The second major of 2020 goes off this week at Winged Foot Golf Club. It will be the sixth time the venue has hosted a U.S. Open Championship, with the last running of the event being played here back in 2006. Many may remember that year for Phil Mickelson’s exploits when he blew a one-shot lead on 18 to hand the trophy to Geoff Ogilvy. The U.S. Open Championship always has tougher conditions, but Winged Foot has produced the two lowest winning scores in modern U.S. Open Championship history, so don’t expect a ton of birdies.
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Winged Foot will play as a traditional Par 70 this week with just two Par 5’s. The course is long at 7,477 yards and features treacherous Poa greens that Jack Nicklaus once described as the toughest in the world. Pretty much everything about Winged Foot is tough, from the greens down to the tee shots, which will be made tougher this week by fairways that been made skinnier than usual by the USGA.
The field here hit approximately 10-12% fewer greens in regulation and fairways in regulation in 2006 with scrambling percentages being nearly 20% lower than the PGA TOUR average. Avoiding bogies will be key this week and we’re very likely to see an over par winning score.
Regardless of how you’re approaching things, I’ve written up my thoughts on this week’s DraftKings Sportsbook pool and have tried to give you decisive picks and strategies to employ at each level. Hope you enjoy.
Who will have the best finishing position? Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm or Justin Thomas
Choice: Jon Rahm
There’s little doubt that Dustin Johnson is playing some of the best golf we’ve seen on the PGA TOUR in quite some time. The 2016 U.S. Open Championship winner now has three wins and two runner-up finishes over his last seven starts and is the heavy favorite to win the title this week. Not far behind him though is Jon Rahm, who recently out-dueled DJ at the extremely tough Olympia Fields venue. Rahm has actually been much more consistent with his driver this year, gaining strokes off the tee in every single event he’s played in. With so little room for error here, Rahm’s prowess off the tee should give him an edge this week and may lead to his first major win. He’s my pick from this first elite group.
Who will have the best finishing position? Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, or Collin Morikawa
Choice: Collin Morikawa
Xander Schauffele has been a killer at the U.S. Open Championship since he arrived on the PGA TOUR. The 25-year-old has posted finishes of T5, T6 and T3 in his first three U.S. Opens and has also accumulated runner-up finishes at the Masters and Players Championship. That kind of steadiness is valuable, but he’s up against two high level golfers here in McIlroy and Morikawa. While McIlroy has played better of late, it’s Morikawa who looks like he might be ready to challenge again, having posted a T6 at the TOUR Championship two weeks ago. He may not have a ton of length off the tee but has only lost strokes off the tee once in his last 17 starts on the PGA TOUR. It’s close between him and Schauffele but the 2020 PGA Champ needs to be respected here and gets the call.
Who will have the best finishing position? Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson, or Daniel Berger
Choice: Daniel Berger
Despite giving us some great moments this summer with his new commitment to weight gain and hitting bombs, Bryson DeChambeau’s golf game hasn’t looked great over his last couple of starts. He’s now lost strokes on his approaches in six of his last seven starts on the PGA TOUR and looks lost in that facet of his game at the moment. Both Berger and Simpson have been much more solid with their irons of late and both rank in the top 10 in bogey-avoidance on the PGA TOUR. While Simpson actually ranks best in that stat, I’ll still the edge to Berger here. He’s got better distance off the tee and was T6 at the U.S. Open Championship in 2018 when it was played at the tough Shinnecock Hills. He’s likely got a better chance to compete here than Simpson.
Who will have the best finishing position? Patrick Reed, Patrick Cantlay, or Tony Finau
Choice: Patrick Reed
Tony Finau posted a T4 in the first major of the season at TPC Harding Park and also grabbed a T5 finish at the BMW Championship three weeks ago. The big hitter may only have one win on the PGA TOUR in his career but he’s now finished inside the top 5 at three of the last five majors. Patrick Reed already has a major and has been playing some consistent golf of late. The 2018 Masters Champion posted a T8 finish at the TOUR Championship where he led the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee stats. Winged Foot is certainly going to require a deft touch around and on the greens and Reed feels like he’ll have a significant edge on Finau in that area. With Patrick Cantlay still searching for more consistency, I’ll take Reed here to win out.
Who will have the best finishing position? Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, or Hideki Matsuyama
Choice: Tommy Fleetwood
While Matsuyama hasn’t won on the PGA TOUR since 2017, he posted a strong T3 finish at the BMW Championship in tough conditions and has shown remarkable sharpness with his short game of late. Tyrrell Hatton has also been solid of late and won in very tough conditions earlier in the season at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Despite both men playing well of late, I’m fine fading both and going with Tommy Fleetwood here. The Englishman had a huge weekend in Portugal last week and has been an absolute stud at this event over his career, grabbing a runner-up finish at Shinnecock 2018 and a T4 at Erin Hills in 2017. With a solid finish under his belt last week he could be peaking at the right time for a big 2020 finish at Winged Foot too.
Who will have the best finishing position? Jason Day, Justin Rose, or Tiger Woods
Choice: Jason Day
Tiger Woods has yet to really flash any serious form since the restart, managing just T58 and T51 finishes in his two playoff starts. It’s possible he finds something this week, but extreme rough and fast greens aren’t great conditions for someone currently struggling with putting and driving accuracy. Justin Rose has been great in spurts since the restart, landing a T9 finish at the PGA Championship but despite the upside he’s shown, I’d still lean towards the Aussie here. Despite a terrible performance in the FedExCup playoffs, Day has been a great U.S. Open Championship player over his career and led the field in ball-striking at the PGA Championship. I think he rebounds this week after two slow starts and takes this group.
Who will have the best finishing position? Adam Scott, Paul Casey, or Matthew Fitzpatrick
Choice: Matthew Fitzpatrick
Adam Scott will be making just his fourth start since the COVID-19 restart this week. The Aussie has a great track record at this event but did look a touch rusty in his comeback and hasn’t displayed as much sharpness in his ball-striking as usual. Scott’s a great U.S. Open Championship player but he was beaten by Paul Casey at the year’s first major, who has been driving the ball great all season. Despite the promise shown by Casey, I’d rather take a shot on the Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick here. His short game and putter have propelled him to three top-6 finishes in his last five starts and he’s posted his best finishes of 2020 at the toughest venues. He’s my target here.
Who will have the best finishing position? Viktor Hovland, Harris English, or Rickie Fowler
Choice: Harris English
Viktor Hovland has had a great season, landing the first win of his career in Puerto Rico and four more top-20 finishes since the restart. Despite making the TOUR Championship, his ball-striking took a turn downward after the first major and he’s been outplayed since then by Harris English. English has had a resurgent 2020 that was marked by a trip to the TOUR Championship, where he finished T12. English is a great putter and hasn’t lost strokes around the green in an event all season. While Rickie Fowler certainly has the talent to surprise here and Hovland remains a great young player, English’s form looks too good to fade.
Who will have the best finishing position? SungJae Im, Brendon Todd, or Matthew Wolff
Choice: Brendon Todd
For me, this tier really sets up as a battle between a young power player in Matthew Wolff and a savvy veteran in Brendon Todd. Wolff really started to find some consistency in the second half of 2020, landing a runner-up finish in Detroit and a T4 finish at the PGA Championship, where he shot 63 in the final round. Todd has showcased an incredible short game and putter in 2020 which has allowed him to challenge at a bunch of tough venues. While Wolff is the much better long-term bet, the straight hitting Todd is who I like here. His touch around the green should propel him to a decent finish.
Who will have the best finishing position? Billy Horschel, Kevin Kisner, or Phil Mickelson
Choice: Phil Mickelson
These three veterans have all played in multiple U.S. Opens, with Mickelson having the most experience with his six career runner-up finishes. Kisner has putted extremely well of late, but will be hampered here by his lack of distance. It’s worth noting that the three-time PGA TOUR winner has only finished inside the top 20 at this event once in six career appearances. Horchsel has had better success at this event than Kisner, but his play has cooled off of late. The choice here has to be Phil. He grabbed a Champions Tour win this summer and a T2 at the WGC Memphis back in late July. His experience at Winged Foot should help him overcome these two.
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