The time has come folks! I don’t know about you but I’ve seen enough viral videos now to confirm that The Country Club should be unfairly difficult this week. I’m ready to see the players actually play vs talk about their opinions about LIV and I’m excited to watch the best players in the world struggle all week long (makes me feel better about my own golf game).
The weather should unfortunately play a factor again during the first two rounds but Thursday should create more of a separation in the field than Friday. Wind gusts on Thursday morning should only be around 5 mph and increase to moderate levels late morning/early afternoon. The wind should pick up significantly from there into the afternoon to ~20 mph. The wind should be moderate on Friday equally throughout the day. It doesn’t sound like it should be as bad as Southern Hills but any wind is a lot of wind on a course as difficult as The Country Club so who knows…? Pay attention to those early groupings on Thursday morning.
The players will undoubtedly be frustrated throughout the tournament but that doesn’t mean your bet slip has to be. This Side Hustle Bets golf rocket is on a one way ticket to the moon (+18.825 units through the first two majors) so hop on and remember to bet smarter, not harder.
Once again we’re taking a stab at predicting the outright winner of the tournament this week (I mean we’re 2 for 2 so how can we resist…?). Keep in mind that the odds for an Outright Winner futures bet are always massive regardless of the players so avoid breaking the bank on these types of bets and spread your cash across several of your favorites.
Not too many surprises here given our preliminary favorites of the week article with the exception of a slight defending champ/Olympic gold medalist hedge. Rory McIlroy is playing inspired golf right now and he’s coming off his second RBC Canadian Open victory in a row last week. His head game is there and it just feels like his next breakthrough will be at a major (perhaps this week at Brookline). We can’t write off JT right now… especially at a course sure to test the field’s ball striking abilities both off the tee and into the green. He’s the type of smart player who hangs around at a punishing major like the US Open and he’s probably riding the hottest streak of his career coming into this week. Scottie Scheffler is still #1 in both the Official World Golf Rankings as well as the FedEx Cup standings and he’s no question looking to rectify his missed cut at the PGA Championship last month. He bounced back nicely at the Charles Schwab Classic the very next week (second place playoff finish vs Sam Burns) and he posted a top 20 finish at the RBC Canadian Open just last week. Expect him to contend on the weekend. And now for my favorite sleeper pick of the week… future US Open champion… Matthew Fitzpatrick *knock on wood*. Fitzpatrick’s all around game as well as confidence are on a collision course for success rolling into The Country Club this week. He’s one of the few players to have knowledge of this old venue (he won the US Amateur at Brookline in 2013), he’s far overdue to win a tournament on the PGA Tour and he’s at the top of our projections this week due to his consistent game across the board (solid ball striking off the tee/into the greens as well as true magic around the greens). The guy is playing the best golf of his career right now and looks primed to fly under the radar into the first major championship victory of his career this week.
As for Rahm and Schauffele, both of these players have something to prove and both have facets of their game that could allow them to pull away from a competitive field at a difficult US Open Course. Rahm leads the tour in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, he’s the defending US Open champ and he’s the competitive type of player who rarely flops two majors in a row. Schauffele is one of the most well rounded players on tour (he ranks inside the top 30 of the field in literally every relevant statistical category other than putting… where he ranks 41st in the field) and he is definitely in the conversation for best player in the PGA without a major (he does have that handy Olympics gold medal though). They both should also get off to solid starts Thursday morning due to their preferential weather conditions compared to the later groups and both players tend to hold leads into the weekend once they get their hands on them. Splitting 0.25 units between the two (slight nudge to Rahm).
I’m never going to place any Top 10 futures bets on any players I don’t believe can win the tournament outright, hence why you see the same names here as our Outright Winner picks with the exception of Rahm/Schauffele (both feel too speculative for now).
We don’t have much to add here from the Outright Winner breakdowns other than the fact that all four of these players rank inside the Top 7 on tour for Top 10 finishes in all tournaments (1st, T2, T4, T7) and they average inside the Top 5 on tour for Strokes Gained in majors. Justin Thomas and Scottie Scheffler are the last two major champions and Rory and Fitzpatrick contended in both of those tournaments as well.
Top 20 futures bets allow us to hedge our favorites to finish towards the top as well as snag some value on some players being overlooked to succeed this week. We gain decent hedging odds on McIlroy, Thomas and Scheffler along with MASSIVE value on Fitzpatrick at +130.
Vegas is giving us considerable value for Xander Schauffele at -115 considering how well he tends to play in majors and how well suited his ball striking is for such a difficult course. If he can keep his head together for four rounds in a row… sky’s the limit. We also find Vegas sleeping on Sungjae Im, Shane Lowry and Will Zalatoris (all with +130 odds or better). Sungjae Im plays fantastic in majors, he’s great off the tee and he avoids bogies around the green (not to mention he has three consecutive Top 15 finishes coming into this week/he’s flying under the radar for missing the PGA Championship last month due to COVID). Shane Lowry is presumably being slightly faded due to his recent struggles around the green but that hasn’t prevented him from posting a Top 25 finish in 5 out of his last 6 majors… He hasn’t won a tournament this season yet and he’s one of the best players tee to green in the game. Will Zalatoris shows up in majors, plain and simple. The guy is arguably the best ball striker on tour and his putting (historically his Achilles heel) improved DRASTICALLY in the PGA Championship last month. He’ll definitely be looking to avenge his heartbreaking playoff loss to Justin Thomas and bring home the first PGA Tour major/victory of his career.
Now we get into our riskier futures bets of the week. Despite his meltdown on the last hole of the PGA Championship last month, Mito Pereira’s game aligns very nicely with The Country Club this week. His ball striking off the tee and into greens right now is elite, he’ll never forget the feeling of true despair he must have felt letting his first major/victory slip through his fingers like that last month and he appears to have bounced back impressively since (two Top 15 finishes in a row since the PGA Championship). Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann are two players without a major who are both a handful of blow up holes away from running away with several (Cam more so than Niemann, but still…). Smith is the biggest birdie machine on tour and if it wasn’t for his inconsistency off the tee he’d probably be a favorite to win outright this week. Niemann is masterful off the tee and around the greens so if he can get out of his own way and clean up his approach game then he absolutely could contend this weekend. Corey Conners is definitely our biggest long shot of the week in this range but if he can keep his approach game/putting in check then his ability off the tee and to avoid bogies could prove dangerous.
Not much to add here other than some hedging for some of our riskier Top 20 picks as well as some hidden value in well known names Hideki Matsuyama and Daniel Berger.
Hideki had a disappointing showing at the PGA Championship last month so he’ll definitely be looking for some redemption this week. His surprising disqualification from the Memorial Tournament (illegal substance on the face of his wood) should also provide some added motivation for success this week. His elite approach game and relatively stable game across the board should afford him that opportunity as long as he stops missing so many putts inside 10 feet. Daniel Berger is one of the better ball strikers on tour; he’s just been plagued with injuries. It looks like he’s the healthiest he’s been in a while so his consistent game off the tee and his solid approaches should allow him to break back through into the majors discussion this week.
To Make The Cut
Our favorite futures bets to make the cut this week could not be any more different.
Our first bet is a parlay across three of our favorite players with something to prove this week. We can’t speak highly enough about Fitzpatrick and Scheffler/Rahm both played terribly at the PGA Championship last month (the latter being the defending US Open Champion coming into Brookline).
So why take a chance on Phil Mickelson given all of his drama over the past year? Because the guy is a true competitor and after watching Tiger make the cut at both the Masters and PGA Championship recently… better believe making the cut at the US Open this week would feel like winning a championship to him. I’m sure he’s tired of hearing all the flack over LIV and what better way to silence the haters than to put together two solid rounds and prove that he can still compete with the world’s best on the biggest of stages? At +220 odds, half a unit feels like a no brainer.
To Miss The Cut
Should Patrick Cantlay miss the cut this week given how well his game aligns with The Country Club? Of course not. Is it clear that he has a case of the majors “yips” and has for a while now? Absolutely. At +320 odds, why not throw half a unit on him to crumble on another massive stage? Just to provide more context, he’s only made half of the cuts at the last 4 majors he’s played in (best finish was tied for 39th…). Cantlay’s woes could be your pay day until he proves he can get his head right in a major championship.
Daniel Berger (+110) (0.5 units) vs Dustin Johnson
This play is a tale of two cities. We feel strongly about Berger’s game/health right now and his trajectory back into contention as of late. We don’t feel strongly about DJ’s game currently or his commitment to golf in general. Instead of looking to rebound from a poor showing at the PGA Championship last month, Johnson announced he’d become probably the best player on the LIV Tour recently. I’m not going to throw shade at players for joining the LIV Tour in order to cash in more easily, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised by Dustin Johnson’s announcement (a major champion still hanging around his prime with significant potential to add to his majors trophy case). DJ’s length off the tee is overshadowed by his lack of driving accuracy and nothing else about his game pops off the page to suggest that he should play well at Brookline this week. It’s hard to say how most of the LIV players at the US Open will respond to the adversity this week, but I just don’t think DJ cares enough at this point.
Will Zalatoris (-110) (1 unit) vs Tony Finau
This play is tough mentally just because of Tony Finau’s emergence atop leaderboards as of late but it’s easier to digest once you examine Zalatoris’ performance in majors/his elite ball striking capability. He leads the tour in Strokes Gained: Approach The Green and he is 2nd on tour in Strokes Gained: Tee To Green. He’s only finished outside of the Top 10 of one major that he actually completed (he had to withdraw from The Open due to injury) and he couldn’t possibly be more “due” for a victory on tour (3 second place finishes, 15 Top 10 finishes). I love Tony Finau but he doesn’t tend to bring the same intensity at a major as he does the rest of the season so I’m siding with the numbers here and expecting Zalatoris to continue to contend at a high level this week.
|Top South American: Joaquin Niemann||+110||0.5|
|Top South American: Mito Pereira||+165||0.5|
|Top Asian: Hideki Matsuyama||+200||0.5|
|Top Asian: Sungjae Im||+200||0.5|
|Top Canadian: Corey Conners||+120||0.8|
|Top Canadian: Adam Hadwin||+380||0.2|
|Lowest 18 Hole Round: Justin Rose||+6600||0.1|
|Lowest 18 Hole Round: Justin Thomas||+1400||0.1|
|Lowest 18 Hole Round: Rory McIlroy||+1300||0.1|
|Lowest 18 Hole Round: Xander Schauffele||+2500||0.1|
|Lowest 18 Hole Round: Scottie Scheffler||+1800||0.1|
Top South American: Joaquin Niemann/Mito Pereira
It’s hard to think any South Americans are going to outplay both Niemann AND Pereira this week. Both players are primed for a breakthrough in a major, both players are solid ball strikers capable of attacking narrow fairways and they’re both childhood friends sure to push each other throughout the week. Splitting a unit between the two feels like a no brainer.
Top Asian: Hideki Matsuyama/Sungjae Im
Despite having to bite my tongue last month as far as Matsuyama standing alone atop the Asian golfer leaderboards, I’m doubling down on the disparity of talent between Matsuyama and Im vs the rest of the pack this week. Sungjae Im is hungry to throw his name back into the contention hat at majors and Matsuyama will look to save face this week after a dismal showing at the PGA Championship last month/an embarrassing disqualification at the Memorial Tournament a few weeks ago. I’m splitting a unit between the two to be safe.
Top Canadian: Corey Conners/Adam Hadwin
This play is another testament to our faith in Conners’ odds to surprise people this week as well as a lack of Canadian talent in the field in general this week. Conners is the only Canadian we’re expecting to potentially contend but we’re splitting a unit between Conners and Hadwin (0.8 units on Conners, 0.2 units on Hadwin) just to be safe.
Lowest 18 Hole Round: Rose/Thomas/McIlroy/Schauffele/Scheffler
This is a new prop that we’re really excited about this week. Every golfer listed above has the ability, and tendency, to go low at least once every tournament. We’ve seen it with Rory virtually every major he’s played in since the Masters, Justin Thomas almost always has a dismal first round followed up by a lights out second round, Scottie tends to come out firing (which would come as no surprise at Brookline this week after missing the cut at Southern Hills), Xander Schauffele shot a 61 at the AT&T Byron Nelson last month and Justin Rose almost broke 60 last week at the RBC Canadian Open. We’re sprinkling 0.5 units across these five players which should make for an entertaining prop throughout the tournament. Just need one of these studs to get hot for one round!
1st Round Bets
1st Round Top 20
Spreading a couple units across a handful of players who not only should see success at Brookline this week, but who also tend to hit the gas right away. One thing to note on Thursday will be the weather advantage between the early morning groups vs the afternoon groups. We shouldn’t be talking Southern Hills type of disparity but the early morning groups should definitely have an advantage over the later groups.
You’ll notice several familiar names here (Scheffler, Smith, McIlroy) along with some possible surprises. In order to find our horses for Thursday specifically we are focusing on 1) our formula for the week 2) Strokes Gained in Majors 3) 1st Round Scoring Averages on tour and 4) what time they tee off on Thursday. Scheffler, Smith and McIlroy all take a commanding lead compared to the rest of the field taking the first three factors into account. This should come as no surprise considering Smith and Scheffler rank inside the top 5 on tour for 1st Round Scoring Average (Smith is #1 overall, Scheffler is #4) and Rory ranks 11th on tour. Rory is coming off a massive opening round 65 at Southern Hills and a final round 62 (yes, you read that correctly) at his RBC Canadian Open victory last week. Cam Smith has been an absolute menace on Thursdays averaging only 67.73 strokes in opening rounds and here’s the eye popping stat… he’s only posted an over par opening round in a major twice since the 2020 PGA Championship… and in both of those rounds he was only 1 over par… THAT IS ABSURD. The guy loves to start quickly so the top 20 after Thursday feels well within reach. Scheffler is absolutely looking to redeem himself this week after arguably one of his worst performances in a major at Southern Hills last month (his favorite golf course) so it stands to reason that he’ll be looking to get out to a quick start on Thursday. All of these things considered, Rory is the only one out of the three not to tee off in the afternoon… Because of this advantage, we’re only throwing 0.25 units on Scheffler/Smith (since they are great on Thursdays and should still play well) and confidently allocating 0.5 units on Rory to perform right away.
Now to touch on the underdogs for Thursday… Will Zalatoris, Joaquin Niemann and Cameron Young. I’ve already spoken at length about Zalatoris’ prowess in major tournaments so I’ll make this brief. The guy is probably the purest ball striker on tour right now, he tends to play well in opening rounds and he’s going to be part of the early morning groups. Top 20 seems easily attainable especially if the wind ends up absolutely derailing the later groups’ rounds. Joaquin Niemann is one of those electric players who loves to start hot and doesn’t tend to get in his own way until later rounds. He’s fearless off the tee, he’s playing at a high level right now both on tour in general and in majors specifically and… guess what… he’s in the early morning groups as well. Oh yeah, he ranks second ON TOUR in 1st Round Scoring Average… half a unit to you, good sir. Cameron Young. I’m sure most of you are thinking, “didn’t he just post an absolute blow up final round of 84 at the Memorial?”. He did indeed, hence the value. Cameron Young is 6th on tour in opening round scoring average, he’s 12th on tour in bounce back ability by hole and in every single tournament he’s played this year after finishing 40th or worse (5 tournaments) he has an opening round average of 65.2 strokes in the following tournament. So yes, at +280 odds just to finish inside the top 20 after Thursday we are jumping at the opportunity to benefit from his ability to bounce back after poor showings. Oh, and did I mention he also tees off early Thursday morning???
1st Round Top 10
Taking an absolute flier on Jon Rahm here to crack the top 10 in the first round purely due to three factors. Factor 1: Rahm has been clearly itching to get back on top for a long time now and he’s going to be defending his sole major championship title this week. Factor 2: Rahm leads the tour in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee. Factor 3: Rahm tees off early Thursday morning so there’s a chance he could have a decent conditions advantage over the rest of the field. Purposely testing Rahm out in the first round here to determine if he’s worth investing more capital into for the duration of the tournament. His indecision around the greens as of late has definitely been confusing but it’s only a matter of time before he gains trust back in the totality of his game.
1st Round Matchups
Sam Burns (+110) (0.6 units) vs Abraham Ancer (+210) (0.4 units) vs Thomas Pieters
Sam Burns is by far the best golfer out of this trio but, given Ancer’s propensity to play well in opening rounds (16th on tour), we’re opting to split our odds between the two and fade Thomas Pieters. Burns is coming off a recent win at the Charles Schwab Classic and he already has three different wins on tour this year. If this was a tournament long matchup we’d take Burns no question but we’re hedging a bit with Ancer to counteract the possibility of a big opening round out of the former Sooner.
Sungjae Im (+130) (0.5 units) vs Mito Pereira (+140) (0.5 units) vs Erik Van Rooyen
This first round matchup just feels like easy money. Both Im and Pereira rank towards the top of our projections for both the tournament as well as in the first round. If Pereira falls apart I expect it to be later in the tournament and I fully expect Sungjae Im to come out firing tomorrow. Van Rooyen ranks towards the bottom of the field in virtually every single relevant statistical category this week with 1st Round Scoring Average being no exception. Splitting our odds between Im/Pereira and heavily fading Van Rooyen on Thursday.
Cameron Smith (+190) (0.5 units) vs Scottie Scheffler (+125) (0.5 units) vs Brooks Koepka
While I don’t love betting against Brooks Koepka right after he just got married, these are two of the only players in the world who can convince me to do so. Scottie Scheffler and Cam Smith are literally #1 and #2 in our first round projections for Brookline Thursday (weather conditions excluded). I’ve already explained why in our breakdown for our “1st Round Top 20” bets but it’s also worth mentioning that Koepka’s game lately doesn’t match up well with The Country Club whatsoever. He ranks towards the bottom of the field in every category other than Strokes Gained: Off The Tee (he’s only middle of the pack there) and he’s only 37th in the field for 1st Round Scoring Average. He could enter the first round in a good mindset after tying the knot, OR he could come out sluggish on a course set up for his failure. I’m going to bank on a combination of the latter in association with opening round magic from Scheffler/Smith. All three tee off in the afternoon Thursday so weather should be irrelevant in regards to this trio matchup.
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