Before we start The US Open coverage, let's first congratulate our 6th outright winner of the year - Brooke Henderson! In dramatic fashion, Brooke started Sunday four shots back of the lead and closed with a scintillating 64. Believe it or not that only landed her in a playoff, which she won on the first sudden death hole.
Six outright wins in six months!
You're going to hear a lot of history this week when the coverage kicks in for the 122nd US Open. Please keep one thing in mind as the commentators and writers try their very best to encapsulate the essence of American golf... The Country Club does not follow golf's history, it writes it!
From Francis Ouimet to the unbelievable Sunday singles comeback of the 1999 US Ryder Cup team, this legendary golf venue always seems to be right in the middle of golf's greatest stories. As I start to break down the betting card for 2022's next major championship, let's get a couple of details out of the way.
- It looks like the wet weather won't be an issue this week as Thursday, Saturday and Sunday look perfect for June in Boston. Temperatures will be in the mid-70's. Friday is a little uncertain as rain is expected in the early morning prior to play. It may extend into that AM wave, but overall Friday's biggest challenge will be wind and warmth as the thermometer should reach 90. Gusts of wind will also get into the high twenties that day while the rest of the week looks like the wind will make them think more than they want to.
With those small target greens, we will talk about, wind presents a significant challenge. The Country Club has twenty-seven holes spread out over 236 acres of Beantown's most coveted land. Close to the city, this aggressive terrain provides a championship venue, unlike any most viewers, will have ever seen before. Where Pebble Beach has romantic views of the sea and Augusta National captivates us with attention to detail, TCC (as the members call it) will present with an acquired taste.
Reminiscent of golf's architecture from a century ago, leave your TPC card at home. Long fescue grasses arbitrarily thrust out of rocks, bunkers, and hummocks. Yes, get used to that word, it is a creative way of describing the little hills TCC is adorned with. In between all of these colonial characteristics is a scorecard made up of the following:
- The "Open Course" is a composite layout that uses holes from all three nines at TCC. It measures 7,254 yards and plays to a par of 70.
- Upon closer examination of the scorecard, we see a beautiful balance of long and short holes. Everything from a 619-yard Par 5 to a tabletop downhill Par 3 approximately 130 yards long.
- The USGA loves to test every club in the bag, or as the Competition Committee says, "get every club dirty."
- One way TCC does that is by forcing tons of strategy from the tee. Like driving in downtown Boston, nothing is straightforward. Pay attention to players as they orchestrate their way around this colonial canvas.
This is the seventeenth USGA Championship The Country Club has hosted. Starting with the Women's Amateur in 1902 and now 120 years later, they still present a fair and difficult test for the world's best. The most recent competition that catches my eye is the 2013 US Amateur. Twenty players in this field played in that national championship. Of those twenty, nine made it to the match play portion. The winner? None other than Matthew Fitzpatrick who is one to watch this week for sure.
- A couple others of note in that prestigious field, Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas, Max Homa, Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau, Will Zalatoris and Cam Young.
- The field this week is comprised of 156 entries. Only the Top 60 and ties will make the weekend, so play smart when it comes to those DraftKings fantasy lineups. I'd favor making the cut over market ownership.
Over the last ten US Opens:
- The average winner's odds were +3000.
- Of those last ten winners, seven of them had won before, but they made the US Open their first major championship.
The year's third major is here. As we begin to crown our national champion, the golf world seems a little uneasy. Don't worry, unrest has visited these historic grounds before when it comes to golf. So if you are a follower of trends in golf betting, please remember one very important fact. Nobody had Francis Ouimet on their outright card...
Back to back "Classics"
The Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give is a relatively new event on the LPGA tour. In the eight years the ladies have travelled just outside Grand Rapids, Michigan to Blythefield Country Club, there have been a couple of shared characteristics amongst the winners. Before we get to those outright predictions, let's first set the stage for an interesting layout and a tremendous field of competitors.
- Blythefield Country Club has a unique scorecard. A Par 72 track covering 6,638 yards has eight Par 4's, five Par 3's and five Par 5's.
- Set on the side of hill, the course doesn't have many level lies. Players will be tested off the tee with six holes bending left to right and three bending right to left.
- More than half the Par 3's play uphill only adding to these one shot challenges.
- The club went through a bunker restoration. Thirty-seven greenside bunkers await these ladies. Better bring your sunblock!
Overall it is a fun test, and by fun I mean players make birdies here. Although it sounds tough to amateurs, the ladies of the LPGA tear this place up. The average winning score over the past five editions is twenty-one under par. Combine that with a very strong field this year. Nine of the Top 10 and eighteen of the Top 25 in the Rolex world rankings will be playing.
Adding to birdiefest, the course will get a little rain early in the week. Starting Thursday, scoring conditions do look ideal as temperatures are expected to sit in the mid-80's. There will be some wind, but nothing too challenging for the tour's elite. There will be $2.5 million dollars on the line. For my winning selections, keep reading.
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The home of American golf
Enough with the narratives, let's get into this major championship. There are three very specific skill sets I see that are needed to contend here. In the simplest of terms with the most convenient of examples, they spell out just like this.
- You must drive the ball well in a US Open. Look at the last five winners of this event: Rahm, Bryson, Woodland, Brooks, and Brooks again. Power and accuracy are not only coveted by the Committee but rewarded.
- Approach play comes in two forms, short and long iron play. Our champion will be a master of both.
- The greens at TCC are the second smallest of any modern major championship venue. Only Pebble Beach's greens are smaller on average.
Courses do change, but the USGA uses a playbook. They refined it in 2019 and it has been very successful since. This is why these skills not only fit this course but our national championship's recent history as well. Here are my outright predictions.
Rory McIlroy's resume doesn't need any more wins. Yet, the RBC Canadian Open winner seems very motivated these days. If you think he can't win this week, think again. He's ranked first in the field for scoring on Par 4's over 450 yards, and 2nd for scoring on Par 4's that measure 350-400 yards. In his last 180 events (!) he's gained over 3.5 shots against the field off the tee. He's ranked fourth in the field for Bogey Avoidance and second Tee to Green. Do you believe history is about to hold him back, think again. When it comes to winning in Boston, I know Celtics get it done.
Matt Fitzpatrick has won here before. The 2013 US Amateur champion is a Top 10 SG:T2G performer in this field. His biggest strength comes off the tee (7th) and in Bogey Avoidance where he leads the field. He also leads the field in Par 3 scoring which means his approach game has the versatility needed to contend. Will history repeat itself at TCC? I'm betting it will.
Sam Burns is the hottest golfer in the field. With all due respect to Rory, he's won twice in his last six starts. When Scheffler was riding a heater heading into Augusta many overlooked him. I won't make that mistake with Burns. With awesome length, he attacks short Par 4's and leads that category. He's the fourth ranked putter in the field which accounts for a lot in a US Open. He played three rounds in Canada with the #1 ranked player in the world and bested him. There's a fire in him much like Rory and come Sunday, I bet he plans on trying to burn the competition.
Sungjae Im will win a major in his career. Seems like a bold statement. But did you know he's 24? Yes, the standout South Korean is just getting started in the majors. He plays classic courses well because he drives it accurately and can chip. Both skills are in the Top 30 for this field and at these odds, he represents real value. His ability to avoid bogeys has him ranked seventh and that eighth-place finish at the Masters still has us all talking. His form? Well, he gained over eight shots against the field at The Memorial which tested driving and short game. Get Sungjae this week. You'll be glad you did.
Cam Young grew up under the watchful eye of a PGA Professional just outside of New York City. His home course was a place where legends were told. Well, a new legend is coming out of Sleepy Hollow. Now don't lose your head, the skill set needed to score at Sleepy Hollow and Southern Hills matches TCC. The two courses are great comps and he possesses the best combination of driving accuracy/power (ranked fourth SG:T2G, second SG:OTT) and short game touch in the game (ranked fifth SG:ARG). For 69 holes at Southern Hills, he captivated our attention. I believe he will hold it even longer in Boston.
Outright winners - US Open
Rory McIlroy (+1200)
Matt Fitzpatrick (+2800)
Sam Burns (+3000)
Sungjae Im (+5000)
Cam Young (+6500)
Let the birdies begin
On a week where the attention is pointed toward The Country Club, the ladies are gearing up for their next major in Michigan. As Washington DC awaits the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at famed Congressional, we are quickly reminded of last year's two-week tango that took place. Remember when Nelly Korda won the Meijer and then took the KPMG in Atlanta? I know she does and so do the rest of her lady friends of the LPGA.
Blythefield Country Club's card spells out the story. With five Par 5's at an average length of 518 yards, length is the ultimate weapon on this course. The winner will need more than five birdies per round and after a quick look at the recent list of winners, there's no doubt I'm right. With a Par 4 average under 400 yards the length factor increases. My list of outrights begins with those who are definitely strong Strokes Gained:Off the Tee, but it doesn't stop there. Since more than half of the holes are 3's and 5's, I considered player scoring there as well. As a result here are my outright predictions as we go for two wins in a row!
- She won the US Open in record fashion making more birdies than anyone. Minjee Lee is ranked Top 20 in length off the tee and eleventh SG:OTT. She's ranked first T2G, and on Approach. That's a lot of statistics that add up to the most important one I'm watching and that is total rounds this season under par. No player has more. I have written more words about Minjee this season than any other player and I don't anticipate stopping anytime soon.
- Hye Jin Choi is a Top 10 birdie-producing machine. She has played eleven events and finished in the Top 10 six times. She has amassed over $1 million in earnings this season already and ranked eighth on the season-ending CME points list. What's missing for the twenty-two year old, a win. She destroys Par 5's with her off-the-tee game. Blythefield CC's setup might just be the perfect fit for her first trophy.
- Another star we started our season with multiple times was XiYu Lin. A powerful player she's even better on Par 5's than Hye Jin. She's fourth on tour in birdie production. The reason why is very simple, much like Minjee she gives herself a ton of chances. Fifth on Approach and seventh Tee to Green she's the complete package. She started the season with a couple of quick Top 5 finishes. One was a runner-up in Thailand. That course's hillside terrain is much like what the Meijer will present. I can't wait to see how she handles it.
- Madelene Sagstrom was on an incredible run leading up to the US Open. She even had five birdies and an eagle in her first round. The wheels soon fell off and she missed the cut. This was following four Top 10 finishes in a row! Well the US Open is behind her and so is most of the field when it comes to driving distance. On top of her ability to bomb it, she can also putt. This has helped her rank second on tour in total birdies. Although this week she may just rank first at the finish.
Outright Winners - Meijer LPGA Classic
Minjee Lee (+1000)
Hye Jin Choi (+2000)
XiYu Lin (+3500)
Madelene Sagstrom (+4000)
What are you missing this major week?
Keith's conversation with The Country Club's Director of Golf,
an extra interview with the USGA's Jason Gore,
and my full US Open betting card.
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