Image Source: U.S. Open
The benefit of the PGA re-arranging its 2018-19 schedule, specifically making one major for each month from April through to July, is the immediacy.
The PGA Championship is still fresh in fans’ minds and the victory by Brooks Koepka (Titleist Pro V1x) has added even more excitement to this year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Not only will Koepka be chasing his third straight U.S. Open, which will place him in rare company, but he’ll be joined again by Tiger Woods (Bridgestone Tour B XS), who is a multiple winner of the tournament.
After his historic Masters win, Woods failed to make the cut at the PGA Championship, but rebounded nicely to make a solid run in the Memorial Championship before making some mistakes and eventually finishing tied for ninth.
So you’ve got the Brooks factor, the Tiger factor, the Rory McIlroy (TaylorMade TP5x) factor after he burned it up last week at the RBC Canadian Open and, as always, the Dustin Johnson (TaylorMade TP5x) factor. Some Vegas oddsmakers have Johnson, a previous winner of the tournament, favored over Koepka.
What is not known is how the course will play out and whether it will allow for quality golf shots or simply the survival of the fittest, both mentally and physically. The U.S. is traditionally won with a score of even par, give or take a few strokes higher or lower. Last year Phil Mickelson (Callaway Chrome Soft X) was critically of the course set up at Shinnecock Hills in New York, in particular the slick greens, and it led to one of the greatest meltdowns in PGA history. Mickelson said before the tournament began it would likely take circus shots to win. He wanted fairness for all the golfers and he was right, but his decision to violate the rules by stopping a ball in motion created a kerfuffle that will no doubt be revisited this week.
While the focus will be on Koepka, who clearly was using the Canadian Open as a prep for the U.S. Open, and Woods, I still remain hopeful that Jordan Spieth (Titleist Pro V1x) will emerge as the winner. I have been predicting for the past month he is going to win a tournament because of his improved play. So if it happens, good on him.
While it is easy to pick Koepka, Woods, McIlroy and Spieth, I am going to go with a long shot, Xander Schauffele (Callaway Chrome Soft X). The 25-year-old has been on the cusp of winning a major, finishing tied for second in the 2019 Masters. He finished tied for sixth in last year’s U.S. Open and was one of the few players who finished under-par in his final round.
Here’s some additional reasons for liking Schauffele: He is fourth on the FedEx Cup rankings and 10th overall on the Official World Golf Ranking. He’s won two tournaments this year and has made the cut 13 of 15 tournaments and finished in the top-10 four times. I really like his consistency. He was born in California and went to school at San Diego State University, so he should know the nuances of the Pebble Beach.
Most of the oddsmakers have him rated at 28-1.
You have to also give consideration to Tommy Fleetwood (Titleist Pro V1x), who is still searching for his first PGA Tour win. He’s been close several times. He finished second in last year’s tournament, scorching the course with a seven-under par. In 2017, he finished tied for fourth. He played strongly in the first three rounds with an aggregate 11-under par, but was even par in the final round. He is 43rd in the FedEx Cup standings and 18th in the Official World Golf Ranking. He’s had a good season, placing second in the Zurich Classic, tied for third in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and tied for fifth in the Players Championship. He’s made the cut in all 11 PGA tournaments he’s played so far this year.