The hardest test in golf comes to the hardest golf course in the country. This week, Oakmont Country Club hosts its 9th United States Open Championship.
There are difficult golf courses, and there are difficult U.S. Open golf courses, and then there is Oakmont. The second Major Championship of the season, The United States Open, is widely considered the most difficult test of the four Majors and this year, they are holding it at what is widely considered the most difficult golf course in America. Watching the best golfers in the world, come down the stretch on Sunday at Oakmont for The U.S. Open in 2007, the last time it was held here, I remember it looking like a twelve car pileup of which nobody could seemingly extricate themselves from and survive. Bogey after bogey, after bogey.. and finally when the dust settled, Angel Cabrera was the champion, or last man standing maybe, shooting 5-over par for the championship.
Oakmont Country Club, located in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, has not changed much over the years. Designed by Henry Fownes and opening in 1903, it is a relatively short golf course for a modern day Major Championship at 7,255 yards. Hundreds of trees have been removed from the layout in recent years and the course does not have a single water hazard. It does however, have 200-some sand bunkers, a 300-yard Par 3, and significantly undulated, lightning fast greens. The fairways are canted in different directions, making placing one's tee shot crucial in order for the ball not to roll into the ankle-deep U.S. Open style rough. And the fastest greens you've ever seen, they are also slanted, causing many approach shots to roll off of the putting surface.
Driving Accuracy will be important in order to avoid the extremely penal rough. How well one is able to play their ball out of the rough will be a factor. Recovery from the sand and scrambling around the greens will be crucial to success.. and of course, putting. Gauging the intimidating speed of these greens, holing longer than normal putts for par, and avoiding 3-putts will all play a massive role in how one fares this week at Oakmont. The winner this week will be somebody that is in full control of their entire game, from start to finish, without ever losing focus.. and that will be extremely difficult because bogies or worse will happen. Like Fox Golf Analyst Paul Azinger said recently, who will be on the call this week, "It'd be a great week to be unflappable."
Jason Day is currently at +550 at Bovada on the betting odds. The number one player in the world has won seven of the last eighteen events he's entered and he has a great history of finishes at The U.S. Open, with four Top-10's in five tries. Last year at Chambers Bay, Day finished 9th despite a bout with vertigo.
Rory McIlroy +700 at Bookmaker. McIlroy has gone back to his former putting grip and it appears to be paying dividends with a recent win at The Irish Open. Dating back to The Masters, McIlroy has a handful of Top-10 finishes in the states but they have come in large part by way of late Sunday charges even though he was clearly out of contention for a win.
Jordan Spieth +800 at BetOnline. The defending champion seems to have his magical short game in tremendous form but he has still been very wayward off of the tee. Even the best short game in the world, which he arguably has, will not bail him out at Oakmont if his tee ball is still unable to find the proper landing areas.
Dustin Johnson +1200 at GTbets. This will be DJ's year for revenge, having three putted the final hole at last year's U.S. Open to lose to Jordan Spieth.. but the big hitting, immense, talent has yet to record a victory this year and continues to find ways to not be able to close the deal on Sundays. Another Top-5 finish seems likely but can he turn the corner and get his first Major Championship?
Rickie Fowler +2500 at Intertops. Rickie's stats are off the charts as he does just about everything extremely well but it has not translated into much of anything since winning The Players Championship last season. He missed the cut at The Masters, at The Players this year, and also just two weeks ago at The Memorial. Fowler missed the cut last year at Chambers Bay after recording two straight Top-10 finishes in The U.S. Open in 2013 and 2014.
Adam Scott +3000 at Pinnacle. The U.S. Open has not traditionally been the best Major suited for Scott and after starting off this season on fire, he has cooled off recently without a single Top-10 in his last six events. He does however, come in this year to Oakmont off of two straight Top-10 finishes in The U.S. Open
The Long Shots
Bubba Watson +4000 at YouWager. The premium placed on accuracy and the taxing mental grind that is The U.S. Open has never been a good recipe for Watson's game and the frustration that ensues has taken him out of contention. The 4th ranked player in the world however, does have a win this season in Los Angeles and finished 5th here at Oakmont the last time it held a U.S. Open in 2007.
Charl Schwartzel +6000 at Heritage. The 2011 Masters Champion has actually fared better in The U.S. Open recently than he has at Augusta, with two Top-15 finishes and two Top-10's in the last six years. Schwartzel also has three wins worldwide in the last seven months.
Retief Goosen +20000 at TheGreek. This will be the 18th U.S. Open for the two time champion, winning in 2001 and 2004. He has only missed one cut all season and is coming off of three straight Top-15 finishes. His putting has been remarkable as he ranks 16th on Tour in Strokes Gained Putting and 1st in 3-Putt Avoidance.
For our betting pick, Phil Mickelson +2500 is our main option. The six time runner up at The U.S. Open needs only it to complete the career Grand Slam for Major Championships. Mickelson has not won a tournament since capturing The British Open in 2013. His short game has been fantastic this season but he will need to keep his tee ball in the fairways this week. Dating back to Pebble Beach, Phil has two 2nd place finishes, two other Top-10's and three Top-20 results. I feel this championship has been his focus since The Masters and possibly before that. I'm betting this is the year.