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The US Open returns to Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina and is expected to be a tough test. Pinehurst is one of the most prestigious golf courses in the country and offers challenging turtleback greens and no rough. Its length and wiregrass-strewn sand surfaces should make for four challenging days.

Pinehurst hasn’t hosted the US Open since 2014, so we can’t glean much from the course’s history. Instead, we’ll be looking for a combination of good form, good US Open history, and the ability to hit the ball far and straight off the tee.

Here are some current trends:

  • Each of the last 13 U.S. Open winners has been ranked in the top 32 of the Official World Golf Rankings. Last year’s winner, Wyndham Clark, set the bar low among recent champions, ranking 32nd before the tournament at Los Angeles Country Club.
  • Thirteen of the last 14 winners have had a top 25 finish at the US Open on their resume. Only Clark failed to do so, missing two cuts at the US Open before his breakthrough. You have to go back to 2009 to find another such outlier: Lucas Glover, who missed three cuts in three appearances before his victory.
  • Eleven of the last 12 winners made the cut in their previous US Open start and in their previous major championship appearance (Clark, as is becoming increasingly clear here, was the outlier). Before him, Rory McIlroy was the last champion not to make the same claim, missing the cut in 2010 before winning in 2011.
  • Seven of the last nine winners and ten of the last 14 winners finished in the top 10 in at least one of their previous two majors.
  • Eight of the last ten winners and ten of the last 14 winners finished in the top 15 in one or both of his last two appearances. This time, Clark was the man to call, having finished 12th in the tournament prior to last year’s US Open.
  • Twelve of the last 15 US Open winners were first-time major winners, another criterion that Clark has fulfilled.

As you probably noticed, Clark was not my pick at last year’s US Open (he had never finished higher than 75th in a major before), but he came out of nowhere to beat McIlroy by one shot. These things happen, and two years ago this system gave Matt Fitzpatrick the winner. Hopefully we can get back on track.

All odds were taken from DraftKings Sportsbook Tuesday afternoon.

Although there hasn’t been a sure thing in golf since Tiger Woods’ imperial era, Scheffler comes pretty close. He has five wins this year, and all five of them have come in elite events on difficult courses (Masters, Players Championship, Arnold Palmer, Heritage and Memorial). The last golfer with at least five wins, including a major, before the U.S. Open? Arnold Palmer in 1962.

In his last eight tournaments, Scheffler has never finished lower than eighth. But more importantly, Scheffler’s game is a great fit for Pinehurst No. 2, whose turtleback greens are extremely difficult to hold because there is no rough to stop a ball from rolling away. The world’s best golfer is fourth in scrambling and 14th in strokes gained around the green on the PGA Tour this season, important advantages of Pinehurst.

Trend Match: Scheffler fits five of the six trends listed above; it wouldn’t be his first time winning a major. And while it’s no fun betting on chalk — Scheffler is the biggest favorite at the U.S. Open since Woods was +200 in 2009 — it’s easy to assume he’ll get it done this weekend (as long as he avoids arrest).

Xander Schauffele (+1000)

A long, straight shot is the key to success at the U.S. Open, where anything that misses the fairway can spell disaster. And that’s Schauffele’s description in a nutshell: The second-ranked player in the world ranks fifth in the PGA Tour’s Total Driving Metric, which combines distance and accuracy, and seventh in strokes gained off the tee. And if it weren’t for Scheffler’s superlatives this year, everyone would be talking about Schauffele’s elite play, with his big break at the PGA Championship and 12 other top-10 finishes. He’s also finished in the top 10 six times in seven U.S. Open appearances, the other time tied for 14th. (He’s the only player to finish in the top 15 at the U.S. Open every year for the past seven years.) Two majors in a row? I wouldn’t rule that out.

Trend Match: Like Scheffler, Schauffele fits five of the six trends. The only downside (if you can call it that) is the fact that he won a major championship tournament.

Morikawa leads the PGA Tour in shot accuracy, and his irons have been in top form since a lull earlier in the season: He finished fourth in approach shots gained at the Masters (Morikawa tied for third, his best finish there) and also gained more than a stroke per round with his irons at the PGA Championship (he finished fourth), where he also finished second in strokes gained around the green. Morikawa is also fresh off a Memorial, where he nearly caught Scheffler on Sunday before having to settle for second, with his approach shots again being excellent. He has finished 14th, fifth and fourth in his last three U.S. Open appearances.

Trend Match: Morikawa falls into the same group as Scheffler and Schauffele and meets all of our trends except for winning a major for the first time. Morikawa won the 2020 PGA Championship and the 2021 British Open.

Bryson DeChambeau (+2000)

DeChambeau is one of four golfers to finish in the top 10 at both majors this season (Scheffler, Morikawa and Schauffele are the others), and his performance on the LIV Golf Tour has been encouraging, with four top 10 finishes. He has also proven himself on difficult courses, as evidenced by his victory at the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, where he won by six strokes and was the only golfer to finish under par. DeChambeau’s length off the tee should be an advantage on one of the longest courses you will see this season, and if he can keep it on the fairway, caution will be warranted.

Trend Match: DeChambeau has tied on four of six trends, although one of his misses should be taken with a grain of salt. LIV golfers do not earn OWGR points, so DeChambeau has slipped to 38th place.

Fleetwood is not only at the top of the list of players who have not yet won a major championship, but is also probably The best golfer never to win on American soil. (The world No. 13 does, however, have seven DP World Tour victories.) But you have to like his chances this week, given his accuracy off the tee (he’s third on the PGA Tour in that category) and around the green (he ranks 17th in strokes gained around the green). Fleetwood has finished in the top 10 in three of the last four majors — he finished third at this year’s Masters — so he’s knocking on the door.

Trend Match: Fleetwood fulfills five of the six trends and has missed a top-15 finish in only one of his last two starts. (He was 21st and 20th.)

It has been just two years since Fitzpatrick won the U.S. Open at the Country Club, and there are signs he could win again. He improved in every category last weekend, finishing tied for fifth at the Memorial, his best finish since finishing fifth at the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in March. And there may be a connection between Pinehurst and Sawgrass: Of the 11 golfers who finished in the top 10 the last time Pinehurst hosted the U.S. Open in 2014, five also have a Players Championship win on their resume, including 2014 U.S. Open winner Martin Kaymer. Four other players on the 2014 list have also posted multiple top 10 finishes at the Players. Fitzpatrick has twice finished in the top 10 at the Players Championship in the last four years, and he ranks ninth on the PGA Tour in total driving.

Trend Match: Fitzpatrick only fits three of the six trends, but we’re willing to overlook that when we see a guy who has proven he can win under the toughest circumstances.

Matsuyama’s track record at the U.S. Open is almost as good as Schauffele’s, with three top-10 finishes in 11 attempts and only missing the cut once (he finished 35th at the last tournament at Pinehurst in 2014). He also finished 8th at the Memorial, where he gained strokes in every category and tied for second in the putting round. Matsuyama leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained around the green, and if he can sort out an occasionally wobbly driver, the Japanese star could be worth a look.

Trend Match: The 2021 Masters champion is tied on four of six trends. His first two major championships this year ended with a tie for 38th and a tie for 35th.

Bradley has traditionally been cautious with his putting, but he has gained strokes on the green in four consecutive starts. He is also one of only eight golfers to finish in the top 25 in both majors this season, and he has finished second in two other tournaments (one of them at the Charles Schwab in late May). The PGA Tour veteran has only two top-10 finishes at the U.S. Open in his career, but one of those came in 2014 when he tied for fourth at Pinehurst No. 2. Bradley ranks 12th on the PGA Tour in total driving, and his overall ball striking has been impressive of late.

Trend Match: Like Fitzpatrick, Bradley only fits three of the six trends, but I like his game right now.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the odds for the leading contenders to win the US Open as of Tuesday morning were as follows:

  • Scottie Scheffler: +300
  • Xander Schauffele: +1000
  • Rory McIlroy: +1100
  • Collin Morikawa: +1600
  • Viktor Hovland: +2000
  • Bryson DeChambeau: +2000
  • Ludvig Aberg: +2200
  • Brooks Koepka: +2200
  • Tommy Fleetwood: +4000
  • Hideki Matsuyama: +4000
  • Matt Fitzpatrick: +4500
  • Justin Thomas: +4500

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