This article is part of our Betting on Golf series.
U.S. Open Betting Strategy
The 2020-21 PGA Tour season is upon us, and the Tour is wasting no time getting to the majors, as the second event on the schedule is this week's U.S. Open – the first of six majors scheduled to be played in the next 10 months. Winged Foot Golf Club, less than an hour outside of New York City, is hosting for the first time since 2006, when Geoff Ogilvy won with a score of five-over-par. Last year, Gary Woodland cruised to his first major championship victory at Pebble Beach with a three-shot win over Brooks Koepka.
Both the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open are contested at a variety of different venues, but the U.S. Open typically plays as the tougher of the two majors. Although there were winning scores of 13-under and 16-under-par in two of the last three years, only one champion over the U.S. Open's last five trips to Winged Foot finished under par. The host site will play as a par-70 at just under 7,500 yards, so it's going to play longer than a typical U.S. Open setup, with the usual narrow fairways, deep rough and speedy greens.
All odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Showing Up On The Big Stage
The following five players in this week's field own the lowest score to par over the last five majors:
Brooks Koepka actually leads this list at a whopping 39-under-par, but he is sidelined by an injury this week, so Johnson checks in as the participating golfer who has played the majors the best since the beginning of 2019. There's also no golfer in better form, as Johnson won or finished runner-up in each of his last four events. Day is the only player outside of the top 15 in the Official World Golf Ranking on the list, as he enters the week ranked 37th. Day has one major championship to his name – the 2015 PGA Championship – and he has finished runner-up at the U.S. Open twice. He elevates his game at difficult major setups, and a couple of poor performances to close the season has Day coming into the week under the radar at 33-1.
The Right Approach
The following five players gained the most strokes on approach – with a minimum of 10 rounds played – in the U.S. Open since 2017:
Over the last three years the winner has finished inside the top three in SG: Approach, so iron play is going to be a key factor in determining the winner. Stenson has played the best of any player in the field in the category and finished in the top 10 each of the last two years, but the 44-year-old has only played in three PGA Tour events in 2020, with two missed cuts and a T35 finish. Hatton has put together a great 2020, picking up his first PGA Tour win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March and recording a total of five top-10 finishes in only nine events. Hatton is an accurate driver and stellar iron player who doesn't make a lot of bogeys, so Winged Foot should fit his game well. He enters the tournament with 40-1 odds.
The Player of the Year
Justin Thomas was named the PGA of America's 2019-20 Player of the Year after picking up three wins on the season, bringing his total to 13 – the most of anyone on Tour under the age of 30. He's looking to develop more consistency in majors, however. In 18 starts last season he had 10 top-10 results, but in 18 career major appearances he has just three top-10s. He comes into the week as the third betting choice at 14-1.
Searching for Form
Bryson DeChambeau went on a tear when the Tour restarted, firing off three straight top-10s before winning in his fourth start at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. His results haven't been the same lately, with only one top-20 result in his last six starts, and he lost 1.12 strokes per round on approach over the three FedExCup Playoff events. Barring a sudden turnaround, he appears overpriced at 28-1 – the seventh-best odds on the board.
The Masters is the only major Rory McIlroy has failed to win, but his results at the U.S. Open have had the most variance, as he's missed the cut five times in 11 appearances - three more MCs than any other major. McIlroy also hasn't had his best form since action resumed in June, with his only top-10 result coming when just 30 players were in the field for the TOUR Championship.
Their Time Could be Now
Collin Morikawa continued the trend of first-time major winners by winning the PGA Championship and taking home the Wanamaker Trophy at TPC Harding Park. Since the beginning of 2016, 12 of the 17 major champions picked up their maiden major win. Here are some golfers that have a good shot to join the group:
Xander Schauffele (16-1): Only Koepka and Johnson have played the majors at a lower score to par since the beginning of 2019, and Schauffele has finished inside the top 10 in six of his 12 major appearances while missing only one missed cut. His record is even more impressive at the U.S. Open, where he's never finished worse than a share of sixth place. Schauffele is coming off a runner-up finish at the TOUR Championship and hasn't missed a cut since the Tour's restart in June. Everything is in place for him to pick up his first major championship victory this week.
Daniel Berger (33-1): It's hard to say that Berger's coming into the tournament hot, because he's played so well all year long. The only thing missing from his 2020 resume is a major victory, and Berger's best major result came at the 2018 U.S. Open at nearby Shinnecock Hills, where he held the co-lead after 54-holes before finishing T6. He should be priced closer to 20-1.
Harris English (70-1): English gets overshadowed by guys like Berger and Brendon Todd, who also had remarkably great comeback seasons, but his was nearly as impressive, as he went from playing in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals last summer to recording six top-10s in the 2019-20 season and seeing his OWGR rank soar from outside the top 350 all the way up to 45th. He's gaining 1.43 total strokes per round since June.
Kevin Kisner (90-1): Kisner comes into the U.S. Open playing some of the best golf of his career, with three top-5 results since June. He'll be overlooked by many due to the high odds and with only two career top-10 results in majors. However, Kisner has played well in prestigious events, with a win and two runner-up results in World Golf Championship events and a playoff loss in the 2015 PLAYERS Championship. We've seen golfers like Gary Wooland and Jimmy Walker get their first major win later in their career and Kisner may do the same.
Will Zalatoris (160-1): Zalatoris' 2020 season on the Korn Ferry Tour is one of the most remarkable performances in recent memory. In 16 starts he finished in the top 10 a total of 10 times – five more than anyone else. We're likely going to have to wait another year before he joins the PGA Tour ranks full-time, but look for him to make a quick impression when he does, similar to previous Korn Ferry Tour graduates Scottie Scheffler and Sungjae Im. Zalatoris should be a sneaky pick – with moderate ownership at best – in DFS contests this week.
Matthias Schwab (160-1): The young Austrian is making only his second major appearance, and although his success has been primarily on the European Tour, Schwab finished third at the PGA Tour's Barracuda Championship last month and fourth at the WGC-HSBC Champions late last year. Look at him as a long-shot top-5 bet and as a cheap DFS option.