Before we undertake breaking down the keys to victory for one of the oldest courses in the PGA, let’s take a second to reflect on how Side Hustle Bets has performed in the first two majors of the year thus far.
Currently we’re up +18.825 units, we’ve finished profitable in 7 out of 8 rounds this majors season and we’ve predicted both outright winners. Not bad… Oh, and our “Underdogs” up to this point have an average finishing position of 19.875 (88.89% Made Cut Rate, 2 Top 5 finishes, 3 Top 10 finishes, 4 Top 20 finishes and 6 Top 30 finishes) and our “Favorites” have an average finishing position of 18.9 (100% Success Rate predicting outright winners, 4 Top 5 finishes, 5 Top 10 finishes, and 6 Top 30 finishes). That means that not only have we found success predicting the best players in the field (+4.5 net units from our favorites picks alone) but we’ve also had massive success identifying the diamonds in the rough (Underdogs: ~66.67% Top 30 finishes or better, ~88.89% Top 50 finish or better). That’s quality right there.
We face a new challenge tackling the US Open at The Country Club in Brookline, MA next week but our goal will remain the same, pick winners. Despite being a founding course of the USGA with over 140 years of history and hosting three different US Opens since 1913 (not including this year’s US Open), the last US Open played there was in 1988 and the last tournament in general was the 2013 US Amateur… so obviously the course has changed quite a bit over that time, as well as the game itself. DO NOT FRET! We have a great feel for this course and a solid pulse on the field. Let’s keep this train rolling and always remember to bet smarter, not harder.
The Country Club (Brookline, MA)
The Country Club is a composite course consisting of an 18 hole “Main Course” and a 9 hole “Primrose Course”. The Championship Course will be made up of 15 holes from the Main Course and 3 holes from the Primrose Course for a total of 7,264 yards as a Par 70. Players will face very tight fairways surrounded by deep rough, only to then have to target infuriatingly small greens with extremely inconvenient pin placements. It goes without saying that accuracy will be at a premium throughout the week, regardless of if it’s off the tee or into the green. Think shorter than Southern Hills but with much narrower fairways and significantly smaller greens.
The course will provide no shortage of rough alongside every single hole (fairways and around the greens) but the good news is that the greens themselves should be relatively fast and roll true. Listen to this range… The Championship Course will include a 131 yard Par 3, 310/515 yard Par 4s and a 625 yard Par 5. That’s what you call a little bit of everything…
Fun fact about this course, it was the setting for arguably the greatest upset in sports history. Francis Ouimet (an amateur golfer/future hall of famer) won the 1913 US Open at The Country Club, beating heavy pro favorites Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. If you’ve never seen the movie “The Greatest Game Ever Played” before and you’re looking to hype yourself up for Brookline… I’d definitely give it a watch before next Thursday.
US Open Recipe For Success
Strokes Gained: Approach The Green (23%) + Historical Majors Performance (20%) + Strokes Gained: Off The Tee (15%) + Strokes Gained: Around The Green (10%) + Driving Accuracy (8%) + Strokes Gained: Putting (7%) + Accuracy From Rough > 100 Yards (6%) + Scrambling (6%) + Bogey Avoidance (5%) = US OPEN CHAMP
We will be utilizing the “Strokes Gained” data method once again in addition to adding emphasis on some specific statistical categories. The course will play about 250 yards longer than it has in the past but it’s still not overly long and realistically most players won’t have the courage to pull out driver on most holes given the narrow fairways anyways so driving distance shouldn’t play much of a factor. Putting also shouldn’t be as large of a factor as we’re used to seeing in majors. The greens at The Country Club are extremely difficult but that’s more because of how small they are vs how challenging the Putting itself should be. This is the first time we’re slightly fading Putting but given how inconsistent Putting clearly is for players in majors (both ways) we’re comfortable allocating 7% to the stat for this year’s equation.
The three main categories we’re focusing on for this year’s US Open are Strokes Gained: Approach The Green, Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and Strokes Gained: Around The Green. We’ll place a healthy dose of importance on historical performance in majors by utilizing Strokes Gained: Major Outperformance data since the best players are at their best on the biggest stages.
For Strokes Gained: Approach The Green, we’ll be placing an additional emphasis on Accuracy From Rough > 100 yards. Realistically, even the most accurate ball strikers will miss the fairway occasionally. Adding this emphasis ensures that we capture how well players bounce back from an awry tee shot. Overall we think that players’ approach games will ultimately decide this championship which is why we’re allocating 29% of the equation to this category (when including the Accuracy From Rough > 100 yards emphasis).
For Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, we’ll be placing an additional emphasis on Driving Accuracy specifically. As mentioned previously, it’s unlikely many players will risk letting the big dog eat on the majority of this course so accuracy will come at a premium… especially off the tee. Given how narrow these fairways are as well as how damning the surrounding rough can be, we find it wise not to neglect competitive advantages off the tee this week. Enough so to allocate 23% of the equation to this stat when including Driving Accuracy.
Strokes Gained: Around The Green will make up 21% of this year’s equation with an emphasis on Scrambling (6%) and Bogey Avoidance (5%). US Opens are historically won by avoiding trouble so a player’s ability to rebound from a missed approach shot both physically and mentally will be paramount on their path to victory. US Opens are wars of attrition typically so expect the winner to hit their spots all week but also whip up some magic around the greens when needed.
Preliminary US Open Success Projections
Time to put our money where our mouth is. Enjoy our favorite picks for the US Open, keep an eye out for our favorite specific bets for Rounds 1-4 next week and always remember to bet smarter, not harder.
Rory McIlroy: Rory is playing some of the most inspired golf on tour right now and he’s bound to put four solid rounds together soon and capture another major. His competitive advantage off the tee is undeniable, he’s striking the ball well right now and he has more than enough talent around the greens to clean up sticky situations. He still hasn’t quite eliminated his “1 blow up round per major” tendency but he’s definitely trending in the right direction and might be the best player in the world right now as far as talent. We’ve caught several glimpses of vintage Rory in the last two majors (2nd place and 8th place finishes) which is likely due in large part to the work he’s put into his mental game off the course. He mentioned in a recent interview that his successes on the golf course defined who he was as a person as a younger man which led to great struggles off the course once the victories stalled. Becoming a father has changed his perspective and purpose in life which has obviously played a large role in his resurgence. Rory is absolutely on the cusp of another major championship under his belt.
Scottie Scheffler: So Scottie is human. For the first time all season we had to watch the wheels fall off for the #1 player in the world last month, ironically at his favorite course in the world (Southern Hills). Don’t let this fool you… He’s still the player to beat week in and week out. In our wrap up for the PGA Championship we mentioned that we’d be monitoring Scheffler to see how he bounces back from his first majors debacle. Well, he lost his next tournament (Charles Schwab Challenge) in a playoff against his buddy Sam Burns… I’d say a playoff 2nd place finish constitutes a solid comeback… Scottie still ranks toward the top of almost every single statistical category coming into this week (RBC Canadian Open still ongoing) and he’ll definitely be looking to rebound from his worst major performance in recent memory without a doubt. He’s solid statistically across the board and that consistency coupled with his gamesmanship should serve him nicely at a difficult course like The Country Club. Expect Scottie to contend.
Justin Thomas: Do I think JT could win two majors back to back? Probably not. Does his game match up well with The Country Club? Absolutely… He’s an immaculate ball striker, he’s accurate off the tee and the guy can handle himself around the green. He got his post major victory slump out of the way at the Charles Schwab Challenge after winning the PGA Championship and should be well rested to take a shot at his first US Open title. Let me be clear… I doubt he actually wins next week but I fully expect him to be in contention just from how well his game matches up to The Country Club and the fact that he finally got rid of his majors slump. It’d be foolish not to ride the majors hot hand and JT is finally in that category again for the first time since 2017. Just a reminder, he’s posted a Top 10 finish in 4 of his last 6 majors…
Matthew Fitzpatrick: This is by far my favorite underdog pick of any major tournament to date. Not only is Fitzpatrick the top player in our projections for the US Open, he also is one of the only players in the field with any prior knowledge of The Country Club (Brookline, MA). The last tournament played at The Country Club was the US Amateur back in 2013. Fitzpatrick not only played in that US Amateur, he won it… He’s won 7 times internationally but still hasn’t won on the PGA Tour yet despite knocking on the door heavily all season (8 Top 25 finishes, 6 Top 10 finishes). He’s an elite ball striker, he’s fantastic off the tee and his short game (including around the green) is special. In my opinion, he’s the most consistent player in the field across every statistical category this week. He’s hungry for his first win on tour (why not make it his first major as well?) and he’s intimately familiar with experiencing success at Brookline. I think next week could very likely be his breakthrough moment.
Sungjae Im: Love me some Sungjae Im. Not only is he solid off the tee, he’s an absolute magician around the greens and an expert at avoiding trouble (Top 3 in the field for Strokes Gained: Around The Green, Scrambling and Bogey Avoidance). As long as his approach game holds up then he should be a true contender to take his first major championship. Remember, this guy excels in major championships and even if his approach game does remain average his stellar abilities around the green should make up for it. He’s struggled rolling the ball in the past but putting shouldn’t be a massive factor next week. He missed the PGA Championship because he contracted COVID a few days before the tournament… What does that mean for us at the US Open? Value.
Xander Schauffele: It’s hard to leave Xander off the list as long as he’s still technically an “underdog”. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, the guy’s got it all in regards to his game. He arguably has the second most consistent game in the field across all statistical categories and he’s specifically one of the better ball strikers on tour. He’s accurate off the tee and he’s got the short game around the green that’s required to hang around the top of the leaderboard on the weekend at a US Open. He’s another player just waiting for his breakthrough moment at a major.
Shane Lowry: Shane Lowry is the exact bulldog type player that hangs around at a US Open. He’s a great ball striker with solid accuracy off the tee and an impressive ability to avoid bogies (1st in the field for Scrambling, 3rd in the field for Bogey Avoidance). He’s 9th on tour in overall Strokes Gained and he plays his best in majors (Top 25 finishes in 5 out of his last 6 majors). You can’t go broke taking a profit so as long as Vegas wants to keep giving us value on Lowry… we’re going to take it. I know we already mentioned that we don’t expect Putting to play a massive factor at Brookline but we’d be remiss not to mention Lowry’s ability with the short stick (14th on tour in Strokes Gained: Putting).
Will Zalatoris: I’m not sure what else Zalatoris needs to do to get more respect from Vegas… Statistically he leads the tour currently in Strokes Gained: Approach The Green, he’s 5th on tour in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, he’s posted a Top 10 finish in 4 out of his last 5 majors (he had to withdraw from the British Open last year due to injury) and he’s coming off a heartbreaking 2nd place playoff loss to Justin Thomas last month at the PGA Championship. He hasn’t won on tour yet despite 3 different 2nd place finishes and he’s drastically improved his short game (the only chink in his armor) over the past month. Putting shouldn’t even play too much of a factor next week so as long as he continues to strike the ball as well as he has been and keeps trending upwards in the short game category… Sky’s the limit for Happy Gilmore’s former caddy.
Welcome to our first rendition of Side Hustle Bets’ “Honorable Mentions” section. Every player in this section has a great chance of success at the US Open next week but also has at least one Achilles Heel that’s holding us back from listing them as one of our favorites. Enjoy and proceed at your own risk!
|Honorable Mentions||Current Odds|
Cameron Smith: Cameron Smith has one of the best approach games in the field and quite possibly the best short game out of the group. He’s been on the cusp of a major championship for a while now and he putts the lights out week in week out. The issue here are his struggles off the tee. By his own admission, the driver definitely isn’t Smith’s favorite club in the bag. He mentioned that the PGA Championship would probably be the hardest major for him to win since the fairways are so difficult… but… the US Open will have even more challenging fairways than Southern Hills. I like Smith to play well in the first round, as he usually does regardless of the venue, but at some point his struggles off the tee should more than likely catch up with him by the weekend. Cam Smith is good enough to pull it together any given major but his lack of consistency off the tee and the fact that his superior Putting ability shouldn’t hold as much weight next week (relatively easy greens in regards to Putting specifically) makes it tough for us to list him as a favorite.
Mito Pereira: I know what you’re thinking… Didn’t we just watch Pereira choke at the PGA Championship last month? Yeah, we did. We also watched him jump out to a commanding lead, hold steady for 95% of his final round and experience an unfortunate blow up hole for the ages on the 18th. Fact of the matter is, he ranks towards the top of the field in Strokes Gained: Approach The Green and Strokes Gained: Off The Tee (the two most important statistical categories in our formula for success next week) and he clearly has what it takes to compete with the top dogs on the biggest stages. He followed up his PGA Championship heartbreak with a 7th place finish and a 13th place finish… that’s definitely a solid bounce back. Most people would let a meltdown like his tee shot on the last hole at Southern Hills break them down. Pereira might be strong enough mentally to battle through that temptation. His post round interview after letting his first major slip through his fingers last month was one of the classiest I think I’ve ever seen and a true testament to sportsmanship. To be able to keep your cool like that after one of the worst moments of your life and then follow it up with two Top 15 finishes right away? That’s impressive. Two things that haven’t been impressive for Pereira lately are his abilities around the green or his Putting. As much as I respect how Mito handled his defeat last month, we can’t ignore it entirely. He lands in our “Honorable Mentions” section due to the possibility of a majors defeat relapse as well as his struggles to recover when he isn’t hitting his spots in the fairway or on the greens.
Joaquin Niemann: Niemann’s abilities off the tee and around the green put him in the conversation for the US Open. He’s won a tournament but he’s yet to put it all together in a major and he clearly has issues with consistency throughout the entirety of a tournament. The guy is electric but he’s like a younger version of Cameron Smith with his ability to go low only to follow it up with numerous blow up holes. He’s clearly a talented young player who should only get better with time but it’s hard to put a lot of faith in him at a course as challenging as The Country Club which demands constant consistency. That said, his approach game isn’t too shabby either and his Putting is really the only considerable flaw in his game statistically so he should be able to move up the leaderboard if he can cut down on the volatility.
Corey Conners: Corey Conners is definitely a long shot next week but he does rank 8th on tour in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and falls into the Top 35 of the field for Strokes Gained: Approach The Green. His game isn’t without its flaws, especially around the green and his Putting, but he has excelled in majors and he’s shown the ability to recover from the rough which should serve him nicely at Brookline next week. He sneaks his way into the “Honorable Mentions” section this week due to his talent off the tee and his performance in majors recently (4 Top 20 finishes in his last 6 majors).
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