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U.S. Open First Click: Trends, U.S. Open Studs and more

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The third major championship of the men’s 2024 season gets underway this week at Pinehurst No. 2, which means another edition of our First Clicks column. 

Most weeks, we jump into this space and highlight one name to consider in the outright market ahead of Signature Events on the PGA Tour. This week, I have isolated one finishing position and will share that pick at the end of the column. 

Before we get to the selection, I’ll highlight a few key storylines and some stats and trends to help you make your own picks this week. 

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler has been a force to be reckoned with this year and enters this week on the heels of his fifth win of the 2024 calendar. 

The best context I can provide for Scheffler’s current greatness is a fact CBS’ Kyle Porter posted on X Monday morning: 

The gap in total OWGR points between Scottie Scheffler and world No. 3 Rory McIlroy is the same as the gap in total OWGR points between Rory and world No. 613 Anthony Quayle.

Scheffler’s +300 odds are some of the shortest we’ve seen any golfer enter a major on the men's side in quite some time. That number represents an implied probability of 25 per cent. 

He was +400 to win the PGA Championship last month, and if you’re asking for my opinion, he probably wins the event if he doesn’t get arrested Friday morning en route to his second-round tee time. 

Because of Scheffler’s dominance, I’m avoiding the outright market to start the week. 

Let’s get to some stats and trends. 

 

U.S. Open Trends 

 

Here are four year-to-year U.S. Open trends and a fifth in relation to Pinehurst. 

1: Ten of the past 12 U.S. Open winners had played in at least 3 previous U.S. Opens.

2: The last 12 winners had at least one previous top-five finish that season; eight of those 12 winners had at least two previous top-five finishes that season.

3: Ten of the past 12 U.S. Open winners had finished 17th or higher in a previous US Open

4: Ten of the past 12 U.S. Open winners were aged 31 or younger

5: All three winners of the men’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst have come from outside the Official World Golf Rankings to the top 25 (1999: Payne Stewart [319 OWGR]; 2005: Micheal Campbell [80]; 2014: Martin Kaymer [28]). 

This is the fourth time the U.S. Open will occur at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina. However, it’s just the first time since 2014, and only 27 players in the field this week teed it up at this course in 2014. 

So, this week, let’s take a look at the leaders in strokes gained at the U.S. Open since that 2014 championship.

U.S. Open Trends 

 
GOLFER RDs OTT APP BS ARG PUTT SG T2G TOT
Xander Schauffele 28 0.69 0.67 1.35 0.42 1.04 1.46 1.77 2.81
Brooks Koepka 36 0.77 1.23 2 0.05 0.85 0.9 2.05 2.72
Dustin Johnson 38 0.78 0.86 1.64 0.57 -0.22 0.36 2.21 2.5
Scottie Scheffler 20 0.62 1.18 1.81 -0.01 0.66 0.66 1.8 2.26
Rory McIlroy 34 1.36 0.56 1.92 0.24 0.18 0.43 2.16 2.15
Collin Morikawa 18 0.45 0.97 1.42 0.17 0.48 0.65 1.59 2.07
Will Zalatoris 12 0.43 1.74 2.18 -0.09 -0.13 -0.2 2.14 2.02
Hideki Matsuyama 38 0.29 1.62 1.91 0.36 -0.02 0.34 2.26 1.86
Jon Rahm 28 0.84 0.48 1.32 0.31 0.26 0.57 1.63 1.85
Tommy Fleetwood 28 0.34 0.73 1.07 0.28 0.35 0.63 1.35 1.65
 
 

No player in this field has been more consistent at U.S. Open’s than Xander Schauffele. 

The American has played in the U.S. Open seven times. His worst finish was a tie for 14th in 2022. 

This year, he tied finished inside the top 10 at the Masters and added the first major win to his resume at the PGA Championship 

More on him later. 

Meanwhile, Dustin Johnson is an interesting name on this list. 

The 36-year-old has been on the LIV Golf for more than two years, and Johnson’s performance in majors hasn’t been the same since the move. 

Before his move to LIV, Johnson’s top 25 rate in majors was 54 per cent, in the eight majors since joining LIV he has just three top 25s (37.5 per cent). 

Still, after watching Phil Mickelson win a major at 50, I still think there’s a timeline where DJ brings his A-game to a major and adds one more to his career before calling it quits. 

Johnson tied for fourth in the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. 

Speaking of major resumes, here is a look at the strokes gained leaders in the four majors since COVID-19. 

Major Championship leaders 

 
GOLFER RDs OTT APP BS ARG PUTT SG T2G TOT
Scottie Scheffler 62 0.89 1.03 1.92 0.49 0.25 0.74 2.4 2.61
Will Zalatoris 39 0.6 1.05 1.65 0.11 0.55 0.66 1.76 2.29
Rory McIlroy 64 1.13 0.6 1.73 0.24 0.29 0.54 1.99 2.17
Xander Schauffele 64 0.62 0.76 1.37 0.37 0.45 0.82 1.76 2.14
Collin Morikawa 62 0.54 0.93 1.46 0.22 0.24 0.46 1.69 2.07
Jon Rahm 66 0.96 0.47 1.43 0.23 0.29 0.52 1.66 2.01
Viktor Hovland 57 0.46 0.62 1.07 0.22 0.47 0.69 1.31 1.79
Cameron Smith 64 -0.12 0.64 0.51 0.29 0.87 1.16 0.81 1.66
Bryson DeChambeau 60 1.14 0.38 1.52 -0.13 0.17 0.04 1.38 1.51
Hideki Matsuyama 64 0.2 0.8 1 0.69 -0.21 0.48 1.7 1.5
 
 

It’s been over 10 years since Rory McIlroy won the 2014 PGA Championship. The win that week gave him four in his first 25 majors and had people wondering if he could reach double digits. 

It’s wild that a decade later he still remains one of the elite players in the world, while also still searching for that fifth major championship. 

Since 2020, despite not winning any of them, Rory has been a force in majors with 10 top 10s in 17 events. 

Only he, Will Zalatoris and Viktor Hovland appear on this list despite not having won a major during this time period. 

 

BEST IN FIELD 

If you don’t want to lean into previous U.S. Open/majors, allow me to present the 15 best players in this field for 2024 according to the strokes gained data.

Best in Field 

 
GOLFER RDs OTT APP BS ARG PUTT SG T2G TOT
Scottie Scheffler 51 0.87 1.44 2.32 0.54 0.14 0.68 2.86 2.9
Xander Schauffele 52 0.67 0.73 1.4 0.31 0.61 0.92 1.71 2.15
Rory McIlroy 56 0.91 0.55 1.46 0.14 0.3 0.43 1.6 1.84
Dean Burmester 45 0.7 0.5 1.2 0.21 0.22 0.42 1.36 1.83
Tim Widing 40 0.78 -0.41 0.37 -0.71 0.02 -0.69 -0.34 1.76
Bryson DeChambeau 32 0.93 0.14 1.07 0.29 0.32 0.61 1.36 1.69
Richard Mansell 40 0.54 0.82 1.37 0.5 -0.19 0.31 1.87 1.65
Tom Mckibbin 45 1.33 0.23 1.56 -0.01 0 -0.01 1.43 1.63
Jon Rahm 28 0.88 0.06 0.95 0.43 0.24 0.67 1.38 1.62
Christiaan Bezuidenhout 69 -0.19 0.53 0.34 0.15 0.7 0.85 0.48 1.47
 
 

Looking at the strokes gained numbers, it’s Dean Burmester that has had the best season of any player on LIV Golf. 

Burmester won two DP World Tour events to end 2023 and claimed his first LIV Golf win in April when he won in Miami. 

The South African tied for 12th at last month's PGA Championship, one spot behind his best finish at a major, which came at the 2022 Open Championship when he tied for 11th. 

 

First Click 

 

I’m going with Schauffele to finish inside the top 10 this week as my first click at +125. 

Schauffele’s incredible year gas been overshadowed by Scheffler’s historic 2024 pace. 

Schauffele has 10 top 10s in 13 individual events this year, and he has a stellar U.S. Open resume to back him up. 

I am comfortable saying Schauffele is currently the second-best player in the world, and here is why. 

Schauffele enters the week second in the field in 2024 in strokes gained. 

The 0.31 gap per round between Schauffele and McIlroy in third is the same gap between Rory and Jon Rahm in ninth. 

Schauffele has been head and shoulders better than 99.9 per cent of golfers this year, so this week, I’m banking on him to keep true to his current form and cash another first-click winner for us after we snagged him at 33-1 to be the first-round leader last month at the PGA Championship.