: Thomas Pieters 40/1
Fade: Bubba Watson 66/1
Winner: Dustin Johnson 8/1
First Round Leader: Dustin Johnson 12/1
Sleeper: Matt Kuchar 66/1
Fade: Dustin Johnson 8/1
Winner: Justin Thomas 33/1
First Round Leader: Dustin Johnson 12/1
Sleeper: Kevin Kisner 66/1
Fade: Adam Scott 28/1
Winner: Jon Rahm 20/1
Brian Scott Rippee
First Round Leader: Brooks Koepka 50/1
Sleeper: Paul Casey 50/1
Fade: Rickie Fowler 20/1
Winner: Jordan Spieth 14/1