U.S. Open week is finally here! This week should be an absolute joy since we have arguably one of the best courses in the world, Shinnecock Hills, as the test for the world’s best players. Shinnecock will play fast and firm and will require precise iron shots with the greens playing much smaller than their actual size. Players who are able to control their trajectory and shape will have the best chance at holding the greens and avoiding all of the runoffs. Players who miss the green will be faced with many tight lie pitch and chip shots that will require imagination and a deft touch. The fairways at Shinnecock are wider than a typical U.S. Open, so I’ll give a slight edge to bombers, especially if they can have a hot week with the driver. The Poa annua greens are very undulating and will be around 12 on the stimpmeter. To be atop the leaderboard on Sunday, a player will have to limit their bogies and pick and choose the times to be aggressive. One key item to note this week is the wind. Check the weather forecast on Wednesday night to see if there will be any advantage for one of the waves during the first two rounds. When the wind is up at Shinnecock, the difficulty increases rapidly. Here are some players to consider:
Hideki Matsuyama $8,900
Hideki is the only player to finish in the top 20 in each of the last six majors. Finally back to 100% health, he looks to capture that elusive first major. His game is a perfect fit for Shinnecock. Over his last 50 rounds, he is 19th in strokes gained approach, 12th in strokes gained around the green, 24th in driving distance and 20th in bogey avoidance. Hideki’s short game is underrated as many would not believe that he has gained 10 strokes around the green in his last five events.
Branden Grace $8,400
The South African native, Grace, loves playing on links courses. He narrowly missed a victory at Chambers Bay and shot 62 at Royal Birkdale last year. He has finished in the top six in three of his last eight major appearances. He comes into this week in good form gaining strokes on approach and around the green in six of his last eight events.
Dustin will be the most popular pick in leagues this week. So if you are near the top of your league, you can take the chalky pick of DJ. If you want to look elsewhere, here are two players to consider:
Koepka, another player who finally seems to be 100% healthy, looks to defend his title this week. He has finished in the top 15 in each of the last five majors he has played. His game is trending upward lately, finishing 2nd at Colonial and 11th at the Players.
The Australian, Scott, should feel very comfortable with the firm and fast conditions at Shinnecock. Scott has been striking the ball well this year but has been held back by his putter. In his last four events, Scott has gained over 15 shots on approach and 12 shots off the tee. He should have an advantage on the greens this week. He has hired local caddie Lenny Bummolo to loop, who should be able to help Scott read the tricky greens at Shinnecock.
Luke List (150-1 to win, 5-1 top 20)
List checks all the boxes this week. Over his last 50 rounds, he is 3rd in strokes gained off the tee, 4th in strokes gained around the green, 3rd in driving distance, 16th in bogey avoidance and 28th in strokes gained approach. If he can combine that skillset with an average putting week, he could be on the front page of the leaderboard on Sunday.
Steve Stricker (200-1 to win, 5-1 top 20)
Stricker is a model of consistency. He has made the cut in his last twenty-seven major appearances. Odds are he continues that streak this week. His controlled iron game and deft touch around the greens should yield a solid result.