2022 U.S. Open preview/picks

2022 U.S. Open preview/picks – BETDAQ TIPS

U.S. OPEN: Timing is everything in life, and I can’t think of a much better time for Major Championship golf than now, when the professional golf world is in the midst of unprecedented disruption and contentiousness. Piles of Saudi oil money, high-horse denouncements of ex-colleagues, an almost cartoonishly obvious good guys/bad guys dichotomy, with the defections of radioactive me-firsters Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau last week crystallizing things in that regard… it all makes for some spicy subplots, sure, but there won’t be much time for the players to dwell on the soap opera stuff when they’re staring down the barrel of what is traditionally golf’s toughest test.

The U.S. Open may not be the sport’s oldest or most iconic major championship, but it’s the one that grinds the world’s best players down to dust, making them quit in frustration or lash out in anger at those they hold responsible for designing such a diabolical examination. Over the last 28 years we’ve seen nine U.S. Opens where not a single player in the field was able to finish the week under par. It remains to be seen whether this year’s competition will be a bloodletting like Shinnecock in 2018 or whether the Good Angel that whispers “fairness” into the ears of USGA officials will again win out, as has been the case for the past couple of years, when birdies have been scarce but achievable. We do know that The Country Club in Brookline has some teeth, and with its tiny greens, thick rough, and considerable length, things could get nasty out there with the right setup.

Many remember the course as the site of the memorable 1999 Ryder Cup, when the U.S. team staged an improbable comeback and then went a bit over the top in celebrating the victory, irking their European opponents and setting the stage for 15 years of Euro dominance in the event. The Country Club’s most memorable turn in the spotlight, however, was back in 1913, when a 20-year old caddie who lived across the street from the course and had a 10-year old boy on the bag shocked the world by winning the U.S. Open. Francis Ouimet is still the last amateur to win one of golf’s modern majors.

The Country Club is a lengthy par-70 with narrow fairways, small greens that are severe in spots, and several old-school quirks like blind shots, well-placed bunkers, and subtly shaped green complexes that make things extraordinarily tricky for players who miss it in the wrong spots. There are only two par-5s and neither one is reachable in two, so there will be very few gimme birdies out there this week– you’re going to have to earn it. It’s the U.S. Open, after all.

BETDAQ’s Win Market is crowded at the top, as you’d expect from an event like this, and at the head sits Rory McIlroy (12.5), who not only won the Canadian Open last week but also took on the mantle of leading spokesman for what is widely regarded as the “good” side of the current divide in pro golf by firing some direct shots at Greg Norman and the LIV crew. I’m sure he’ll try to let his golf do the talking this week but the cat may already be out of the bag in that regard, so we’ll see if he’s able to continue his brilliant play in the midst of the media firestorm he’s stepped into. He’ll have a lot of people rooting for him this week, that’s for sure, but my money will be going elsewhere. Here’s what I’m thinking:

WIN MARKET

Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Patrick Cantlay (25.0) Cantlay is clearly a special talent but his lack of success in the majors is beginning to become a black mark on his career. That said, I refuse to believe that he has some giant mental block or anxiety issues and I think it’s probably something much more banal, like him pressing too much or just not quite having figured out the optimal mindset for major championship success. It will come– I have no doubt that Cantlay will eventually crack the code and become a major champion, and based on the way he’s been playing lately, with three top-5 finishes in his last four starts and a T3 at the Memorial last time out, it feels like his time might be now. The Country Club is a demanding ball-strikers course– seemingly the perfect type of course for a tee-to-green machine like Cantlay– and the greens are a mix of bentgrass and poa-annua, which just happens to be Cantlay’s best surface. The stars seem to be aligning for him this week… he’s laid low amidst all this LIV stuff, but something tells me that on Sunday afternoon Cantlay will be riding high with a trophy in his hands.

Dustin Johnson (52.0) Okay, I’ll bite. While DJ hasn’t had his best stuff lately, I don’t believe it’s any sort of major slump or a sign that he’s on the “back nine” of his career, as some have suggested. He’s still in his golfing prime, his tee-to-game has been quite good this season (24th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained on approach), and it’s not like the results have been all that concerning– top-10s at The Players and the WGC Match Play, T12 at the Masters, and he was 13-under through three rounds just two starts ago at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Plus, it looked like his game was in pretty good shape at the inaugural LIV Golf event last week, as he was one of only eight players to finish under par at the difficult Centurion Golf Club. There will be a lot of people rooting against Johnson this week and he knows it, but he sort of strikes me as the type of personality that doesn’t mind wearing the black hat, you know? He may even harness this supposedly negative energy in a positive way. I just can’t bring myself to pass him up at such an inflated price.

Tyrrell Hatton (142.0) Hatton struggled a bit in Canada last week, missing the cut after back-to-back 74s. Prior to that, however, he had been playing quite well, finding the top-15 at the PGA Championship in his previous start and finishing 37th or better in 9 of 11 starts overall, so it doesn’t overly concern me that he was a bit sluggish last week. His advanced stats put him in a different echelon than his price this week would suggest, and he’s been rolling the rock as well as anyone in the world, ranking 2nd on Tour in strokes gained putting. Someone with Hatton’s short game and putting touch should have an edge at a course like The Country Club, where the small, firm greens will be difficult to hit for just about everyone in the field and the players will be faced with a steady diet of mid-length par putts. Hatton is a tough, determined player who seems perfectly built for success at the U.S. Open, making him well worth a bet at better than 140/1.

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