When it comes to the upcoming U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy dominate the conversation.
But one man who has been making slow but steady moves during the 2019 PGA season is the best bet to win golf’s third major.
Jordan Spieth has accomplished quite the turnaround in 2019. He has gone from a top-30 finish at best from January through April 7 to landing in the top 10 in his last three tournaments.
The three-time major winner is peaking at the right time, with a third-place finish in last month’s PGA Championship, plus eighth- and seventh-place finishes in the Charles Schwab Challenge and Memorial Tournament, respectively.
The Trend and Toss…
If you look at the 10-year trends of U.S. Open champions, you’ll find even more reason to back Spieth (+1600) at Pebble Beach. He’s at the ripe age of 25, and the last 10 U.S. Open winners were all younger than 32 at the time of their victories. Looking at the current odds leaders, you can throw out 34-year-old Dustin Johnson, 43-year-old Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Adam Scott (both 38), and Francesco Molinari (36) based on the trend.
You can also toss out Patrick Cantlay (+1800) based on his past performances at the U.S. Open. Nine of the last 10 winners posted a top 20 previously in the major. Cantlay’s best finish was a T21 in his first U.S. Open in 2011. Since then he’s posted a T41 in 2012 and T45 in 2018.
Top-three finishes on the season also help predict the victor.
The last 10 U.S. Open champions posted a top-three finish or better earlier in the season of their U.S. Open win. You can now eliminate Jason Day (+2800) from consideration, as he’s finished no better than fifth this year.
Finally, mental freshness is key in golf’s third major, as eight of the last 10 champions opted not to play the week before the tournament. McIlroy (+800) is currently the second favorite to win at Pebble Beach and just won the last tournament he played in, the Canadian Open. However, the Canadian Open took place last weekend, so enjoy your trophy, Rory. You won’t be holding one at Pebble Beach.
Johnson (+750) and Justin Thomas (+2200) teed off at Hamilton Golf and Country Club as well, as did defending back-to-back U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka (+800), who finished 50th in the Canadian Open. Koepka is the outlier who played the week before the U.S. Open the last two years and still came out on top both times, so you can’t discard him completely. He’s going for a three-peat in the U.S. Open, which has been accomplished just one other time—when Scotland’s Willie Anderson won back-to-back-to-back from 1903-1905 .
Still, Spieth is the better play and the better value. He’s not the only one to have a shot to win on Sunday based on the categories above, either. Rickie Fowler (+2200), Xander Schauffele (+2500), Hideki Matsuyama (+2800), Tommy Fleetwood (+3300) and Tony Finau (+4000) all fall under age 32, posted a previous top 20 at the U.S. Open, achieved a top-three finish in 2019 and took last week off.
Looking at previous performances at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am—which takes place on Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course and Monterey Peninsula Country Club Shore Course—Spieth has owned the territory. Finau finished 23rd at best in 2017, Fleetwood landed 45th on the leaderboard in 2019, Schauffele has played the tournament once and missed the cut, and Fowler achieved a 27th-place finish in 2010. And if you’re still thinking of playing Koepka, he’s played in the Pro-Am just once and finished eighth in 2016.
Spieth, on the other hand, has played in the Pro-Am every year since 2013. He placed 45th in 2019 but finished no worse than 22nd prior to that. Most importantly, his best showing was a win in 2017.
Tom Kite and Tiger Woods both won an AT&T Pro-Am and the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. With the way Spieth is trending, there is no doubt he can become the third golfer to accomplish the feat.
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