Yesterday, I highlighted the reasons why golf’s future in the USA - and beyond - could be in limbo with the inception of LIV Golf. But for now, allow us to indulge in the U.S. Open, one of America’s favorite golf events of the PGA Tour.
The U.S. Open, which stacks up as the third major of 2022, will be held at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, teeing off on Thursday. The course is known by experts to be an incredibly challenging one; between unforgiving second-cuts and “lightning-fast” greens, the field will certainly be challenged this weekend.
But first, some non-U.S. Open material
This is Brooks Koepka lashing out at the media for “drawing attention away” from the U.S. Open, peppering him with questions about the state of golf and how players who defect should be treated. He clearly wasn’t having it. I’m the first to advocate for the players having their wishes respected, but there’s a clear line between ignoring a monumental shift in the sport and overstepping your boundaries. I understand Brooks here, but it’s irresponsible by the media to NOT ask those questions. I digress.
Here are my selections for educated bets this week. As always, bet responsibly and call 1-800-GAMBLER if you or someone you know has a gambling problem.
Win: Justin Thomas +1100
As Kyle Porter, CBS Senior Golf Writer, stated: “J.T. is one of the three best iron players on the planet,” and that’s very much a desirable trait in a course that will rely on solid iron play this week. Thomas is playing the best golf of his career, coming off a solid playoff win in the PGA Championship over Will Zalatoris just a few weeks ago. He’s upped his putting game, putting himself back into contests of all sorts. And, now that ex-Mickelson caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay is by his side, lots are bullish on J.T. to compete again. I’m one of them.
Win: Patrick Cantlay +2000
Cantlay missed cuts in the PGA and The Players Championships, but never in the U.S. Open (he’s 4-for-4 in that area). This year, he has been beyond solid otherwise. In twelve starts, he boasts a win, two playoff losses, three finishes in the top five, and one more in the top ten. With essentially no weaknesses, Cantlay is a guy that exudes confidence, and he’s got lots in his toolbag to be successful in Brookline this week. As someone who saw Cantlay break a course record for an amateur in the 2011 Travelers’ Championship in-person, nothing can convince me that he won’t be competitive this weekend.
Dark Horse: Matt Fitzpatrick +2500
Fitzpatrick won the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club back in 2013 Now, nine years later, he’s returning as the 18th-best golfer in the world…and he’s staying with his host family that lives nearby Brookline. Seems like a lock. Fitzpatrick has been grappling with Rory McIlroy for the leader in total strokes gained, a key indicator of a golfer’s performance at any given time, and Rory just stole it from him this week. Now that Fitzpatrick is on a national spotlight, consider him a solid play to at least contend for the title.
First Round Leader: Joaquin Niemann +4000
Before this article, I wasn’t quite sure who Joaquin Niemann was, and now I’m all in on this special prop. Niemann, a Chilean, was the number one ranked amateur golfer for a whole year, and despite being 23 years old, has already won two PGA events. Niemann leads the entire PGA Tour in first round scoring average, and gained an average of 3.5 strokes off the tee against his counterparts in his last five appearances. He’s red hot with his irons of late, getting an extra 6.5-stroke advantage on the approach, which will be massive in a longer course such as The Country Club.
This eagle on #9 at Augusta was sweet, too.
Miss Cut: Brooks Koepka +140
Look - I don’t like betting on guys to do poorly. It’s why I hate betting unders so much as well. But let’s be real, Koepka is limping into this one. If you put the controversy of his LIV Golf comments aside, he’s playing some of his worst golf in recent memory. He missed the cuts at both the Masters and Players’ Championship, followed by a dismal +8 performance at the PGA Championship. Injuries haven’t helped his cause. If you like history to repeat itself, maybe sprinkle some on Koepka to win - his two U.S. Open wins and two top-4 finishes speak for themselves - but for now, I’m out on Koepka.