The third major of the golf year has arrived and despite a shadow hanging over the sport the best players in the world will head to Boston for what is often considered the toughest test of the year – the US Open.
Jon Rahm didn’t find it overly tough at Torrey Pines last year as he won his only major to date on one of his favourite tracks. He is back to defend his crown but he’ll do so against many of the leading lights in the game.
2021 – Jon Rahm
2020 – Bryson DeChambeau
2019 – Gary Woodland
2018 – Brooks Koepka
2017 – Brooks Koepka
2016 – Dustin Johnson
2015 – Jordan Spieth
2014 – Martin Kaymer
2013 – Justin Rose
2012 – Webb Simpson
Professional golf returns to Brookline Country Club in Boston for the first time since the 1999 Ryder Cup, the one where the Americans riled the Europeans by dancing all over the penultimate green before the contest was won. This will be the first time the US Open has been here since 1988 when Curtis Strange took care of Nick Faldo in an 18-hole play-off. As with most US Open tracks the course is a par 70 which stretches out to 7,264 yards.
With this being a US Open the rough is going to be thick and it is going to be juicy. This is a course where accuracy and management surpasses power and length anyway but into these small greens it is especially the case. These are among the smaller greens on the US Open rota and with the weather in the lead up being warm and muggy the course is likely to start firm and fast so playing from the fairway is a must. Small greens usually mean a good short game is required.
There will be attention on so many players this week and not necessarily all for the right reasons with those who teed it up on the rival tour last week who have qualified for this event still eligible to play. Two men who will get attention this week despite not leaving the PGA Tour are Scottie Scheffler and Justin Thomas, the men who have landed the first two majors. The other major holders – Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa – are both in the field too.
The winner in Canada last week is also here in Rory McIlroy while a number of former US Open champions are also in the field such as Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Gary Woodland and Justin Rose. Players looking to win their first US Open who have a tee time here include Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Cameron Smith, Tony Finau, Sam Burns and Will Zalatoris. Shane Lowry, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood bolster the European charge with the likes of Hideki Matsuyama, Corey Conners, Mito Pereira and Joaquin Niemann complimenting the international challenge.
Rory McIlroy will tee it up on Thursday as the 11/1 favourite on the best prices. It is rare a player wins two weeks in succession but if the former champion can put up the numbers he did with the short irons last week then he is going to be extremely tough to stop here. We know he’ll drive it well so if last week was a sign of the things to come from the second shot and within then he’s a big threat. If it was just a good week then others should be preferred here.
The man he edged out in Canada last week is the second favourite at 12/1 this week. That is the USPGA Championship winner Justin Thomas who goes in search of a second major in succession here. He has two top 10s in seven starts in the US Open but I’m not convinced this tournament plays to his strengths. He will have to have a good week on and around the greens to have any chance and while you should never write off great players in form, he feels a little tight at the prices to me.
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler and the defending champion Jon Rahm are next in the betting at 14/1. Rahm has all the tools to defend his title around here but the concern would be that he hasn’t really looked like winning many majors apart from at Torrey Pines which is like a home course for him. Scheffler is another who has the game to tame this place but I just wonder if he has come slightly off the top of his form since he won at Augusta. Big players tend to rise to big occasions so neither can be ruled out.
Xander Schauffele comes next in the betting at 22/1. He is a big player in the majors and in five attempts at the US Open he is yet to finish outside the top seven. That is a record which has to be respected but I wonder if he is playing as well now as he would have been doing then. In saying that, he comes here off the back of a run of 5-13-18 in his last three events so he knows how to hang tough. He is second in the all-around statistic this year and that is never a bad judge here.
Matthew Fitzpatrick is a pretty obvious bet here. This is the course he won the US Amateur at nine years ago so he has good memories of Brookline and he has the perfect game to tame the beast in the main event here too. In the majors this season Fitzpatrick has gone 14-5 and that fifth at the USPGA Championship was one of seven top 10 finishes he has had on the PGA Tour since Phoenix. One of the reasons why he would have won the US Amateur here is the quality of his short game. It is excellent but he’s pretty good from tee to green too and if he can just cut out a few mistakes and manage his own expectations then he is entitled to take a great deal of beating here.
Sam Burns is my other main bet this week. He has been in sensational form since around May last year. He has won four times and been second on another three occasions. He comes in here off the back of a fourth placed finish last week too. If there was one negative about Burns it is that he hasn’t really contended in a major yet but they might just be how rapid his ride has been because he certainly has the game to go well in these demanding spheres. He sits sixth in bogey avoidance which is never a bad statistic this week and he was fifth in strokes gained tee to green last week picking up more than 11 shots on the field in that department. He is a good putter and has a decent short game so he should deliver his best showing in a major so far here.
I’m going to roll the dice on a few outsiders this week with the first of those being the man who has won this tournament before and who so nearly carded a 59 last week in Justin Rose. Rose is your typical US Open sort in that he’s solid off the tee, decent into greens and has the necessary imagination around the greens. Although the PGA Tour set the course up for the players to have some fun in Canada on Sunday you don’t shoot 60 and have a putt for a 59 if you don’t hit the golf ball well. Rose peaks for the majors and was T13 at Southern Hills. He should be a major player here.
Mito Pereira went much better than Rose at Southern Hills and had the tournament in the palm of his hand on the final tee on the Sunday only to deliver the worst swing of the week. There is still an element of that being a concern here but he hasn’t exactly regressed since that week which is a positive. He has come back with finishes of 7-13 in two competitive events. In both of those tournaments he was third from tee to green in terms of strokes gained and you get the feeling the tougher the test off the tee the better he’ll be. He has a workable short game and putted well at the PGA and in Canada last week. He is another for the staking plan.
Harold Varner III has been the second best of the major players in the field in the last couple months in the cumulative strokes gained around the greens department and the short game is going to be a big thing around here. Varner isn’t going to be the straight off the tee but he has the power to muscle it out there and will be going into the greens with shorter clubs. He also has the imagination around the greens to manufacture shots and if his putter can have a good week and he can be relatively tight with the driver then I see him having a decent week as well.
I always like to have a homer in my major squads and that player this week is Keegan Bradley a proud Bostonian who is playing at a course not far from where he grew up. He’ll have played this course a few times in his formative years and we know he is going to be straight enough off the tee to allow the rest of his game to determine how well he goes in this tournament. Bradley is a major champion and that shouldn’t be ignored this week. His short game doesn’t get the credit it deserves so if he can have an advantage of knowledge on the greens then he could be a lot more than a sleeper this week.
I’ll also throw a complete shot in the dark at this tournament as well and that will be Lucas Herbert. He was T13 at Southern Hills but he shot two rounds of 68 that week. He has won at linksy type terrain on the European Tour and already has a PGA Tour win to his name as well. He was in the top 10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and that week got extremely tough so there is enough to consider that he can go well here. In his last two starts he’s been eighth both times in strokes gained around the green and nobody picked up more shots on the field on the greens than him at the USPGA Championship. If his driver keeps him in the game this week the Australian could go very well on a track which should bring out a lot of his strengths.
Back M.Fitzpatrick to win US Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with Bet365 (1/5 1-8)
Back J.Rose to win US Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 61.00 with Bet365 (1/5 1-8)
Back M.Pereira to win US Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 71.00 with Bet365 (1/5 1-8)
Back K.Bradley to win US Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Bet365 (1/5 1-8)
Back L.Herbert to win US Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 276.00 with Bet365 (1/5 1-8)
Back S.Burns to win US Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 31.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-9)
Back him here:
Back H.Varner III to win US Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-10)