Steve Bamford Golf Tips

Steve Bamford's US Open Tips 2020

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The 120th United States Open Championship from Winged Foot Golf Club, in Mamaroneck, New York, should be a true classic. Now the second Major Championship of 2020 and the first to ever be played in September, the U.S. Open is synonymous with tough scoring and mental toughness.

The last time we were at Winged Foot for a U.S. Open was back in 2006, when Geoff Ogilvy captured the title after Phil Mickelson made a mess of his 72nd hole, when he needed par to win or a bogey to tie. Let’s hope for another edge of the seat finish in 2020! After landing full each-way returns on Sam Burns and Harry Higgs at 50/1 and 80/1 respectively at the Safeway Open last week, lets keep the momentum going.

For those of you wanting U.S. Open betting trends, in-depth course information and the like, let me point you in the direction of our U.S. Open betting tips research preview.

World Number 1 and very much man of the moment Dustin Johnson heads the market at 8/1. But as is the norm these days at the highest level of golf, the likes of Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele and PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa are all 20/1 or shorter in what looks to be a very open affair.

Before we talk the U.S. Open, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System will be considerable for this second Major Championship of 2020. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) the Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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Course Guide: The West Course at Winged Foot is a classical, parkland golf course, which is arguably the most important inland golf course in the United States. One of the stalwart courses that the USGA showcase regularly, it’s certainly iconic. Winged Foot is undoubtedly most famous for its contoured green complexes, but the West Course truly is a typical U.S. Open venue. Freshly extended to over 7,450 yards in length, which will play as a Par 70, (Oakmont in 2016 was a 7,255 yard Par 70), the West Course features tight, sloping fairways, tough U.S. Open graduated rough and amazingly undulating putting surfaces which, in the main, slope from back to front.

Since the first round of golf was played at Winged Foot in 1923, the A. W. Tillinghast designed West Course has hosted five U.S. Opens (1929, 1959, 1974, 1984, 2006), the PGA Championship (1997), and the U.S. Amateur (1940, 2004).

Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York: Designer: A.W. Tillinghast 1929 with Gil Hanse Restoration 2016-2017; Course Type: Classical; Par: 70; Length: Circa 7,477 yards; Holes with Water In-Play: 2; Fairways: Poa Annua with Bentgrass; Rough: Perennial Rye with Kentucky Bluegrass and Poa Annua 3.5-5″; Greens: 6,600 sq.ft average Poa Annua 80% with Bentgrass; Tournament Stimp: 13ft. Course Scoring Average 2006 U.S. Open: 74.99 (+4.99), Rank 1 of 55 PGA Tour courses.

Widths Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Winged Foot and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:

  • Winged Foot: 19-23 yards wide.
  • Silverado: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:24; 325:25; 350:24.
  • East Lake: 250 yards from the tee: 28 yards wide; 275:26; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • Olympia Fields: 250 yards from the tee: 28 yards wide; 275:26; 300:25; 325:26; 350:26.
  • TPC Boston: 250 yards from the tee: 37 yards wide; 275:35; 300:34; 325:27; 350:33.
  • Sedgefield: 250 yards from tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:26 325:23; 350:22.
  • TPC Harding Park: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:26; 300:28 325:27; 350:26.
  • TPC Southwind: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:29; 300:29; 325:31; 350:26.
  • TPC Twin Cities: 250 yards from the tee: 38 yards wide; 275:38; 300:31; 325:30; 350:36.
  • Muirfield Village: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:24; 350:29.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other A.W. Tillinghast designs and Gil Hanse renovations include:

A.W. Tillinghast

  • Baltusrol GC – 2005 & 2016 PGA Championship
  • Bethpage State Park – Black Course – 2000 + 2009 U.S. Open, 2019 PGA Championship + 2012 + 2016 Barclays Tournaments
  • Ridgewood Country Club – 2010 & 2014 The Barclays – 2018 Northern Trust.

Gil Hanse

  • Ridgewood CC – The Barclays / Northern Trust 2010, 2014 & 2018.
  • Plainfield CC – The Barclays – 2011 & 2015
  • Trump National Doral – 2014 through 2016 WGC Cadillac Championship
  • TPC Boston – Deutsche Bank / Dell Technologies Championship through 2018 plus 2020 Northern Trust.

Course Overview: Winged Foot is a parkland course, which has seen a Gil Hanse restoration project that was completed in 2017. Gone are the Norway Spruce that gave every hole a very claustrohphic feel, but the freshly restored West Course at Winged Foot will still be long and very tight. With fairway widths between 19 and 23 yards surrounded by lengthy graduated rough up to 5 inches, this will be a real test – especially as the course is likely to play on the firmer side this week. Allied to only 2 par-5s and a length of over 7,450 yards playing as a Par 70, the USGA won’t have to do too much to make Winged Foot a very, very tough test.

Following the restoration, the main focus of which was to get the course as close to how it played when it opened in 1923, holes are still tree-lined, but the course is now much more open and playable. Over 250 yards of length was added so as to make it more 2020-proof from a distance perspective, but along with the added length, many of the tees have been lowered to their original heights, again giving players the view that Tillinghast intended from off the tee.

The West Course is undoubtedly tight – it also features very little water – but Hanse actually added width to a number of the holes so that fairways now wrap into bunkering. As classical courses often feature, many holes also feature dog-legs and there are a number of punishingly long, 450+ yard Par 4s to contend with.

But the green complexes at Winged Foot are undoubtedly the star of the show. Set above the rest of the hole in pretty much all cases, the outside contours of which repel errant approach shots, most greens have false fronts that send balls scurrying into collection areas. To make matters even more specialised, the green complexes also feature fast perennial Poa Annua, which we know many professional golfers fear. SubAir systems have been added to all green complexes, with sand and gravel below the putting surfaces replacing clay, so drainage is now USGA standard. In all, controlling green speeds now will be far easier for the USGA. Personally I would be amazed if we saw 2006 type speeds.

It’s also worth keeping a note on tee times and in particular where players start their rounds. Holes 13 through 18 feature 6 of the hardest 8 holes on the golf course. So those starting on Number 10 face a particularly tough start to their Thursday / Friday round. The round closing difficulty of the golf course is also likely to play its part on Sunday, with anybody setting a strong clubhouse lead potentially in a very advantageous position, with the leaders yet to hit the hardest section of the course under the severest of pressure.

All-in-all I see a fairly typical U.S. Open kind of player thriving here. Long off the tee and accurate enough, those with great Distance to Apex ball-flight will have a huge advantage when it comes to approach shots. Clearly high Greens in Regulation numbers within the field will be required, so top-level ball strikers will thrive. However, more than we see typically and especially more than what we saw at Pebble Peach last June, these Poa Annua greens will undoubtedly play to the strongest, most confident putters in the field. Pure ball-strikers with no short game will struggle to feature if the course plays to the speed the USGA intend.

us open tips

Winners: 2019: Gary Woodland (-13); Brooks Koepka (-8); 2018: Brooks Koepka (+1); 2017: Brooks Koepka (-16); 2016: Dustin Johnson (-4); 2015: Jordan Spieth (-5); 2014: Martin Kaymer (-9); 2013: Justin Rose (+1); 2012: Webb Simpson (+1); 2011: Rory McIlroy (-16); 2010: Graeme McDowell (E); 2009: Lucas Glover (-4).

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Tony Finau, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the 3M Open/ British Masters, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour (where recorded) events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Corey Conners / Henrik Stenson; 3) Jim Herman / Brendon Todd; 5) Tyler Duncan / Matt Kuchar; 7) Collin Morikawa; 8) Abraham Ancer / Sungjae Im; 10) Kevin Kisner; 11) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 12) Jon Rahm / Webb Simpson; 14) Daniel Berger; 15) Jazz Janewattananond / Chez Reavie; 17) Brian Harman / Kevin Na; 19) Rickie Fowler; 20) Tyrrell Hatton / Louis Oosthuizen.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Rasmus Hojgaard; 2) Jon Rahm; 3) Matthew Wolff; 4) Justin Thomas / Bubba Watson; 6) Jason Kokrak; 7) Tony Finau / Victor Perez; 9) Dustin Johnson /  Xander Schauffele / Webb Simpson; 12) Romain Langasque; 13) Tyrrell Hatton / Shane Lowry / Rory McIlroy; 16) Paul Casey / Lanto Griffin; 18) Thomas Detry / Viktor Hovland; 20) Daniel Berger / Ryan Fox / Mark Hubbard / Adam Scott / Connor Syme.
  • Scrambling: 1) Xander Schauffele; 2) Paul Waring; 3) Daniel Berger; 4) Hideki Matsuyama / Thomas Pieters; 6) Phil Mickelson / Kevin Na; 8) Alex Noren / Jon Rahm; 10) Andy Sullivan; 11) Max Homa; 12) Patrick Reed; 13) Jason Day / Sungjae Im / Matthias Schwab / Webb Simpson / Cameron Smith; 18) Harris English / Ryan Palmer; 20) Matthew Wolff.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Kevin Kisner / Thomas Pieters; 4) Mackenzie Hughes; 5) Ryan Palmer / Jon Rahm / Xander Schauffele; 8) J.T. Poston; 9) Renato Paratore; 10) Lucas Herbert; 11) Brian Harman / Kevin Na;  13) Bryson DeChambeau / Rickie Fowler / Tyrrell Hatton / Dustin Johnson / Patrick Reed; 18) Hideki Matsuyama / Ian Poulter; 20) Harris English / Webb Simpson / Sami Valimaki.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the 3M Open/British Masters, which includes both PGA and European Tour events where recorded. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Sergio Garcia / Xander Schauffele; 4) Cameron Champ / Bryson DeChambeau / Bubba Watson; 7) Daniel Berger; 8) Corey Conners / Dustin Johnson / Louis Oosthuizen; 11) Jason Kokrak / Collin Morikawa; 13) Rasmus Hojgaard; 14) Rory McIlroy; 15) Tony Finau / Thomas Pieters / Connor Syme; 18) Erik van Rooyen; 19) Paul Casey / Patrick Reed; 21) Matthew Wolff; 22) Victor Perez; 23) Patrick Cantlay / Tyrrell Hatton / Sungjae Im / Kurt Kitayama.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Rasmus Hojgaard; 2) Andy Sullivan; 3) Justin Thomas; 4) Ryan Fox / Kevin Kisner; 6) Lanto Griffin; 7) Tiger Woods; 8) Thomas Pieters; 9) Jason Kokrak / Cameron Smith; 11) Tony Finau / Tyrrell Hatton; 13) Chez Reavie; 14) Rory McIlroy / Ryan Palmer; 16) Daniel Berger / Renato Paratore; 18) Mark Hubbard / Webb Simpson; 20) Dustin Johnson; 21) Harris English / Justin Harding / Sam Horsfield / Matthew Wolff; 25) Kevin Streelman.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Thomas Pieters; 2) Mackenzie Hughes; 3) Xander Schauffele; 4) Rickie Fowler; 5) Brian Harman / Webb Simpson; 7) Harris English; 8) Byeong Hun An / Jason Day / Jon Rahm / Bernd Wiesberger; 12) Daniel Berger; 13) Si Woo Kim / Sebastian Munoz; 15) Hideki Matsuyama / Alex Noren / Ryan Palmer / Justin Thomas; 19) Lanto Griffin; 20) Charles Howell III; 21) Justin Harding / Cameron Smith; 23) Tommy Fleetwood; 24) Dustin Johnson; 25) Phil Mickelson / Brendon Todd.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Rasmus Hojgaard / Thomas Pieters; 3) Andy Sullivan; 4) Daniel Berger; 5) Justin Thomas; 6) Jon Rahm; 7) Ryan Fox / Xander Schauffele / Webb Simpson; 10) Jason Kokrak / Hideki Matsuyama / Ryan Palmer; 13) Rory McIlroy; 14) Tony Finau / Louis Oosthuizen; 16) Si Woo Kim; 17) Tyrrell Hatton; 18) Harris English / Dustin Johnson / Patrick Reed; 21) Justin Harding / Matthew Wolff; 23) Cameron Champ / Kevin Kisner; 25) Lanto Griffin / Bubba Watson.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Kevin Kisner; 2) Paul Waring; 3) Alex Noren; 4) Mackenzie Hughes / Sami Valimaki; 6) Martin Kaymer; 7) Harris English / Webb Simpson; 9) Xander Schauffele; 10) Thomas Pieters; 11) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Collin Morikawa / Brendon Todd; 14) Viktor Hovland; 15) Abraham Ancer / Brian Harman / Ian Poulter; 18) Bryson DeChambeau / Lucas Herbert / Kevin Na / Jon Rahm; 22) Dustin Johnson / Hideki Matsuyama; 24) Daniel Berger; 25) Billy Horschel.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Rasmus Hojgaard / Thomas Pieters; 3) Daniel Berger; 4) Xander Schauffele; 5) Webb Simpson; 6) Kevin Kisner / Jon Rahm; 8) Hideki Matsuyama / Alex Noren; 10) Harris English / Louis Oosthuizen; 12) Justin Thomas; 13) Ryan Fox / Matthew Wolff; 15) Lanto Griffin / Ryan Palmer; 17) Tony Finau / Dustin Johnson / Si Woo Kim / Collin Morikawa / Andy Sullivan; 22) Patrick Reed; 23) Mackenzie Hughes; 24) Jason Kokrak; 25) Brian Harman / Cameron Smith.

Winners & Prices: 2019: Woodland 80/1; 2018: Koepka 25/1; 2017: Koepka 45/1; 2016: Dustin Johnson 16/1; 2015: Spieth 9/1; 2014: Kaymer 40/1; 2013: Rose 28/1; 2012: Simpson 80/1; 2011: McIlroy 22/1; 2010: McDowell 80/1. Average: 43/1.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Mamaroneck, New York, is here. No rain since Thursday and only 22mm across September so far gives the USGA the perfect platform to make Winged Foot as tough as they like this week. But we are dealing with a September U.S. Open and the agronomy of the golf course should be perfect, so with the USGA playing ball far more than under Mike Davis, expect a tough but fair set-up.

Fairways should be fast, rough has been fertilised and will be long, and greens should release. The other main points to note for the weather are threefold: 1) Don’t expect any rain during tournament week. 2) Breeze up to 15 mph across Thursday and all mornings, will make the test even tougher. 3) Air temperature will only reach 17 – 21 degrees Celsius in the afternoons. So chilly mornings, northern European temperatures and plenty of talk about Tiger’s back.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 2 winners here across the 1997 PGA Championship and 2006 U.S. Open gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2006 – Geoff Ogilvy (+5). 306 yards (6th), 57.1% fairways (21st), 58.3% greens in regulation (13th), 69.6% scrambling (5th), 1.79 putts per GIR (34th), 2nd Total Driving, 3rd Ball Striking, 3rd All-Round.
  • 1997 – Davis Love III (-11). 307 yards (1st), 73.2% fairways (21st), 69.4% greens in regulation (12th), 59.2 % scrambling (4th), 1.60 putts per GIR (2nd), 4th Total Driving, 4th Ball Striking, 1st All-Round.

Tournament Skill Average:

  • Driving Distance: 4th, Driving Accuracy: 21st, Greens in Regulation: 13th, Scrambling: 5th, Putting Average 18th, 3rd Total Driving, 4th Ball Striking, 2nd All-Round.

Here are some comments about Winged Foot and how it will play from the tournament organising PGA of America:

Jon Rahm (2020): “I just wanted to see the golf course. At least get a feel of the layout, some of the tee shots, just so when I go in the U.S. Open it’s not all brand new. And I did play early in the morning and rainy, so the first eight holes were extremely, extremely long. That’s all I can say. It was also softer than what they’re expecting to have the U.S. Open, so I didn’t spend much time putting or chipping around the greens just because they were a lot slower and softer and some shots were obviously a lot easier than they’re going to be in the U.S. Open. I was just trying to get an idea on the lines off the tees and just familiarity with the golf course. All I can say is it’s a heck of a golf course. The greens kind of gave me an Oakmont vibe: extremely difficult, extremely undulated. But I think all 16 out of the 18 greens are all sloped back to front. There’s always a run-up on the front. At least it seems a little more fair than Oakmont might look. You can hold all the greens, even if you don’t hit a perfect shot. It’s just a difficult course. It’s long. It’s narrow. It’s undulated. You just need to play really good golf. I’m not shocked that the winning score last time was 5-over par, and if it gets firm like some of the USGA guys told me they want it to be, I don’t see how any of us shoot under par, or if we shoot under par it would be somebody winning by a lot.”

Justin Thomas (2020): “Winged Foot was really hard. I absolutely loved it. It’s one of my favourite, if not my favourite courses I’ve ever played. It’s right in front of you. It’s not tricked up. It’s not- nothing hidden. It’s just you stand on the tee and you’re about 490 yards away and you have a really narrow fairway and a pretty severe green. There’s a lot of holes like it. You have holes I think like No. 6 to where it’s drivable, if you get the right conditions, but the fairway so narrow that if you miss the fairway, you’re grinding to make par, so it is probably the most U.S. Open venue that I’ve seen. It checks all the boxes. It’s long. It’s narrow fairways. Going to be long rough and severe greens.”

Geoff Ogilvy (2006): “I still am not the straightest hitter in the world. My short game is pretty decent. I’ve been getting it up and down from everywhere this week, which you have to. Your best day you’re going to hit 12 greens out here probably. I’ve been making a few more putts, I guess. Whenever anyone starts playing a little bit better, you’ve always got to look at they’re probably holing one more nine footer or one more 12 footer, and that’s four shots, and that’s quite a lot. Mentally, every time you have a nice round in a major or a nice result, you get a bit more confident the next time you play.”

Phil Mickelson (2006): “There are a lot of holes where you can move it either way, and right to left shots fit fine on this golf course. Left to right shots fit fine on this golf course. There are two holes where I’ll be hitting a draw, the 8th hole and the 17th hole. It doesn’t have to be a big draw, it just has to softly turn to the right. But other than those two holes, I’ll be fading it off most every tee. For me what it does is makes it a softer cut, takes out some of the roll and when it hits the fairway it’s more inclined to stay.”

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 10 winners of the U.S. Open:

  • 2019 – Gary Woodland: Round 1: 8th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2018 – Brooks Koepka: Round 1: 46th, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2017 – Brooks Koepka: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2016 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2015 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2014 – Martin Kaymer: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2013 – Justin Rose: Round 1: 16th, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 5th.
  • 2012 – Webb Simpson: Round 1: 23rd, Round 2: 29th, Round 3: 8th.
  • 2011 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2010 – Graeme McDowell: Round 1: 10th, Round 2 1st, Round 3: 2nd.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the winners of the U.S. Open and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2019 – Gary Woodland: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2018 – Brooks Koepka: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: level.
  • 2017 – Brooks Koepka: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2016 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2015 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: level.
  • 2014 – Martin Kaymer: Round 1: 3 ahead, Round 2: 6 ahead, Round 3: 5 ahead.
  • 2013 – Justin Rose: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2012 – Webb Simpson: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2011 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 3 ahead, Round 2: 6 ahead, Round 3: 8 ahead.
  • 2010 – Graeme McDowell: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 3 back.

Incoming form of winners since 2010:

  • Gary Woodland: 52nd Memorial/8th PGA/MC Quail Hollow/32nd Augusta.
  • Brooks Koepka: 30th TPC Southwind/2nd Colonial/11th TPC Sawgrass/42nd Quail.
  • Brooks Koepka: 37th TPC Southwind/31st Memorial/50th TPC4S/16th TPC Sawgrass.
  • Dustin Johnson: 5th TPC Southwind/3rd Memorial/12th TPC4S/28th TPC Sawgrass.
  • Jordan Spieth: 3rd Memorial/30th TPC4S/2nd Colonial/MC TPC Sawgrass.
  • Martin Kaymer: 12th Wentworth/29th TPC4S/1st TPC Sawgrass/18th Quail.
  • Justin Rose: 8th Memorial/50th Wentworth/MC TPC Sawgrass/15th TPC Louisiana.
  • Webb Simpson: MC Memorial/MC TPC Sawgrass/ 4th Quail/13th New Orleans.
  • Rory McIlroy: 5th Memorial/24th Wentworth/MC Quail/3rd Kuala Lumpur.
  • Graeme McDowell: 1st Celtic Manor/4th Madrid/28th Wentworth/26th TPC Sawgrass.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2019 – Rose – PM -6/65 – 40/1.
  • 2018 – Henley/D Johnson/Piercy/Poulter – 2AM/2PM -1/69 – 125/1, 16/1, 200/1 & 100/1.
  • 2017 – Fowler – AM -7/65 – 40/1.
  • 2016 – Landry – AM -4/66.
  • 2015 – D Johnson/Stenson – Both AM -5/65.
  • 2014 – Kaymer – PM -5/65.
  • 2013 – Mickelson – AM -3/67.
  • 2012 – M Thompson – AM -4/66.
  • 2011 – McIlroy – PM -6/65.
  • 2010 – Casey/de Jonge/Micheel – All PM -2/69.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Poa Annua and Bentgrass/Poa Annua mix PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 11 – Dustin Johnson.
  • 6 – Bubba Watson.
  • 5 – Phil Mickelson.
  • 4 – Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Brandt Snedeker, Tiger Woods.
  • 3 – Bryson DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Jordon Spieth, Jimmy Walker.
  • 2 – Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Gary Woodland.
  • 1 – Keegan Bradley, Patrick Cantlay, Cameron Champ, Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar, Marc Leishman, Shane Lowry, Hideki Matsuyama, Graeme McDowell, Andrew Putnam, Chez Reavie, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Steve Stricker, Justin Thomas, Richy Werenski.

Let’s start with a list of players in the field this week who have experience of Winged Foot in U.S. Open conditions. 2006 saw Geoff Ogilvy win at +5/285 by a single shot from Jim Furyk, Colin Montgomerie and Phil Mickelson. Steve Stricker (6th), Ian Poulter (12th), Paul Casey (15th), Adam Scott (21st), Henrik Stenson (26th), Scott Hend (32nd), Charles Howell III (37th) and Graeme McDowell (48th), all made the weekend. Sergio Garcia, Lucas Glover, Billy Horschel (amateur at the time), Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Tiger Woods missed the cut.

Dustin Johnson, with incoming form of 2-1-2-1, is the hot single-digit favourite. The 2016 U.S. Open champion at an Oakmont course which has definite similarities to Winged Foot, has a massive chance to add a second Major Championship to his 23 PGA Tour victory haul – by the way that puts him in the all-time top 30. But there’s a huge trend going against Dustin this week in that only a single World Number 1 ranked player has won the title in the last 16 renewals. Yes of course it was Tiger Woods who’d won at Torrey Pines 6 times prior to his 2008 US Open victory there. He had previous, it’s safe to say.

As standard, the winner of this will need to be an all-round sort, so let’s keep it simple. I’ve gone with players who can play well on tough Poa Annua set-ups and those who tend to come alive on old-style, classical, parkland tracks. A liking for golf courses in the north-east of the United States also makes masses of sense. I’m also looking at linking this U.S. Open at Winged Foot to the tighter, traditional, Par70 venues we’ve seen at Merion in 2013, Pinehurst Number 2 in 2014 and Oakmont in 2016.

  • 2016 – Dustin Johnson (-4). 317 yards (1st), 64.3% fairways (16th), 76.4% greens in regulation (1st), 76.5% scrambling (1st), 1.87 putts per GIR (43rd), 2nd Total Driving, 1st Ball Striking, 1st All-Round.
  • 2014 – Marin Kaymer (-9). 306 yards (7th), 76.8% fairways (9th), 62.5% greens in regulation (18th), 70.4% scrambling (1st), 1.71 putts per GIR (1st), 2nd Total Driving, 4th Ball Striking, 1st All-Round.
  • 2013 – Justin Rose (+1). 300 yards (15th), 75.0% fairways (2nd), 69.4% greens in regulation (8th), 45.5% scrambling (25th), 1.82 putts per GIR (15th), 2nd Total Driving, 1st Ball Striking, 1st All-Round.

A common theme across all 3 renewals and the 2006 U.S. Open held here is top 15 Driving Distance, top 20 Driving Accuracy and top 18 Greens in Regulation. Short hitters appear to be a no-no in modern day U.S. Opens (Jim Furyk excepted), but clearly we need longer sorts who are at the peak of their Ball Striking powers.

Now with Winged Foot in particular, it’s also apparent that amongst the 3 PGA Tour-based players who finished in the top 4 positions here – namely Ogilvy, Furyk and Mickelson – that all ranked in the top 40 for Strokes Gained Around the Green when arriving here in New York. All 3 also ranked in the top 30 for Strokes Gained Putting. It all makes sense when you hear the likes of 2006 victor here Geoff Ogilvy and Winged Foot renovation master Gil Hanse describe Poa Annua grassed green complexes as ‘treacherous,’ scary,’ and ‘severely pitched.’

It’s also well worth noting that the average price for U.S. Open winners since 2010 is 43/1. Yes Jordan Spieth won at 9/1 in 2015 fresh from a Masters win, but the last 4 renewals have been won at 16/1 (2016 – Johnson), 45/1 (2017 – Koepka), 25/1 (2018 – Koepka) and 80/1 (2019 – Woodland).

My selections are as follows:

Xander Schauffele 2.5pts Each-Way 16/1 (9EW, 1/5) with William Hill

One who would seem to have the perfect storm of confident mental attitude, elite level skill-set and current form for Winged Foot is Xander Schauffele. A U.S. Open career history across his 3 appearances which reads 5th (on debut) at Erin Hills in 2017, 6th at Shinnecock Hills in 2018 and 3rd at Pebble Beach last year, pretty much tells us all we need to know.

Xander has always been the sort to peak for the big tournaments – run of the mill PGA Tour events are not his thing. 2nd at the 2018 Open Championship, 2nd at the 2019 Masters and 3 top-6 finishes at the U.S. Open, Xander is undoubtedly a player who peaks for the very biggest occasions in golf. And it’s not as if Schauffele doesn’t win some of the biggest prizes in golf. Remember this is a player who won the coveted 30-man 2017 Tour Championship in his rookie season! WGC success followed in 2018 with the HSBC Champions, beating Tony Finau in a play-off, and 2019 started with a victory in the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions. How he has not added to his tally since then is truly amazing.

A strong finish at Augusta National last year was only surpassed by a certain Tiger Woods and huge Tour Championship plus WGC HSBC Champions campaigns in the autumn saw the San Diego man beaten twice by Rory McIlroy.

2020 has seen Xander beaten in a play-off in January at the Tournament of Champions by Justin Thomas. In July he finished 3rd at the PGA Tour resuming Charles Schwab Challenge, in a tournament he let slip in the final 4 holes, and to top it all off, last time out he was beaten by the FedEx Cup scoring system at the Tour Championship. Yes Dustin Johnson quite rightly won the FedEx Cup title and the cool $15 million that went with it, but it was Xander who shot -15/265 across the week at East Lake, the lowest score by some 3 shots. In a straight fight, he beat Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson by 4 shots, Jon Rahm by 6 and Rory McIlroy by 7.

Schauffele is clearly in good nick. But his lack of wins may well prove to be an upside this week at the U.S. Open, where none of the last 4 winners had a win during the calendar year leading into their victory. 7 of the last 10 U.S. Open’s have also been won by first-time Major winners.

Those new to my betting previews should take note of my 8-week skill trackers, which rank players in the field across all meaningful skill sets. In effect it gives a short term view, over a longer-term season-long statistic. Xander across the traditional statistics, in this field, ranks 33rd for Driving Accuracy, 9th for Greens in Regulation, 1st in Scrambling and 5th in Putting Average. Make that Strokes Gained and he’s 2nd for Off the Tee, 3rd for Around the Green, 7th for Tee to Green, 9th for Putting and 4th for SG Total. He’s undoubtedly in the right spot to take his first Major this week. RESULT: 5th

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Tommy Fleetwood 1.5pts Each-Way at 35/1 (9EW, 1/5) with William Hill

A U.S. Open is undoubtedly a particularly specialist event. A mental battle where easy pars and course management is the key to success rather than crash-bang driving off the tee and continual shooting at pins. This is top-level Major Championship golf, where a round of level par is to be welcomed, rather than greeted by a shake of the head and be very aware that Winged Foot will kill most this week, via extended runs of bogey after bogey. In my mind it’s the perfect Major for Tommy Fleetwood, whose high-class driving, razor-sharp approach play and underrated around the green game, makes him a serious threat this week in New York.

4th at Erin Hills hosted U.S. Open in 2017 could have been viewed as a bit of a fluke, on the basis that the USGA took their most-coveted championship to an entirely ill-conceived golf course where Brooks Koepka won at -16/272. But the 2018 renewal at nearby Shinnecock Hills is far more powerful in terms of what we’re looking for this week. 4th at halfway, Fleetwood’s 78 on Saturday appeared to be a hammer blow. But Tommy showed his mental strength and prowess to bring a genuine U.S. Open venue to its knees with a final round -7/63, which almost earned him the title, but for the modern-day Major master, one Brooks Koepka.

But the die has been cast for Fleetwood, who last year was the closest challenger to Shane Lowry at the Royal Portrush hosted Open Championship. Whilst many crumbled, Fleetwood and Lowry went pretty much head-to-head, with the Irishman eventually prevailing in front of his adoring crowd.  Lowry and Fleetwood were the only 2 players in and around double-digits under par at a links course, in tough conditions where all facets were tested to the maximum. Tough Majors = Tommy Fleetwood.

So 2020 has not been the best for Tommy, although it started well enough with 2nd in Abu Dhabi and 3rd at the Honda Classic – a high-scoring, technical tournament where he should have taken his maiden PGA Tour title, pretty much handing it on a plate to the fast charging Sungjae Im. Post Covid-resumption, Tommy undoubtedly hasn’t been himself. 29th at the PGA Championship was a high spot, where he was 2nd after 36-holes.

But a return to England, and a hard re-boot on the range certainly seemed to bring rewards in Portugal last week at a European Tour event which featured fast turf conditions, releasing Bent Poa Annua-mix putting surfaces and thick, juicy rough. 5th for Total Driving, 3rd for Greens in Regulation and 3rd for Ball Striking, translated to 24th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, 1st for SG on Approach, 3rd for SG Around the Green and 1st for SG Tee to Green. A closing -7/64 saw him birdie 3 of the last 4 holes, and he must have hopped onto his private jet with a spring in his stride, heading for New York and a Major he knows he can excel at. RESULT: MC

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Patrick Reed 1.5pts Each-Way 40/1 (9EW, 1/5) with William Hill

If you look at Total Strokes Gained at the U.S. Open, you won’t be surprised to read that Brooks Koepka ranks Number 1, but clearly he’s a non-runner in this 120th running. Favourite and World Number 1 Dustin Johnson ranks 2, followed by Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele and one Patrick Reed.

Yes, he splits opinion, but from a punting perspective he delivers results. As recently as February, my European Tour colleague Paul Williams landed Reed at 50/1 at the WGC – Mexico Championship. And let’s not forget the 2018 Masters where Reed captured his first Major Championship at 55/1.

When the World Number 10 is confident with his tee to green game, undoubtedly he’s a big prize hunter. So I was pleased to note his Tour Championship performance a fortnight ago where he finished 8th (or 7th off a level start). Averaging 304 yards off the tee, he was 1st for Driving Accuracy, 1st for Total Driving, 10th for Greens in Regulation and 4th for Ball Striking. In Strokes Gained parlance that translated to 2nd for Off the Tee, 10th for Tee to Green and he was also 8th for Putting. I’d summarise by saying that the 30 year-old is ready for Winged Foot.

Looking at his past successes adds more fuel to the fire this week. His first WGC success game at Doral in 2014, when he tamed ferociously difficult course and wind conditions and a mini-Major field to win at -4/284. 2016 saw him win The Barclays at Bethpage State Park, Black Course. A regular Major Championship venue, set in Farmingdale, New York,  it’s a Tillinghast design as per Winged Foot and features Poa Annua greens. We’ll jump Reed’s 2018 Augusta National triumph and move to August 2019, where, on his last visit to the Big Apple, Reed won The Northern Trust at liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey. Safe to say that Patrick likes playing in these parts. And if we go back to Reed’s WGC victory in late February, it’s noteworthy that venue Club de Golf Chapultepec is a tree-lined, classical golf course which features Poa Annua greens.

With one victory, 2 top-5s and a further top-10 in Majors since August 2017 and a U.S. Open record that reads 14th (2015 – Chambers Bay), 13th (2017 – Erin Hills) and 4th (2018 – Shinnecock Hills), Patrick is the kind of grinder who will thrive this week. And his game from 100 yards and in is strong enough to tame Winged Foot’s famous green complexes and surrounding bunkers and run-off areas. Taking last season, which finished last week, Reed ranked 14th for Scrambling from over 30 yards, 21st for SG Around the Green and 12th for SG Putting. RESULT: T13

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Tyrrell Hatton 1.5pts EW 45/1 (9EW, 1/5) with William Hill

I will close with another English raider in the form of Tyrrell Hatton. Now resident in Orlando, Florida, Hatton is undoubtedly having his best season to date. Up from 32nd in the Official World Golf Ranking to 14th, the 28 year-old from High Wycombe has become a mainstay on the PGA Tour and took his game to a whole new level. 6th in the WGC- Mexico Championship, 3rd at the RBC Heritage, 4th at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, 16th at the BMW Championship and 7th on debut at the Tour Championship, Tyrrell owes this column nothing after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational back in March at 50/1.

And let’s be clear here – Hatton is not averse to mixing it at the very highest level. Hatton on United States soil has finished 10th at the 2015 PGA Championship (Whistling Straits), 6th at the 2018 U.S. Open (Shinnecock Hills) and 10th at the 2018 PGA Championship (Tillinghast-designed Baltusrol). 5th (2016) and 6th (2020) at the Open Championship also signify a player who can play his very best golf in Majors where scoring it at its most difficult.

A couple of rounds of -4/66 at East Lake powered the Englishman to a $1.3 million bonus cheque in Atlanta a fortnight ago, and in a ‘straight race’ his -10/270 total was good enough for 5th place. Eye-catchingly for the Winged Foot test this week, he ranked 8th for SG Off the Tee, 5th for Total Driving, 5th for Greens in Regulation, 4th for Ball Striking and 8th for SG Tee to Green. That excites, on the basis that across the whole of last season Tyrrell ranked 42nd for SG Around the Green and 34th for SG Putting.

Colder northern-European conditions, firmer turf and a course where your game from 100 yards and in has to be top-drawer, all point to the fact that Hatton is a man to back this week. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 13:15BST 14.9.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation.