Sometimes you can just tell when a sporting event is going to be brilliant. This week’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot has just that feel. Anytime you have a 7,400 yard course, at par 70, you know its going to be a stern examination. But when you add rough that you could lose a small child in and greens that have more run than a glass table, you know its going to be a war of attrition.
I’m really torn this week because there are guys I like who can hit it really straight off the tees, but they tend to be fairly short hitters and they’ll have to be hitting quite lengthy second shots all week long and that is not generally a recipe for success. Then there are guys who won’t struggle with the extra distance of the course but will struggle like anyone would if they end up trying to hack it out of the rough too often. The one saving grace is that they’ll at least be closer to the greens, but I’m not sure how much of an advantage that will be, because as 2006 U.S. Open Champion at Winged Foot, Geoff Ogilvy, said: ‘If you end upon the wrong parts of the greens here, you’re dead.’ The greens are lightening quick and full of swails and hollows, so any selection better be pretty proficient with the flat stick.
After much deliberation, I have decided to favour guys who played well at the venue for the BMW Championship a few weeks ago – Olympia Fields. This was also a very long and testing par 70 layout. I have also selected players who have a good record of guiding it around courses with very penal rough and getting it on the short grass more often than not, as that will be a far easier spot to play from and will give them a better chance of getting to the areas of the green where they need to be in order to go for birdie or make par.
I could pick players like Dustin Johnson or Jon Rahm and I wouldn’t dissuade you at all if you felt compelled to do just that. But I figure anyone can tip those guys. I’d rather hunt for some good each way value for a small amount of layout.
Blue Horseshoe Loves
Xander Schauffele – currently at 14/1 with starsports.bet
Xander came back from the lockdown in fairly rusty fashion, but over the last 3-4 tournaments there has been a noticeable up tick in his performances, culminating in an excellent tied second in the final of the Fed Ex Cup. Schauffele came from seven shots off the pace in the handicapped format and shot the lowest total score of the week. While this course presents an entirely different challenge I think Schauffele is running into his best form of the season just at the right time.
Matthew Fitzpatrick – currently at 50/1 with starsports.bet
The last extremely testing venue was a couple of weeks ago at Olympia Fields. Fitzpatrick stood out to me there as a player who handled the testing layout better than most. He finished tied for sixth on even par and it looked like the more he played the course the more he was able to use the accuracy based game to suit it. If he can get off to a good start and play like he did at Olympia Fields, he could be right there come Sunday. He is also one of the best putters on tour, which will stand to him at Winged Foot.
Collin Morikawa – currently at 15/1 with starsports.bet
Morikawa has shown that he is well able to guide his ball around challenging courses where loose driving is heavily penalised. He the Workday Open on the Jack Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village in July and won the US PGA Championship on a very tricky Harding Park course in August. He finished strongly in the FedEx cup final at Eastlake and I think he is well able to make another bold showing at this tournament.
Tyrrel Hatton – currently at 40/1 with starsports.bet
Hatton finished the 2020 season with a wet sail. He celebrated his maiden win on the PGA Tour in March by taking out the Arnold Palmer Invitational and his performances have remained very solid since then with a series of high leader board finishes, including at Olympia Fields and an excellent showing at the Tour Championship finale last week. Put simply the man’s in flying form and that bodes well for a testing week such as this.
Tony Finau – currently at 33/1 with starsports.bet
There’s no concern about length with this guy. He’s plenty long and his short uncomplicated swing see’s him drive it straight more often than not. Like Fitzpatrick, Finau played with distinction at the very tough Olympia Fields, finishing fifth on one under par, with an outstanding final round of five under 65. If he can replicate that sort of form here then he’s in with a big shout to finally get the big win he so richly deserves. My only worry with Tony is his putting. With his final round five under at Olympia Fields her was draining them from all over the place. I suspect that was because he knew he was too far off the lead to win and he just relaxed. If he could just do that more often he would have won two or three big tournaments by now. I am hoping the lesson he took from that is that he can putt when he relaxes and just not to think about the process quite so much.
RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK XANDER SCHAUFFELE 2.5pt each way at 14/1 with starsports.bet
BACK MATTHEW FITZPATRICK 1.5pt each way at 50/1 with starsports.bet
BACK COLLIN MORIKAWA 2.5pt each way at 15/1 with starsports.bet
BACK TYRREL HATTON 1.5pt each way at 40/1 with starsports.bet
BACK TONY FINAU 2pt each way at 33/1 with starsports.bet
EW Terms 1/5 7 Places
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