Odd ball choices to win the PGA US Open 2018
The PGA Tour returns to Shinnecock Hills on Long Island for the U.S. Open this week, 14 years after Retief Goosen tamed the challenging layout to win his second career major.
After Brooks Koepka bludgeoned Erin Hills last year to the tune of 16-under par, the USGA has strengthened the test this year, with four-inch rough just a couple feet off the fairway.
With an incredibly strong field featuring all of the top players, it should be a dramatic week at the season’s second major.
Here’s who to target on the drafting board:
There isn’t much value on the board with the top players in the field, but Rahm’s is as good as it gets. The 23-year-old already has five wins in his career, and he’s coming off a fourth-place showing at the Masters. Rahm ranks second on tour in strokes gained: off the tee, so he should be able to avoid the unforgiving rough around Shinnecock Hills and give himself plenty of chances to shoot at flags. The fiery Spaniard is prone to emotional meltdowns, but strong play this week should help him avoid that and net him his first career major title.
Any tournament requiring accuracy plays right into Stenson’s hands, as the Swede is among the most precise players in the world. He leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained: approach the green and greens in regulation on shots from 200 yards or more. Both of those stats will be crucial around a Shinnecock Hills layout in which seven of the par 4s play 469 yards or longer. Stenson has also shown he’s at his best in the biggest events on tour, posting five top-15 showings in his last seven majors.
For a long time, it didn’t look like Scott would be playing in the U.S. Open, but the Australian star went to sectional qualifying and took care of business to make the field. He’s employing a local caddie this week that he has used in previous trips to Shinnecock Hills, including one in 2013 that saw him shoot a then-course record 63 from the championship tees. That familiarity with the course, and solid play of late, make Scott an attractive option.
Walker is certainly trending in the right direction heading to Shinnecock Hills, as he’s posted three top-six finishes in his last five starts. The other two showings are both in the top 25, so it’s safe to say the 2016 PGA Champion is on top of his game right now. While Walker has missed the last two cuts in the U.S. Open, his form lately is too good to pass up this week.
If proficiency off the tee is going to be a premium, Steele is a quality long-shot, as the veteran pro is eighth on tour in strokes gained: off the tee. The 35-year-old’s career record in major championships hasn’t been great, but he does have two straight top-15 showings at the U.S. Open. A strong ball-striking week should give Steele some opportunities for a number of birdies, and, if he can roll in a few putts, don’t be shocked if he’s around Sunday afternoon.