U.S. Open Preview
“We’re not trying to humiliate the best players in the world, we’re trying to identify them.”
-Former USGA Competition Committee Chair Sandy Tatum
Shinnecock Hills, Southampton, Long Island, New York
7,445 Yards, Par 70
The first time Shinnecock Hills hosted the U.S. Open (1896), it was a 36-hole event played at 4,423 yards. The golf world has changed slightly since then. Claiming to be the oldest formal organized golf club in the United States (1891), have the first clubhouse (1892) and being the first to admit women (right from its opening), Shinnecock is a historic venue on New York’s upscale Long Island. Shinnecock is the only club to host the U.S. Open in three different centuries.
Don’t expect a repeat of Erin Hills at this links-style track. Tough Poa Annua greens and long fescue will punish. The course is very susceptible to the wind, which can cause holes to play much different than they normally would. Seven of the par 4s will play over 450 yards in length, and the par 5 16th is a 616-yard behemoth. Chances are the winning score will be below par, but it won’t be -16 like last year.
156 Players, Top 60 and Ties Play the Weekend
Unlike a normal tournament, where the top 70 and ties advance, the U.S. Open kicks out even more. Anyone within 10 shots of the lead on Friday night used to make the cut, but no longer. This is one of the most wide-open events in terms of qualifying, as big-name PGA players don’t necessarily make it (JB Holmes, for example) but players you’ve never heard of do.
The playoff format has also changed from a full 18-hole round to a two-hole aggregate format. If the players are still tied after two holes, they go to sudden death.
An extremely loaded and talented field will be hitting a dimpled white ball around to win the cleverly named U.S. Open Trophy.
Here are some key stats to consider:
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
Par 4 Scoring
Strokes Gained: Ball Striking
Here are the current odds (as of 6/12):
Dustin Johnson 7/1
Jordan Spieth 16/1
Justin Thomas 16/1
Rory McIlroy 16/1
Justin Rose 18/1
Tiger Woods 18/1
Brooks Koepka 20/1
Jason Day 20/1
Rickie Fowler 20/1
Jon Rahm 22/1
Phil Mickelson 25/1
Bryson Dechambeau 35/1
Henrik Stenson 35/1
Hideki Matsuyama 35/1
Branden Grace 40/1
Tommy Fleetwood 40/1
Jimmy Walker 50/1
Patrick Reed 50/1
Paul Casey 50/1
Sergio Garcia 50/1
Bubba Watson 60/1
Francesco Molinari 60/1
Louis Oosthuizen 60/1
Alex Noren 65/1
Marc Leishman 65/1
Patrick Cantlay 65/1
Tony Finau 65/1
Webb Simpson 70/1
Adam Scott 80/1
Matt Kuchar 80/1
— Five of the past 12 US Open winners had a win on the season before their victory.
— Seven of the past eight US Open winners had recorded at least four top-10s on the season before their title.
— All of the past eight US Open winners ranked inside the top 20 in Greens in Regulation percentage for the week of their championship (the past two winners were first in GIR for the week of their win).
As with any good field on the PGA Tour nowadays, you can pretty much pick the top 25-50 players out of a hat. Anyone that gets hot with the putter or bruises greens through the weekend can win. If we look at the two most important statistics this week, Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, one name stands out. DJ currently resides at the top of both categories, and that’s why he’s a fairly heavy favorite.
There are plenty of storylines. Phil Mickelson is once again attempting to complete the career grand slam, after a record six runner-up finishes and a year after taking this event off for his daughter’s high school graduation. Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy are trying to regain their respective forms, up-and-coming stars Tony Finau and Jon Rahm are looking to win their first majors and of course Tiger Woods is trying to win his first major since the infamous broken leg of 2008.
Brooks Koepka kind of came out of nowhere last year to dominate this event, although he’d had a good record in previous U.S. Opens. Other players that fit this bill: Jason Day (5 out of 7 Top 10s in U.S. Opens) and Branden Grace (T4 at Chambers Bay, T5 at Oakmont). While I’ll be pulling for Rickie Fowler, Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, I’m going to roll with a little-known Branden Grace.
Have a great Father’s Day weekend and be sure swing out and play some golf before the end of the tournament Sunday afternoon! It should be another great major. Happy golfing!