What’s the old saying? Fall off a horse nine times, get back on it the 10th?
I don’t know, something like that.
That’s how I feel this week entering the U.S. Open after taking a big swing at the PGA Championship and whiffing.
But today is a new day, and this is a new tournament, one that I circle on the calendar every year as the U.S. Open tends to provide one of the hardest challenges we see annually on the golf calendar.
Last year Jon Rahm entered as the favourite to win his first major championship, and he did just that at Torrey Pines thanks to back-to-back birdies to close out Sunday.
This year, Rory McIlroy is the favourite coming off his win at the Canadian Open as he looks to put an end to an eight-year major championship drought.
Speaking of putting an end to a drought, let’s get to the picks.
I’m going to dive into some names I like in the outright market, and highlight some props I’m keeping an eye on throughout the week.
Scottie Scheffler +1500
The No. 1-ranked golfer on the planet enters this week in fine form.
Already a four-time winner this year, Scheffler has bounced back nicely from his missed cut at the PGA Championship with a solo second at the Charles Schwab Challenge, and a top 20 at the Canadian Open last week.
The key for the 25-year-old has been approach play this season as he is gaining an extra 0.6 strokes on approach in 2022 than he did per round in 2021.
Over his last two events, he has gained a total of 20.62 strokes on the field, which indicates all aspects of his game are trending in the right direction ahead of this tournament.
Scheffler will tee it up this week for the fifth time at the U.S. Open and will look to improve on a career-best T7 at this event last year.
Jordan Spieth +2000
It’s been seven years since Jordan Spieth won at Chambers Bay and this might be the year he picks up his second U.S. Open win.
While that pre-shot routine of his is alarming and unsettling to watch, Spieth seems to have figured things out off the tee.
His 0.46 strokes gained per round off the tee is the best since 2015 when he won five times and was the PGA Tour Player of the year.
For Spieth, his issues have come on the greens this season.
Typically known as a great putter, Spieth has struggled in 2022 to find any rhythm with the flatstick.
However, after missing the cut at the Masters, Spieth did the unthinkable and won the RBC Heritage, despite losing 2.55 strokes to the field on the green.
Since then, the ball-striking has been solid, and he might be figuring out the putter again as he’s gained strokes putting in three of his last four events.
We’ve seen how hot Spieth can get with the putter when it matters most, if he does it again this year he might be adding to his resume come Sunday night.
Xander Schauffele +2200, +2900 First-Round Leader
Xander Schauffele loves this tournament.
He’s finished inside the Top 10 in all five times he’s tee’d it up in a U.S. Open.
With that in mind and the fact he hasn’t had a poor result since missing the cut at the Masters, I really like him this week.
Since that missed cut at Augusta, Schauffele has played in four events and has gained at least 6.30 strokes: total in all four of them.
He enters this week on the heels of a poor performance off the tee at Memorial, losing 2.5 strokes, but hasn’t lost more than 1.00 strokes off the tee in back-to-back events since 2018.
While I have some doubts about his ability to close things out on Sunday, getting a player of this quality, playing this well, with the track record he has at the U.S. Open at +2200 is OK in my books.
Will Zalatoris +3000, +4100 First-Round Leader
Will Zalatoris is a big-game hunter.
Since 2020, he has played in seven major championships and has finished inside the Top 10 in five of them.
It was at this very event in 2020 when Zalatoris gave us a look into his future with a T6 at Winged Foot in just the second major of his career.
If that’s not enough, how about the five top-six, or better, finishes in five of his last seven starts.
As one of the better ball-strikers on the planet, it’s always the short game that holds Zaltoris back, with putting being the biggest issue.
For two months to start the year, Zalatoris lost strokes on the green in five consecutive events.
However, the 25-year-old has been working on his putting stroke and has seen a drastic improvement in his scoring since March.
In fact, at times this season, he’s looked great on the greens and the numbers bare that out.
Three of the best nine putting performances of his 86-event career have come in the last three months.
Similar to Spieth, if Zalatoris rolls the rock this week, watch out.
This is where I have all of my fun, let’s look lower on the odds boards and find some value.
It’s important we keep in mind these are longshots that I think could shock people this week if everything bounces their way.
Since these are sleepers, I’m going to provide their outright number and a prop I like for them as well.
Corey Conners +5000 outright, +180 Top 20
I loved Conners at the PGA Championship when he missed the cut, and I’m on him again this week.
Conners is so consistent off the tee, and I strongly believe his approach play this week could see him contend.
The Canadain has gained over 19 strokes in the ball-striking categories in his two events since missing the cut at the PGA.
His lack of success at this event, three missed cuts in three trips, has given me cause for pause, but at 50-1, I like the value in backing a player that should play out of the short stuff a lot this week.
Davis Riley +7000 outright, +190 Top 20
If it weren’t for Cameron Young, Davis Riley would be the easy choice for PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
Riley has finished inside the Top 20 in five straight events, including a solo 13 at the PGA Championship and a T13 at Memorial.
The 25-year-old can thank a lot of his recent success to his short game.
Riley has had success on and around the greens in four of his last five events, to go along with approach play that has been elite in recent weeks.
Riley has gained at least 3.70 strokes: approach in four straight events. Something he had only done once in his previous 23 measured events.
Adam Hadwin +28000 outright, +280 Top 30
Being able to get up-and-done from anywhere is important, to say the least, at a U.S. Open so I’m throwing a dart with a guy having a career-best year around the greens.
On top of that, Hadwin’s approach-play numbers are the best of his career since he played five events on Tour in 2011.
Hadwin has failed to crack the Top 30 in his six previous trips to this tournament, but I believe he’s playing some of the best golf of his career right now and could get in the mix this year.
At 280-1, I’m not going to hold my breath on this one, but I like him to Top 30 and have seen weirder things happen than him contending on at a major on Sunday.
As if betting on the winners wasn’t enough, let’s see if we can figure out who’s going to be leading this thing after 18 holes.
I’ve already highlighted Schauffele and Zalatoris, so let’s dive into the other three players I have on my card.
Jon Rahm +2700
The defending U.S. Open champion has had an up-and-down year, but he seems to be figuring things out again.
After struggling with the putter a few months ago, Rahm appears to have things turned around and I think he could get off to a fast start if he rolls in a few putts on Thursday.
Russell Henley +10000
Henley got off to a fast start at the U.S. Open last year and I’ll take a chance on him to do it again at 100-1.
Henley enters this week in poor form, as he finished 60th in his last start, T41 in his event prior and missed the cut in the tournament before that.
However, he did something very similar last year when he tee’d off at Torrey Pines after not finishing better than 70th in the four events prior to the U.S. Open.
His two strengths are on approach and around the green, two things that could play a big factor in him going low on Thursday.
Luke List +12000
A true ball-striker in every sense of the word, if Luke List could putt he’d be a lot richer, and so would I.
That being said, he can go low on any given day if his putter shows up, and it has in his last two events.
List has gained 5.68 strokes: putting over his last two tournaments and if he gains a few more on Thursday he might just find his name at the top of the leaderboard.