U.S. Open Betting Preview
7,040-yard, Par 71
Here are some of my thoughts, projections and “Fairway Forecasts” for this year’s 110th U.S. Open. This year’s U.S. Open championship at Pebble Beach will play to par 71 and 7,040 yards. Check out the fly over video, but understand that the golf course plays much different this week for the U.S. Open than in February when Pebble Beach is the host course for the AT&T National Pro-Am Tour event.
As you watch the action, know that the opening seven holes play downwind and are considered “scoring holes”. No. 7 is a scenic and short par 3; just 109 yards and a flip sand wedge unless the wind is blowing. The par 5 at No. 6 will be one of the easiest holes on the course and players must score early and be prepared for the “rough” ahead. Phil Mickelson said he will hit 4-iron off the tee every round on No. 6, and that he can still reach the green in two shots on the par 5. Three of the finest consecutive par 4s in golf are at Pebble Beach – holes 8, 9 and 10. Jack Nicklaus calls the second shot at No. 8 his favorite shot in golf. Take a look at this video and interviews about Pebble Beach and the Cliffs of Doom. Some scenic splendor for sure, and the players will get a great look at Carmel Bay at the Par 5 closing hole as a dramatic finish awaits. When you combine the strength of the golf course with tiny greens, narrower fairways, thicker rough, seaside stretches with lots of sand and wind, you’re in for the toughest challenge in golf.
The United States Golf Association (USGA) had tried to introduce more risk/reward and give the players more choices to play conservative or aggressive. In theory, the USGA wants the U.S. Open to be the toughest test of golf the players will see all year, and that’s in every aspect whether it’s driving the ball, putting, approach shots or recovery around the greens. The U.S. Open is a very particular type of test and the degree of difficulty is not over-hyped. If a player executes the proper shot, he may be rewarded. If he hits a mediocre or poor shot, he’ll likely pay the price. The U.S. Open is the ultimate test of strength, survival and perseverance, and Pebble Beach provides the backdrop and battleground to break down some of the game’s best golfers and force them to execute and examine their shots and exhaust their energy.
USGA setup guru Mike Davis said, "When you get a course that's firm and fast and it gets windy, that's when the great shot-making comes out," Davis said. "When you think who are the best shot-makers, they're the greatest players. I think that's why Pebble always adds this great drama.”
Davis added, "These greens are absolutely the smallest in major championship golf. With these sized greens, distance control is so important, the ability to spin the ball is important. So if you're coming out of the rough, you're at a definite disadvantage. We really think that the new groove, particularly at Pebble Beach, where we know we're going to have dry conditions, is going to matter a lot."
Regarding the greens, Davis noted: "Relative to other U.S. Opens, these greens will probably be the slowest we've had in the last decade or so. However, I would say that they are maybe the scariest greens we've had. You get out there and see so many of these greens have a lot of pitch from back-to-front or side-to-side, and they're small, and you get windy conditions. That speed is a very scary speed if you short-side yourself or get on the wrong side of the hole."
There will be graduated rough again at this year’s Open, as the penalty becomes more severe the further off line you hit the ball. It can be more difficult around the greens with over 3” of rough as players try to recover. Graduated rough was not in play at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach when Tiger Woods went wire-to-wire and won by 15 shots; the only player to break par (-12). The USGA still wants some inconsistencies in the rough. They want players to look down and figure out what’s going to happen with the lie and force both mental course management and a level of skill needed to hit the necessary shot from a variety of tough conditions. Yet at Pebble Beach, the wind and ocean impacts play more often and more fairways were moved closer to the ocean and cliffs. Something not seen week to week on the PGA Tour is difficult bunkers or too many tough sand shots. The players will have to navigate nearly 85 bunkers at Pebble Beach while figuring out the wind patterns and impact on distance and control. The USGA purposely softens up the sand so the players will get less spin out of it. Firmness and wind are two key elements of the game that can really separate the great players from the good players, as those elements force players to think about what happens when your ball lands instead of just throwing darts towards the flags. Those two elements should be prevalent this week, however limited wind is expected inland with temperatures in the 60’s in beautiful Monterey, California. Players will need necessary strength and scrambling while trying not to short side themselves around the very, very small greens that pitch heavily from back to front.
Over 8,000 golfers that were not exempt to play in the U.S. Open took their shot and went through qualifying to play at Pebble Beach. Only 79 players are exempt for this year’s U.S. Open, so half the field of 156 players went through qualifying to play their way into this prestigious event and our national championship. It’s a true “open championship”, but not the strongest field in golf as 11 amateurs also qualified. The strength and setup at Pebble Beach still narrows the field of potential winners. Players that are solid mid-range iron players that can really control the ball with distance and trajectory will have more success this week.
I believe the best scoring day will be Sunday as the USGA tries to add more excitement to the final round and finish. Keep that in mind as you consider single-day player scoring, but know that few players will break par this week. Still, with limited wind forecast and depending on those conditions, I expect a winning score of minus (-5) or better and you can bet over/under a winning score of 280.5.
Best wishes and stay on course this week as you try to avoid the rough and fire for the flags at the U.S. Open.
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Fairway’s favorites: Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood
Fairway’s chip-ins: Ricky Barnes, Luke Donald, Retief Goosen, Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney
Fairway’s fades: Paul Casey, Lucas Glover, Padraig Harrington, J.B. Holmes, Ryo Ishikawa, Martin Kaymer, Rory Mcllroy, Ian Poulter, Mike Weir
Fairway’s longshots: Tim Clark, Ben Crane, Ryan Moore, Heath Slocum, Bo Van Pelt