Down the Lines: U.S. Open Edition

Dustin+Johnson+walks+the+12th+fairway+during+practice+before+the+U.S.+Open+Championship+golf+tournament+at+Winged+Foot+Golf+Club%2C+Tuesday%2C+Sept.+15%2C+2020%2C+in+Mamaroneck%2C+N.Y.+

John Minchillo | Associated Press

Dustin Johnson walks the 12th fairway during practice before the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament at Winged Foot Golf Club, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Wes Sanderson, Reporter

The PGA Tour rolls into its second major of the 2020 calendar. Originally scheduled for Father’s Day weekend in June, the US Open at Winged Foot Country Club in New York will host one of golf’s greatest tests starting Thursday. 

The championship West Course received a massive renovation in 2015 by Gil Hanse, known for his massive green complexes and strategic bunker placement. Winged Foot is no newcomer to hosting major championship golf, but the last time the best in the world stepped onto its grounds was in 2006, when the USGA’s handling of the golf course arguably cost Phil Mickelson a chance at the career grand-slam. 

This go-around, a new guard is set to take over and continue to solidify itself as the new generation in golf. Here is a breakdown of three tournament favorites and three sleepers to look out for based on money value.

 

Outright Winners

Dustin Johnson (+850): Johnson is the tournament favorite heading into this major. Since the PGA Tour restart, Johnson has been on a literal tear. Racking up three wins and two runner-up finishes, one of which was a playoff and the other was a runner-up at the only other major to take place this year. DJ has shown that he’s locked in and has the potential to capture the second major of his career. His only crutch will be how he putts on these slick greens.

Collin Morikawa (+1800): Currently the only player to win a major in 2020, so obviously he’s going to be on this list, but there are many other reasons you should consider Morikawa a contender. The 23-year-old has racked up two wins and a runner-up finish since the restart. Currently, he ranks fifth in the World Golf Rankings. Morikawa’s biggest plus has been his ability to hold his own with the best. At the PGA, Morikawa came from behind against the likes of Johnson, Jason Day and Bryson DeChambeau. Clearly the kid, who’s been on tour for less than a year, isn’t afraid of the big stage.

Daniel Berger (+3300): From a performance to value stand-point I think there are very few out there with a better line than Daniel Berger. Berger, who is part of the massive powerhouse class of 2013 professionals, has found consistency in 2020 dating back to before the Tour shutdown. Since the restart, Berger has recorded one win, three top-three finishes and finished inside the top-25in all but one of his other four starts. Berger has been the poster-boy for make/miss cut bets. I think Berger joins the likes of others in the 2013 class and finally captures his first major championship.

 

Sleeper Picks

Tiger Woods (+4100): What would be a golf list without Tiger Woods on it? Simple answer it wouldn’t be. The Big Cat has taken the last three weeks off after failing to qualify for the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta. In 2020, Woods has only played six PGA Tour events, four of those coming after the restart. The issue has not just been reps, but it’s been form as well. Since the Tour resumed, Woods’ best finish came at the PGA Championship and that was a lowly T-37. Tiger has struggled to put up four consistent rounds, which is common for those in their 40s, but I’d be skeptical of putting money on the reigning Master’s champion at Winged Foot this year.

Phil Mickelson (+8000): Phil has some scar-tissue at this golf course. In 2006, Mickelson went into the final round of that year’s US Open leading and looking to capture another major, but a few errant tee shots, and missed crucial putts kept Lefty from holding the US Open trophy once again. Fresh off a win on the PGA Tour Champions and recorded a 10-under showing at the Safeway Open over the Sept. 10 weekend. Mickelson heads into Winged Foot with good mojo. Looking to be the oldest person to win the US Open, surpassing Hale Irwin who won at 45 years old, and also locking up the career grand-slam. If “Phil the Thrill” can keep the driver in the fairway and putt like he’s capable of, don’t count the old guy out of this before it even starts.

FILE – In this June 18, 2006, file photo, Geoff Ogilvy, left, of Australia, and Phil Mickelson talk on the 18th green where Ogilvy was presented the U.S. Open trophy after winning the golf championship at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. Of the five U.S. Opens at Winged Foot, only two players ever finished under par. (Morry Gash | Associated Press)

Brendon Todd (+10000): Another model of consistency in the 2020 season. Todd racked up three wins, all before the Tour halted play, and then rattled off consistency after the restart. Todd is not a particularly long hitter ranking,124th in strokes gained off-the-tee, Todd makes up for his lack of length with his driving accuracy, ranking forth in driving percentage hitting 71% of fairways. Todd’s putting is really what has made his 2020 season successful, ranking 20th in Strokes Gained Putting. At a course where greens will be firm and fast, Todd might be a good underdog to have in this race.

 

Positional Standings

Golf gives you a bit more wiggle room with picking how you want to risk your money. Having a field of 125 plus players means position on the leaderboard can also lead to good payouts. o break down a couple safe looks for a top-five and top-10 finish, consider these few players.

Matthew Fitzpatrick (+850 to finish top-5): Fitzpatrick has been a bit of a wildcard in recent memory at the majors, but the young Englishman seems to have been on a bit of a tear of late. In his last five events, Fitzpatrick has recorded a solo third and two T-6 finishes. Though not particularly known for his length off the tee, ranking 121st in driving distance, he does rank inside the top-40 on Tour in driving accuracy and is ranked 2nd in Strokes Gained Putting. Putting is going to be the key to unlocking a good score at Winged Foot. If Fitzpatrick can keep the flatstick hot, he could easily have a podium finish on Sunday. 

Tony Finau (+600 to finish top-5): This is such an easy bet for me to put on here, not just because of recent success, finishing out the season only missing one cut in his last eight events, but because of his track record at the majors. Since 2018, Finau has recorded six top-10 finishes and four of them he finished in the top-5. Finau finished T-4 at the first major of the year at TPC Harding Park, and with his length this week and his ability to reach greens in regulation, this could spell success for the one-time PGA Tour winner.

Tommy Fleetwood (+300 to finish top-10): Though Fleetwood has not rolled into New York in much proven form, the Englishman’s track record at major championships is something to be optimistic about, especially at this specific major. Fleetwood has recorded two top-five finishes in the last three playings of the US Open. One of those tournaments was hosted in New York at Shinnecok Hills Golf Club in Southampton, where Fleetwood shot a final round 63. Take long-standing form over recent struggles here.

 

Fanduel Tournament Match-up

Woods (-150) vs. Mickelson (+124): This is a simple head to head bet to see who finishes higher on the leaderboard. I’m not surprised Fanduel did this to me. I mean for the past two decades Big Cat and Phil have been fighting one another for major dominance. Since both players are seasoned veterans and have played Winged Foot before, it really comes down to the eye test. My eye tells me that one of these players has a Champions Tour win and played the week before the tournament. While the other has played four times since July and had his highest finish be a T-37. Phil beats Tiger for better leaderboard finish.