U.S. Open Predictions

As far as sports predictions go, it doesn’t get any harder than trying to accurately forecast who will win a golf tournament. In any given week, there are something like 30 players who could feasibly take home the trophy. Compare that to the other individual/country club sport, tennis; in those Grand Slams, there are realistically only…five?…players who could win.

Making matters worse for the golf predictions industry: Every once in a while, a Shaun Micheel or Todd Hamilton or Ben Curtis will come around, steal a major championship and rudely remind us that there are way more than 30 players who can win, should their stars align.

Thus, the following picks are educated guesses at best and indulgences in a fool’s exercise worst. But that never stopped anyone in the internetsphere. So let’s have a crack at it—here are some predictions for this week’s U.S. Open Championship, which begins Thursday morning at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y.

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SLEEPERS WHO WILL CONTEND COME SUNDAY AFTERNOON

  • Guys who have success this week will need to fly it a country mile off the tee and have a full arsenal of short-game shots. Rain last week and on Wednesday has softened the course considerably, tilting things in long hitters’ favor even more than anticipated, and the shaved areas around the greens will force players to employ a variety of different trajectories with their chips and pitches. A player I keep coming back to is Tony Finau, who is second on the tour in driving distance in 18th in strokes gained off the tee. Finau has played well in majors before—remember when he took 10th at Augusta on an ankle the size of a softball?—and he’ll be on the first page of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.
  • Bryson DeChambeau. He is long enough, his iron play is strong enough, and he is hot enough, having just won the Memorial. Winning this event often comes down to making a lot of difficult pars on long holes, and DeChambeau has the game to do it. Calling him a sleeper may be a stretch—he’s up to 22nd in the world and has a good chance of making the Ryder Cup team—but he is at least a napper, as he has never really contended in a major. DeChambeau could be this year’s Brooks Koepka: a winner who was well-known among golf fans but not so much among the crowd that only watches four times a year.

WINNER PREDICTION

So, so hard to pick against Dustin Johnson here. He’s had tremendous success in U.S. Opens. He was absolutely dominant last week. And he has the extra motivation of wanting to prove that he is the desering world No. 1. He’ll certainly be in the mix come Sunday, but I’m going with Brooks Koepka this week. He’s flown a bit under the radar this year mainly because he simply hasn’t played very much—he missed 15 weeks with a wrist injury—but he hasn’t missed a beat since his return, highlighted by a solo second at Colonial. He’ll become the first back-to-back winner since Curis Strange in 1989.

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Posted in Golf

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.

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Here’s who to target on the drafting board:

Jon Rahm

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.

Henrik Stenson

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.

Adam Scott

 

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.

Jimmy Walker

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.

Brendan Steele

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.

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Posted in Golf