Who should you bet on for the U.S. Open? It's impossible not to like Dustin Johnson this week at Pebble Beach.
Picks and Plays: U.S. Open
Golf’s third major of the year is set to get underway this week as 156 golfers will tee it up at iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links. This, of course, marks the PGA Tour’s second visit of the year to Pebble, though the U.S. Open will be a completely different animal than the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am that was contested back in February.
Narrow fairways, slick greens and of course thick rough. As we know, with the USGA, it’s all about the rough!
Brooks Koepka returns to the U.S. Open looking for his third consecutive title after winning at Erin Hills in 2017 and Shinnecock Hills in 2018. At this point, it’s become virtually impossible to pick against Koepka in a major championship. Back-to-Back U.S. Open titles, back-to-back PGA Championships and a second-place finish at the Masters. Though his experience at Pebble Beach is limited.
Tiger Woods returns to the site of arguably his greatest major championship performance. Tiger’s 15-stroke victory at the 2000 US Open is widely considered the most dominant performance in major history. He’ll have to get reacquainted with Pebble in a hurry, as he hasn’t teed it up there professionally since the 2012 AT&T.
Along with Koepka and Woods, the 156-player field will feature the Top 60 players in the OWGR, along with 60 golfers who made their way through sectional qualifying. Two-time champion Ernie Els will also tee it up after receiving a special exemption from the USGA.
This will mark the first U.S. Open at Pebble since 2010. Due to the golf course’s small green’s, SG Approach and GIR % will be key statistics this week. Back in 2010, eight players inside the top 15 on the leaderboard, ranked in the top 15 for the week in GIR %.
Keeping it in the fairway will also be key this week, so SG off the Tee will be important. Back in 2010, eventual champion Graeme McDowell hit 67% of the fairways at Pebble, which ranked 38th for the week.
Nuts and bolts
Course: Pebble Beach Golf Links (7,075 yards, Par 71)
Defending Champion: Brooks Koepka (+1, 281 at Shinnecock Hills)
Weather Forecast: Partly cloudy with temperatures in the high 50’s to low 60’s
Dustin Johnson (7/1, $12,200)
It’s simply impossible to not like DJ this week at Pebble Beach. First, let's look at his track record. He’s played in the AT&T 11 times and made the cut in 10 of those appearances racking up two wins and eight top 10’s. He also finished T-8 at the 2010 US Open at Pebble, and has tallied a win and five top-10 finishes in 11 U.S. Open starts. DJ ranks third in SG off the Tee and should be able to showcase his wedge game if he finds the fairway off the tee. He’s 13th in GIR%, 16th in SG Approach and can handle the slick U.S. Open greens as he currently sits 14th in SG Putting.
Tommy Fleetwood (30/1, $10,600)
Tough to shy away from Fleetwood, and when you take into account the 30/1 number, it’s a no brainer. Fleetwood has consistently stepped up to the challenge of the U.S. Open. He finished second after a magical final round at Shinnecock and let's not forget he also finished fourth at Erin Hills in 2017.
The 28-year-old Englishman currently ranks fourth in SG off the Tee and is 29th in SG Around the Green and 41st in SG Approach. Course familiarity may be a factor early on in the week as Tommy has never played a professional round at Pebble, though he had never competed at Erin Hills or Shinnecock and those Opens seemed to work out just fine.
Paul Casey (45/1, $10,000)
This will be a great opportunity for the 41-year-old to take his name off the Best Player Never to Win a Major list. Casey has the perfect game for Pebble and he’s shown great comfort at the golf course the past two years, finishing second behind Phil Mickelson at the 2019 AT&T and T-8 in 2018.
He currently ranks 10th in SG off the Tee, 13th in Driving Accuracy and 19th in both GIR% and SG Approach. After WD’ing at Colonial due to the flu, Casey should be rested and is coming off decent showings at the Wells Fargo and PGA.
Brandt Snedeker (55/1, $9,400)
Because of injuries we’ve kind of forgotten just how good Sneds is, though he has quickly reminded us this season. He heads to Pebble fresh off three consecutive top-20 performances, including a T-4 at last week’s RBC Canadian Open. Though statistically, he may not match up with Pebble, his history at both the golf course and U.S. Open are eye-opening. Over the last five U.S. Opens Snedeker has tallied three top 10’s and finished T-8 at the 2010 Open at Pebble. He has also thrived at the AT&T, nailing down two wins and another top 5 over his last six appearances.
His short game will make up for any lack of accuracy on approach shots. Love Sneds at 55 to 1.
Kevin Na (100/1, $9,200)
Fresh off a win at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial, Na heads back to Pebble which ranks as one of his favorite golf courses on the planet. Na has made the cut in five of his seven U.S. Open appearances with his best finish a T-7 in 2016 at Oakmont. He’s also made seven of 11 cuts at the AT&T including a T-20 in 2018 and a T-4 in 2014. He currently ranks 42nd in SG Approach and 21st in SG Around the Green.
Phil Mickelson (55/1, $10,300)
The sentimental pick this week will get plenty of action thrown his way, but I’m just not feeling it. Yes, he’s known as Monterey Mickelson, having won five times at Pebble Beach, including this past February, but the weight of trying to win that elusive U.S. Open combined with his recent play is just too much to look away from. Since the win at the AT&T, Phil has just one top-35 finish (The Masters) and has missed four cuts in nine starts. I’ll be rooting for Lefty, but I just don’t see him hoisting the U.S. Open trophy.