To Scottie, or not to Scottie๐Ÿฅˆ


History lesson

PINEHURST, NC

It was a rough Sunday at Read The Line. I wrapped up my week watching Collin Morikawa come in second to Scottie Scheffler. While walking with that final group, our second runner-up finish of the day was confirmed when Ayaka Furue failed to catch a ridiculous round by Linnea Strom at the ShopRite in New Jersey. TWO runner-up finishes in one Sunday.

We are onto Pinehurst, North Carolina...

This week is going to be fun. I love betting on golf because it forces you to make difficult (and fun) decisions. Heading into the 124th United States Open Championship there is one player who is the favorite by a mile. This situation takes me back to the days of betting Tiger in his prime. I'll never forget the 2008 Masters. Tiger was +180 to win! Woods had four green jackets and had just won eight of his last 10 starts. What should I do..? We always talk about the Sunday sweat. Much like the week in April of 2008, the sweat for this week started when the last putt fell at Muirfield Village. If you take Scottie, and just Scottie you're worried all week. If you avoid the obvious favorite, then similarly Sunday cannot come quick enough.

We haven't faced a difficult choice like this in modern (legal) sports betting. This situation is brand new to so many. As I watch the content get released across all platforms, I'm reminded of those Tiger days. You must decide, to Scottie or not to Scottie, that is the question. What is your answer?

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124th US Open starts in...

Count down to 2024-06-13T10:30:00.000Zโ€‹

Pinehurts

The village of Pinehurst was developed as a wellness retreat in central North Carolina by James Walker Tufts. The irony is this week a field of 156 players will travel to Pinehurst and lose their mind. The #2 course was originally designed by Dornoch's Donald Ross in 1907. The par 70, 7,543-yard examination was renovated in 2010-2011 by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. A serious golf setting, the mixture of barren sand areas and brownish burnt fairways pose a striking visual throughout the landscape. Though the layout lacks a signature hole, anyone who plays Pinehurst #2 walks away with a lasting memory.

Walking the course I'm awestruck by the conditions. A kaleidoscope of vegetation colors frames the fairways. It is very hot and humid down here in central North Carolina. The course was firm and fast yesterday. Maintenance crews were seen all over watering greens and select other parts of the landscape. We do not expect much, if any rain for the rest of the week. There's a high sun and very little breeze. Temperatures are forecasted to approach 100 degrees on Friday. Good luck managing your hydration and patience as six-hour rounds will definitely be par for the course.

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Course conditions

โ€‹Pinehurst #2โ€‹

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โ€‹Pinehurst, NCโ€‹

I get the same sense I had when I talked to witnesses at Lancaster CC. The USGA would like this to be a brutal test. In doing so, the course is being brought right to the edge. Don't forget, last year we opened round one with two rounds of 62 by Xander Schauffele and Rickie Fowler. That's not happening again. Ross' test has stood the test of time and will continue to measure all aspects of a player's skill and determination. What worries me most as I walk around, is what happens if we go too far. I believe luck plays a prominent a role in the US Open. One bad bounce in the wire grass and your run for the trophy can be permanently derailed.

The average green size is 6,500 sq/ft. Those putting surfaces are covered in Champion Bermudagrass. That's really the only change since the last edition in 2014. Believe it or not, the rest of the routing remains untouched. The GCSAA states there are 117 bunkers, but that doesn't even count all of the natural areas. Let's put it this way, when you watch this weekend, you will see more sand than grass. A stark contrast to likes of Augusta National and others, Pinehurst #2 is beautiful in another way.

Fifteen of the last 19 US Open winners were first time major champions. That takes us all the way back to Michael Campbell in 2005 who won here at Pinehurst. This template test demands not only precision, but a wealth of creativity. The average cutline at three US Opens on #2 is seven over par. Only the top 60 and ties make the cut, so players better bear down if the plan to play the weekend. Eight par 4s on the property measure over 450 yards. This course is long even though we will witness plenty of roll out. Truth be told, that roll out is really where all of the trouble comes into play.

This is ground architecture at its greatest. Ross designed #2 soon after he came to the states. Coming from Royal Dornoch, there's a tremendous amount of links influence in the design features. One way the USGA is countering some of the firm bounces is by keeping the landing areas off the tee fairly wide. Fairway widths are anywhere from 30-40 yards in some areas. It wasn't a design alteration, but a bunch of vegetation was added around the driver landing areas. You miss these fairways, and you will be playing a serious game of Russian roulette with your scorecard. Receive the wrong bounce and you're toast. That level of luck is loved by some, but bettors and players despise it. We will take our chances with straightforward good and bad luck.

Average winning scores don't necessarily relate, but if you go back 10 years the average winner's pre-tournament odds are +3200. Only three winners held odds over 30-1 since Kaymer captured the trophy here 10 years ago. Will there be a runaway win again? It really looks like the USGA is doing everything in their power to stop that from happening. For the field, I'm not sure if that's a good thing. Sure, making it harder increases the difficulty for Scheffler, but at what cost. The 156 who are chasing him are going to feel that pain as well. There's no doubt this is going to be an electric affair. Let's just all hope unlike Louisville, what we witness in the end is decided by golf and nothing else.

Read The Line recap ๐Ÿ—ž๏ธ

Here's an interesting storyline this week. 2023 US Open Champion Wyndham Clark enters Pinehurst with the same pre-tournament odds he held last year before Los Angeles Country Club (+8000). The number four ranked player in the world has yet to make a cut in a major championship. Can Clark rekindle the magic which earned him that USGA medal? To do so, Wyndham will need to repeat those same skills he used on a similar test across those uneven surfaces of LACC's North Course.

Lucky strikes

I am not betting Scottie Scheffler to win the US Open. The national championship requires too many lucky bounces, and although Scottie gets most of them, at +300 the risk is too high. My plan to win the national championship involves another course of action, a balanced betting card. Heading into this week, my first priority was picking competitors who are excellent long iron players. Although approach is still vital, after seeing the course conditions, around the green acumen is my most important player skill. It's not just chipping off tight lies either, it is the complete package. I want players who can play ANY short game shot - waste bunkers, normal bunkers, tight lies, into the grain, with the grain, high, low, etc. You get the picture.

I have NEVER witnessed practice rounds where players are experimenting with so many different short shots! It's extremely interesting from a handicapping perspective. I'll touch on total driving and approach, but when the score remains so close to even par, the scramblers become relevant. When you review those three previous leaderboards you see it clearly. Our outright card is favoring ARG as priority #1 and pray for Johnson Wagner this week as he tries to replicate some of the key shots.

Approach play comes next as nearly 60% of your iron shots will be played from over 175 yards. Attacking these greens from long range will require a very detailed game plan. Players, caddies, and coaches will need to decide where the safest landing areas are and stick to them. Going after certain hole locations will lead directly to high scores and a trip to the parking lot on Friday night. Players with a higher apex from long range will help, but I'll take all great ball strikers. For a flat course, #2 has a ton of uneven lies, so cleaner consistent contact is imperative.

The addition of those extra plantings along the driver landing areas have put more of a focus on total driving than 2014. Long and accurate is going to help some players separate. The closer you can get to these greens, the easier your approach examination will be. Considering the firm conditions, certain players will be able to take advantage of the roll out in the fairway. Martin Kaymer was not the longest driver on tour, yet by hitting the fairways he gained a ton of length from the course conditions. Whomever can take advantage in a similar fashion will be flirting with the Sunday leaders for sure.

Ten of the tee shots favor a left to right ball flight. Four bend the opposite way. Now don't get too comfortable with a right-handed fader. Ross was notorious for creating switchback holes. A design feature where the tee shot requires one ball flight, and the approach bends the opposite way. Another course attribute that tests how well-rounded your T2G game really is. One more reason why a successful game plan is so important. Kaymer came into the US Open that year with the chipping yips. He decided before the tourney he would putt from off the green. He never wavered from that strategy and it served him very well. Unfortunately, Scottie Scheffler keeps winning at Augusta National because he is the most cerebral golfer on the planet.

We are going to build a balanced betting card that gives us the best opportunity for a very positive week. The design is simple, win, attack the live markets, and take advantage of Scottie chances where we can. Much like Valhalla, we have witnessed a little off course drama to start the week. Let's hope once the games begin, everyone can lock in and return another week where the final putt matters. Enjoy our national championship, this is a very good golf course and one that if maintained properly will crown a deserving champion.

Outright Winners - 124th US Open

Collin Morikawa's recent results starting at the Masters: 3-9-16-4-4-2.

  • Morikawa is gaining +2.5 strokes ARG on average in his last five starts.
  • During those same five, he's gaining +2 strokes putting.
  • A secret weapon, Collin's full swing coach Rick Sessinghaus is also his mental performance coach.
  • Collin has a bunch of comp wins and his accuracy off the tee will be an incredible edge with all of the firm fairway conditions.

The closer you keep the winning score closer to par, the more you keep Cam Smith in the conversation.

  • He won in wild weather conditions at the PLAYERS, and the Open Championship at St. Andrews. Great comp courses for #2.
  • Cam grew up playing in the sand belt of Australia, very similar turf conditions to Pinehurst #2.
  • Smith finished fourth at LACC last year and sixth at the Masters in April; his fifth top 10 finish down Magnolia Lane.

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Inside the ropes at the 2023 Genesis Invitational


Belmont stakes

That was a tough Sunday at the Jersey shore. Just like the men, we finished runner-up in our effort to get win number five of the season and three years in a row at the ShopRite. Ayaka Furue needed a closing birdie to force a playoff on the final few holes and didn't get it done. Alas, we move on to Michigan and the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give. Never short on a good tournament name, this relatively new event returns to Blythefield Country Club for the tenth time.

The field of 144 carries a pretty decent cast of competitors. Twelve of the top 25 in the Rolex World rankings are in Michigan to compete for a $3 million purse. The top 65 and ties compete all weekend for a grand prize of $450,000. Almost double what the winning check was last week, it's nice to see this tournament grow in support and attention. Now if only the LPGA would just stop scheduling events against men's major championship weeks. It always amazes me how they take weeks off in the winter and then compete for eyeballs against a US Open!

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Meijer LPGA Classic starts in...

Count down to 2024-06-13T10:45:00.000Zโ€‹

Blythefield Country Club is located on very hilly terrain in Belmont, Michigan. The result of a recent renovation, the par 72 scorecard is very unique. BCC has five par 3s, five par 5s, and eight par 4s. The seventh longest course on tour, those par 5s really add up in more ways than one. The average winning score of the Meijer over the past five years is 21 under par. When you consider 28% of the holes played are par 5s, you can see why the scoring is so low. What's even more interesting, the greens at BCC are the fourth smallest on tour. Tiny targets that give up a ton of birdies.

  • The course routing is changed for the tournament.
    • The front nine is played 8, 9, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 17, 18
    • The back nine is played 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 6, 7

The weather looks pretty good in Michigan this week. It certainly will be a lot cooler than what I'm feeling down in Pinehurst. The forecast calls for temperatures in the low 80s each day and a chance of showers on Thursday. The region has been relatively dry so the course conditions are optimal for another run at 20 under par. We will see some wind on Thursday alongside those grey clouds, but the rest of the rounds the breeze will be in the single digits. Seven of the previous nine winners are major champions. It is a prep week for our next major championship, the KPMG Women's PGA. I expect the women to be wound up after a regrettable US Open by many of the top ranked players.

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Course conditions

โ€‹Blythefield Country Clubโ€‹

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โ€‹Belmont, MIโ€‹

Five to one

Speaking of KPMG, thanks to their support we can compare the player performances across individual statistics and various tournament venues. I researched the last two leaderboards for the Meijer and came up with the following player trends to help us determine the best outright card possible. I mentioned it already, but the biggest key I see is the scorecard. The par 3s and 5s represent over 55% of the holes. Those last two top 10s played the par 3s to an average of 2.90 shots. Just a tenth under par for the four days. Four of the five par 3s are uphill and present a very real challenge.

Those same 22 women (top 10 ties) played the par 5s in 4.43 strokes (on average). More than a half stroke under par, that's a significant edge. Our outrights have a perfect blend of par 5 scoring and par 3 saving talent. Scoring overall is a theme if your winner will be 20 under par. BoB statistics are another valuable indicator of success here. Players on those two top 10s are averaging 21 sub-par scores per tournament. Making birdies takes a hot putter and the ability to convert GIRs into low scores. Those top 10s gained more on the greens against the field than any of the other four main strokes gained skills.

Over five strokes on the greens by the two top 10s is significant. One place they didn't gain very much was around the green. I find that interesting because Blythefield CC has such small greens. The ARG test must be pretty mundane if the same two leaderboards are gaining less than a stroke against the field on average. Five of the eight par 4s are over 400 yards. Length will bring an edge to your game at BCC. With 28 acres of fairway, there's plenty of surface area to land drives for the LPGA. Accuracy off the tee is a hallmark of almost every elite player on tour.

With past champions like Lexi Thompson, Nelly Korda, Brooke Henderson, and Jennifer Kupcho, the theme of distance definitely makes sense. Not only have those ladies won here, but those same two top 10s from the past two years have more powerful players. On a week where golf tends to celebrate distance on the PGA TOUR, the women are the ones who can grip it and rip it. I doubt the men will be letting the shaft out down in North Carolina nearly as much.

Overall, I like this tournament. I believe it would be way more popular on a week where all of golf's attention is not on the men's national championship. Nelly Korda and other stars continue to compete at the Meijer which also means something. It is a classic northern style course where we get great scoring. Our outright card is defined by great par 5 scorers and solid approach players. Women who can play the par 3s at even par for the week. That's a really strong key toward contending. They need length and a putter which converts birdie opportunities. I'm not overly concerned with ARG acumen and bogey avoidance.

Those last two top 10s hit the green 78% of the time (on average). If you are missing greens, you are probably missing the cut. The polar opposite of Pinehurst, I want aggressive players who are attacking pins. If you are wondering who they are, just look below.

Outright winners - Meijer LPGA Classic

Since coming to the east coast, Minjee Lee has finished 7-21-9 (US Open).

  • Lee leads the LPGA in SG:APP and par 3 scoring. both are a huge edge this week.
  • Minjee, much like her brother Min Woo, has plenty of pop off the tee.
  • Minjee has three top 20 results in her last four Meijer starts.
  • Lee is an all-around great ball striker coming into form as the third ranked SG:T2G player on tour.

Na Rin An has two straight top 25 results at the Meijer LPGA Classic.

  • An has been on lately finishing sixth at the ShopRite last week.
  • Another great approach player, An is top 5 in the field for par 3 scoring.
  • Consistent this season, Na Rin is ranked fourth in the field for SG:T2G.
  • Na Rin is really good in birdiefests. She finished T13 at the Ford Championship in March.
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