U.S. Open preview: Koepka, Rahm and Hatton worth backing early
The third Major of the year, the 2020 U.S. Open, comes to us from the Winged Foot Golf Club in New York. It’s been 14 years since the tournament was last played here and, on that occasion, Geoff Ogilvy won with a score of +5, which tells you just how difficult this course can be. It’s a 7,264-yard beast and it will take a special performance to tame it.
However, there are several key statistics which can help point us towards a winning wager.
Long and straight
The fairways at Winged Foot are narrow, and if you’re wayward off the tee you’re going to find yourself in trouble as some of the rough is murder to get out of. You need to keep it straight and long so driving distance and accuracy is going to be key.
Pay attention to the PGA's All-Around Ranking
The PGA’s All-Around Ranking considers scoring, putting, eagles, birdies, sand saves, greens-in-regulation, driving distance, and accuracy. As it says on the tin – this ranking shows you whose all-around game is perfectly solid.
This statistic is important, and even more so at Winged Foot, which will test every element of your game with its numerous bunkers, deep rough, and raised greens. In 2006 when the U.S. Open was played here the top 5 in that tournament were all ranked in the top 10 for All-Around.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen action on this course, but there are some more recent clues as to who might excel at Winged Foot.
The course was designed by architect Albert Tillinghast, and players who have performed well on his courses previously look set to be able to transfer their game here. In particular, it’s worth looking at the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol, the 2018 Northern Trust Open at Ridgewood, and the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
Bank on Brooks
There’s no better place to start than with Brooks Koepka, a man who won this tournament in 2017 and 2018 and finished runner up 12 months ago. The four-time Major winner has hardly been pulling up trees this season – playing in five tournaments in which he’s missed the cut three times and finished outside the top 40 in the other two.
Those performances mean that he ranks poorly on the first two stats that we’ve talked about. He ranks 141st in Total Driving – a respectable 33rd in distance, but a woeful 214th in accuracy. If he’s that wayward at Winged Foot he’s in big trouble. He’s also outside the top 200 for All-Around Ranking.
However, he clearly has the game to win and his form on other Tillinghast courses stacks up. He tied for fourth in the 2016 PGA Championship, tied for eighth in the 2018 Northern Trust Open, and won the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
If you can forgive his recent form, then you can bank on Brooks.
Rahm’s time to shine
Spaniard Jon Rahm is the opposite to Brooks Koepka, but is well worth a second look. He missed the cut in the 2019 PGA Championship and the Northern Trust Open, so his course form isn’t looking too healthy, but park that statistic and he ticks the other boxes.
The 25-year old ranks fourth for Total Driving and first in All-Around Ranking. In five tournaments this season he has posted four top 10 finishes and has finished in the top 11 in five of his last eight Majors. Could this be his breakthrough event?
Take a flyer on Hatton
The pick I am most excited about is an each-way flyer on Tyrell Hatton at a nice price. The Englishman ranks third in Total Driving and is 16th in All-Around Ranking, as well as posting a top 20 finish in the 2018 Northern Trust Open at Ridgewood and a top 10 finish at the 2016 PGA Championship in Baltusrol.
He’s played four events this season and has finished in the top 15 every time, posting three top six efforts, including a victory in the Arnold Palmer in March. He is in good form, has been straight and true off the tee, has all the tools needed to win at Winged Foot, and has shown he can do it on Tillinghurst courses. Hatton’s price is too big to turn down.
Brooks Koepka: +1000
Jon Rahm: +1600
Tyrell Hatton: +6600