This week is setting up to be one of the best U.S. Opens ever. We have an amazing field playing on the most iconic public course in America. There are so many storylines: Rory coming in off a win, Tiger trying to capture his second major of the year, Brooks trying to win every U.S. Open for the rest of his career, DJ looking to exorcise the demons of his implosion in the final round here in 2010, and Phil continuing his long quest for the career grand slam. This is going to be fun to watch!
Pebble Beach is different from the past few U.S. Open venues. Distance off the tee is not that big of an advantage. Accuracy will trump distance this week. Players will face firmer surfaces and narrower landing areas than they see in the AT&T Pro-Am. The greens at Pebble are some of the smallest on tour and will be as firm as the USGA dares to make them. Combine these greens with thick rough bordering the fairways, and you can expect players to miss a lot of greens and rely on their short game to scramble for par. In making your picks, consider players who have deft short-game touch, are patient, and know how to position themselves correctly off the tee, especially with clubs less than driver. Let’s look at a few players who fit that mold:
Brandt Snedeker $7,500
Snedeker is a short-game specialist who can keep it in play off the tee. In his last five events, he has gained 16 shots around the green. Snedeker has had great success at Pebble, winning the AT&T Pro-Am twice and finishing eighth in the U.S. Open here in 2010. His game is trending in the right direction: he finished 16th at the PGA, 19th at Colonial and fourth last week in Canada. He provides great value this week, as he is about $800 too cheap. This is because DraftKings releases the prices for majors more than a week in advance, which means the price doesn’t reflect his good finish last week.
Graeme McDowell $7,300
McDowell is nearly a carbon copy of Snedeker. Both players are amazing around the greens, keep it in play off the tee, and have done well at Pebble Beach. McDowell won the U.S. Open here in 2010. We get a lot of value on McDowell since he finished eighth last week in Canada, which, again, occurred after DraftKings released the pricing. Had that been taken into consideration, he would have been $8,000+.
All signs point to Tiger being contending this week and potentially capturing his second major of the year. If you analyze Tiger’s game, you see that his weakness is accuracy off the tee and his strengths are iron play, mental fortitude, and short game. At Pebble Beach, Tiger won’t need to hit driver much and will instead be able to rely upon his trusty 3-wood and 2-iron. With the greens being small and firm, Tiger’s superb iron play will help him gain an edge over the rest of the field. When he does miss a green, he is one of the best at getting up and down, especially at a course he has played so many times. The last time he lost strokes around the green was at the Northern Trust back in August 2018. He played a few weeks ago at Memorial and had a solid ninth-place finish, which allowed him to kick the rust off and get ready for this week. If you have Tiger left to use, he is a must-play this week.
If you don’t have Tiger Woods available, consider using other players such as Patrick Cantlay, Jason Day, Tommy Fleetwood, Paul Casey, or Xander Schauffele.