The U.S. Open, golf’s toughest test, returns this week. Yahoo Sports fantasy analyst Scott Pianowski and Yahoo Sports golf writer Jay Busbee are here to give you all you need to know to make some informed wagering decisions. See BetMGM for the most updated lines.
BUSBEE: The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, will host the U.S. Open for the fourth time, but the first since 1988. Most of the pros in the field, and almost everyone expected to contend, wasn’t even born the last time The Country Club hosted one of these. What’s your perspective on this fine little establishment?
PIANOWSKI: Ah, The Country Club. *The* Country Club. There's not much historical stuff to consider for our handicapping, since the key history here is too old. Francis Ouimet isn't in the field. The glorious U.S. Ryder Cup win from 1999 isn't something we can apply forward. Perhaps the key thing to note is that Matthew Fitzpatrick won the 2013 U.S. Amateur here, and Scottie Scheffler was also in that field.
A lot of mounding, a lot of small greens. They will do their best to protect par. I figure most of the field shoots over par, and a small score under par looks good on Sunday. You'll need equanimity to win here, excellent scrambling, and you'll have to make a lot of money 8-to-10 footers, although a bunch of them will be for par.
I know that sort of grinding golf isn't everyone's cup of tea. But I wish they'd set it up like this more often. You know how the old expression goes, they're not trying to embarrass the best players in the world, they're trying to identify them.
BUSBEE: This will do it. I’m looking forward to seeing how the USGA copes with the prodigious length off the tee that so many pros can unleash now … and also how the players complain about the setup and the rough. A tradition unlike any other, to borrow a phrase.
Now, let’s talk specifics. Who’s your top dog and your dark horse, to mix animal metaphors?
PIANOWSKI: Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas have to be the co-favorites (with Scheffler not far behind). They're in lovely form. Man, did they give Jay Monahan an early Christmas present, the duel in Canada (with some Tony Finau mixed in). A perfect commercial for PGA Tour life, from its two strongest spokespeople. Alas, I'm not the type of guy who likes betting favorites, so while a McIlroy or Thomas win would be welcome for me — golf loves underdogs on Thursday, overdogs on Sunday — I'll go down a little further on the sheet.
How about Xander Schauffele? Five U.S. Open starts and never been worse than seventh. Balanced statistical profile. Consistent. Calm. All that yellow on his major history sheet. I refuse to believe he's another Matt Kuchar or Colin Montgomerie, I think he's better than that. I expect Xander bags a couple of majors before his career is out, and this sort of track should fit his game.
Matt Fitzpatrick is one of my favorite mid-tier plays. Decent Open resume. The Amateur win was recent enough to matter. He's not a bomber but I don't see this as a driver-favoring track anyway. Top 10 in bunker play and scrambling, 22nd in putting. He's one of my primary picks.
Shocked Davis Riley is just $21 in Yahoo DFS, a free square. He's been 13th or better in five straight events, including the PGA Championship. Bright lights don't bother him. Perhaps it's too soon for him to win, but I'll find other ways to get him into my portfolio.
BUSBEE: How about the LIV guys? What do you think of their chances at The Country Club, after the chaos of the last few weeks?
PIANOWSKI: Maybe it's too convenient, but I'm fading all the LIV guys. Nobody likes being a deer in the headlights, but they'll all be that this week. And so many of the jumpers went to LIV without their form intact. When's the last time DJ really looked like DJ, or Bryson played like Bryson? I bet one of them misses the cut, and the other guy is a meaningless T39 or T44, off-screen for the weekend.
BUSBEE: Fair enough. If Phil gets in contention, it’ll be the story of the year … but I can’t see it happening either. Who else are you cool on this week?
PIANOWSKI: Also a reluctant fade on Jon Rahm, who's become one of my favorite watches and listens. He gets it. He cares, maybe too much at times. But while Torrey Pines fit his game perfectly, this track won't. And even with a win in Mexico, he's not in sharp form this year. He did nothing in the first two majors.
I also want to see Sam Burns do something in a major before I bet on his otherwise lovely profile. He's cashed three times in majors — T20, T29, T41. There are three cuts and a WD in there. Sometimes you have to walk before you can run.
Normally I'd give you Cam Smith love, but although his short game travels anywhere, I don't think tee to green this is a great fit for him. No Smith tickets this week.
BUSBEE: Time to put up your coins. You’ve got 100 units to play with. Which way are you going? (Current lines here.)
If I'm trying to hit the exacta, I put Xander at the top and Fitzpatrick at the top and backfill with the overdogs (Rory, JT, Scheffler).
You want specifics? I can do that. Go 10 on Xander to win, place (Top 5) and show (Top 10). Give me 20 on Riley Top 20. Give me 20 on DJ and Bryson to miss the cut, one of them is going to. And give me 5 on Fitzy to win, and 5 on Webb Simpson to win. You don't have to crush it this week, you have to keep your ball in the right spots. Webb can do that.
The U.S. Open begins Thursday and runs through Sunday.