Goodbye Safeway Open and hello U.S. Open.
From all accounts, Winged Foot will be a brute. We should expect to see a winning score over par, lightning-fast greens, tight fairways, and luscious rough. The one downside to conditions being so difficult will be every golf pundit saying the word “carnage” for the next week. It’s just a small price we have to pay to watch the world’s best grind for four days.
I think there is one question, that all handicappers need to answer this week. How important is off-the-tee? If fairways are going to be tough to hit, is off-the-tee negated to an extent? Meaning, bad drivers are going to miss fairways at a rate that they typically do, are good drivers going to miss fairways just slightly less than poor drivers? If you look at the 2006 U.S. Open leaderboard, you’d be surprised at who you see at the top. Phil the Thrill and Geoff Ogilvy – two guys not known for their driving accuracy. The ability to get up and down from around 100 yards will be crucial this week. Missed fairways are going to happen, and being able to make par after pitching out of the rough could ultimately be the difference when it is all said and done.
Finding your name in this article has proved to be a death wish – regardless of leaning or fading. We’ll look to fix that this week, with our first major edition of Hot or Not.
Hot: Patrick Reed (+4500)
Patrick Reed finds his name in this article for a second straight start, albeit on the other side this go around. I’ll be honest, I was a little mean to him (and his wife), but his play at East Lake showed signs of promise. Leading in driving accuracy amongst a field of the 30 best players in the world is no small feat, and something that will carry over to Winged Foot. The one issue with Reed’s game is his irons. If he is able to dial those in this week, he will most definitely find himself in the mix. He’s straight off the tee, world class around the greens, and avoids bogeys like he avoids dieting. His attitude is perfect for a U.S. Open. He’s fiery, he’s a grinder, he’s a fighter, and he’s even a cheater (if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying). Most aren’t fans of Reed, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make us some coin.
Hot: Matthew Fitzpatrick (+7500)
When looking for longer odd players to target this week, Matthew Fitzpatrick fits the build. The Englishman, who could easily sneak his way into an AJGA event, is known for his putting prowess, but there’s much more to like about his game. Off-the-tee he’s straighter than Hugh Hefner and from 200 + yards out he’s more precise than a drone strike – two areas that will be tested this week. Despite having not won on the PGA Tour, he still holds a winning pedigree. Notching wins on tough tracks across the pond and a U.S. Amateur Championship coming at The Country Club. I think Fitzpatrick will be a hot pick across the industry since he checks so many boxes. If he is able to chip, and get up and down from around the green, I’m sure the rest of his game will hold up to a U.S. Open test.
Not: Rory McIlroy (+1600)
There’s a lot of chatter about the “nappy” factor that surrounds new dad, Rory McIlroy. Having sprinted out of the gates at East Lake, he lost steam over the next three rounds – including an amateur blunder on the 18th hole during his second round. What concerns me about Rory is how he wins. It’s never at a grind-fest, always a shootout, and trust me when I say that this week will not be a shootout. Surprisingly, Rory has missed the cut in 3 of the last 4 U.S. Opens, with the lone made cut being at Pebble Beach last year. This year won’t play like Pebble Beach, but more similar to the likes of Shinnecock Hills, Oakmont, or even Bethpage Black – courses that Rory has struggled at.
Not: Bryson DeChambeau (+2000)
Welcome back Bryson DeChambeau! People are slowly realizing that Bryson’s game has been horrible since his win in Detroit. The bomb and gouge strategy won’t find success this week and I’m inclined to believe that is the route the amateur bodybuilder will go with at Winged Foot. At East Lake, Bryson failed to gain with his irons for a third straight start, making it six out of his last seven. My biggest concern for Bryson is that his biggest strength – distance off the tee – will most likely be his biggest downfall. I’m willing to bet that he won’t have the mental strength to lay off the big stick, find fairways, and ultimately be his own worst enemy.
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