2018 US Open: Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (6/12/18)
The second major of the year, the US Open, tees off at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Suffolk County, New York. The last US Open at Shinnecock featured Retief Goosen taking home the trophy with a score of just 4-under par. Phil Mickelson was the only other golfer under par through four rounds back in 2004.
The course, then, played under 7,000 yards, but featured incredible tight fairways, fast and tiny greens, and fescue surrounding the misses. Since 2004, the course has lengthened by 500 yards, which led to the significant widening of fairways. Many of the obstacles, like most of the trees, have been removed, as well, which will help if the wind is down. If the wind happens to pick up throughout the weekend off Shinnecock Bay, there will a number of high scores due to the tree removal.
Though the fairways have been widened, the additional length and need for driver creates an issue for those who aren't both long and straight off the tee. Those who are able to smash long irons and three woods off the tee, like Luke List, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, and Tiger Woods, may hold a distinct advantage in case the wind tends to pick up.
The greens may not appear to the cameras to be too small; however, the slick, bowl-shaped greens play much smaller than their appearance. Similar to Pinehurst, the tightly mowed greens and green-side "rough" prevents little area to bail out to the middle or safe sides of greens to leave reasonable putts. Since the area around the greens is so tightly mowed, it's safe to assume we'll see plenty of putting from off the green.
It's safe to assume we'll see some more scores under par than just two players, assuming we don't see horrific conditions, but it would be surprising to see scores into the double-digits under par.
Dustin Johnson (+800) comes in as the overwhelming favorite, and rightfully so. He not only won last week, but he has the length and ball-striking needed around Shinnecock. Our model sees him as the favorite, as well, at 10.8% odds to win. He's the best driver of the ball in the field, per our model, and the sixth-best iron player. DJ leaves some desire around the greens, but it's difficult to see anyone making up a ton of shots around the green this week considering how quickly most players are going to pull the putter instead of chipping.
Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Tiger Woods, and Rickie Fowler are the remaining golfers that have been given under 20 to 1 odds. To be clear, with a few exceptions, these are the best players in the field that have the best odds to win. However, we won't be betting any of them. We can find our value further down the board in the next tier of players.
In contrasts to previous weeks, we will do a quick profile of each golfer our model likes this week that gives us the best chance to win.
Henrik Stenson hasn't played a ton of tournaments this year, but when he has, he's competed at a high level. As historically a great ball striker, Stenson continues to trend up the approach leaderboard. As we mentioned above, Stenson will rely on his trusty three-wood all weekend. As a European, he is no stranger to playing in high wind or fescue. Although he's been below average around the greens, he won't hesitate to pull the putter when needed this week.
DeChambeau has climbed the ball-striking leaderboard all year, and this week should be no different. Coming off a win at The Memorial, DeChambeau has finished inside the top-20 eight times, including six top-10s. Bryson is a known as a tinkerer of equipment, putting styles, and course management. Now that he's found something, perhaps he'll gain some continue his consistency this week. The only downfall to DeChambeau's chances is his impressively high ball flight, which could come back to hurt him if weather becomes an issue.
In contrast to List, Paul Casey can compete with the best in the field tee-to-green AND putt. As a regular reader would know, our model has loved Casey for the last two years for good reason. He's been one of, if not the best, approach player on tour. Casey ranks 4th in this field per our model. Much like Stenson, Casey can struggle around the greens, but as a European player, Casey will use putter, one of his strong points, in the tight chipping areas to get up and down. Be aware, Casey hasn't played in a tournament in over a month and had pulled out of the Players Championship just a few weeks ago with injury. If he isn't healthy, it would be surprising to see Casey risk any further injury. Regardless, 50 to 1 odds is more than double than when we saw Casey playing earlier this year. As long as this injury hasn't halved his skills, Casey is unavoidable at those odds.
Byeong Hun An is quite surprising to see in the 100 to 1 range. He's been wildly inconsistent, but when a course fits him, he tends to compete at a high level. For example, he nearly stole The Memorial from Bryson DeChambeau with a great Sunday round, but missed the cut at a much easier event the following week. He's missed 5 of 15 cuts this season, but has only finished outside of the top-30 twice in those other ten events. An is an overall above average player in every aspect of his game, but his distinct advantage is off the tee box. An has no issue pulling driver and averages 307 yards with the club. He hits plenty of fairways given his length, which has allowed him to hit more than two-thirds of the greens this season. At a course that requires making tough pars, like we think Shinnecock will demand, An will do himself a big favor to stay out of the fescue despite frequently using driver off-the-tee.
Emiliano Grillo looks a lot like Paul Casey. He doesn't quite have the name recognition or the career wins, but his skillset looks oddly similar. He's a great approach player, hits a ton of fairways, and knocks in plenty of putts. As another Euro player, he shouldn't have much issue with wind, tight chipping areas, or fescue. Grillo hasn't quite had the weekend performance to grab a win this year despite missing just one cut in 17 events and finishing inside the top-10 five times.
The struggles of Luke List, despite his incredible ball-striking, are pretty clear. The guy simply cannot putt. One would think with such a highly volatile activity as putting on the PGA Tour, List would eventually pop with a win. The good news is the difficulty of putting on these slick greens will likely leave few strokes for even the top putters to make up. If List can somehow piece together four rounds of averaging putting, you're getting one of the best ball-strikers, longest hitters, and approach players in the field at 150 to 1 odds.