The 2020 US Open will finally go ahead this week at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York, having been originally scheduled for June with no spectators allowed on course. The course was last used for the US Open back in 2006 and won by the Aussie Geoff Ogilvy with a winning score of +5.
The tournament was probably more infamous for players blowing chances to win, notably Phil Mickelson who needed a par on the 72nd hole to win or make bogey for a play-off. He made double and it is to date the only major title that Mickelson has still not won. Colin Montgomerie also made double down the last to miss out on the play-off by 1 shot. This will be the 2nd major of the year after Collin Morikawa won the USPGA Championship on the West Coast back in August. Gary Woodland is defending champion, having won at Pebble Beach in 2019.
The Main Contenders
Favourite for the event with BetVictor is Dustin Johnson at 15/2. Since winning the Travellers Championship in June against a world-class field, Johnson also trounced the field in the Northern Trust three weeks ago, beating the next best by an incredulous 11 strokes. The week after he was only beaten by a 60 foot Jon Rahm bomb in a play-off and last week won the Tour Championship – albeit with a handicap start.
He is an extremely worthy favourite and, if he continues in this vein of form, he will be hard to beat. Pulling along in his slipstream has been Jon Rahm (10/1) and Justin Thomas (12/1). Both of these are playing consistently well and both have won since play resumed after lockdown. Next in the betting at 14/1 is Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman became a first-time father last week and may instead be focusing on the US Masters in November – the only major that Rory is missing from his collection. Then we have the enigma that is Bryson DeChambeau (22/1). He seems to have been struggling of late since contending in the USPGA in August and for this reason, can be dismissed. This is a demanding course and his “bully the course into submission” tactics won’t suit the style needed to win here. And what to make of Tiger Woods? Since lockdown, Tiger has been far from convincing, playing only 4 times with a best finish of T37. On this form, Tiger at 50/1 makes no appeal. However, this is a major championship and anyone that writes Tiger off may be regretting that decision come Sunday night.
This is a major championship and anyone that writes Tiger off may be regretting that decision come Sunday night.
How Do We Find This Week's Winner?
The best starting point is to look at the final leader board for the 2006 US Open. We know that Aussie Geoff Ogilvy won, but there are some other striking observations.
There were 8 Europeans in the top 20 compared to just 6 Americans. There were also 3 Australians in the top 20 and, very interestingly, 3 left handers in the first 6. Some courses do seem to lend themselves to suiting lefties and this is obviously one of them. One of those, Nick O’Hern, was also one of the shortest hitters in the game off the tee. Along with Jim Furyk, Ryuji Imada, Mike Weir, Luke Donald and Steve Stricker we can see instantly that power off the tee is not needed here.
Amongst these, we find players with exceptional short games and who can scramble their way out of a paper bag. We are also going to need a straight driver of the ball and someone who will be able to cope under the most severe pressure that a major championship Sunday brings. The winning score is expected to be over par which makes for great viewing and will leave players pulling their hair out.
The first recommendation is for Daniel Berger at 30/1. The American has made his way to number 13 in the world but is in the strange position of not being in the US Masters in November, as he had not qualified when the field was set before lockdown. If he were to win the US Open, there would be a clamour for him to play at Augusta in November. Berger won the Charles Schwab challenge in the first event back after lockdown around a course renowned for straight driving. A 3rd place finish at the RBC Heritage (straight driving and good scrambling required), T2 at the WGC St Jude, and a 3rd at the Northern Trust shows what great nick his game is in. With the extra incentive of possibly getting a Masters place I see Berger contending this week.
Our next recommendation is for Matthew Fitzpatrick at 55/1. The 26-year-old Englishman has climbed to number 17 in the world rankings with 3 top 10 finishes since play began after the lockdown. As we discovered earlier, Europeans will thrive round here and Fitzpatrick is ready to take the next step up and win a major golf championship. Possessing a great short game, I think he will excel on these treacherous greens in New York. Fitzpatrick is also an accurate driver of the ball who can work the ball both ways which will help him navigate around the dog legs on many of these holes. Sitting 2nd in strokes gained putting on the PGA Tour, it is probably on and around these greens that the event is won and lost.
I’m keen on the prospects of Phil Mickelson at 80/1. As stated earlier, lefties are well suited to this course. Although having turned 50, Mickelson is still able to mix it with the best in the game. He finished 2nd behind Justin Thomas in the WGC St Jude in August and was bang in contention at the Travellers in June until unraveling in round 3. Mickelson also competed for the first time on the Seniors Tour a few weeks back, decimating the field leading from start to finish. His finish here in 2006 will still be giving him nightmares. What better way than to lay these to rest by winning the one major golf championship he requires to complete the full set? The test here is what suits Michelson’s skill set and I can see him going close again. I don’t think anyone in the golfing world would begrudge Phil tipping his hat (to the non-existent fans) coming down 18 on Sunday and winning the trophy.
Next up is Aussie Jason Day at 35/1. Day has slipped to number 37 in the world, having been number 1 a few years back. Plagued with injuries over the last few years, Day seems to be finally healthy, at least enough for regular practice. Form figures of 7th, 4th and T6th culminating with a T4 at the USPGA Championship since lockdown leave us in no doubt about the state of the Aussies game. Known as having one of the best short games on tour, this will be a great opportunity for Day to grab his 2nd major having won a USPGA at Whistling Straits in 2015. Parallels are being drawn for Winged Foot with Baltusrol Golf Club (also in New York) where the 2016 USPGA was held. Day finished 2nd. He was also 2nd at Merion in the US Open where only 1 player finished under par so this test will not faze him.
Any English Player to win the 2020 US Open
Another interesting bet that I am keen on is any English player to win the Championship. We have a plethora of English talent who could contend. Fleetwood, Fitzpatrick, Rose, Hatton, Poulter, Willett, Lewis, Wallace, Westwood and Horsfield plus a few other players at the far end of the betting list. As mentioned earlier Europeans fared well here in 2006 and four English players alone finished inside the top 20. BetVictor have kindly boosted the price of this market from 8/1 to 10/1, so it could represent some real value.