The Punter

2024 US Open: Superb Scheffler fancied to win again

Golfer Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy at Pinehurst in 2014

Scottie Scheffler is a short price to win the 124th US Open following a stunning season so far and he rates a bet for golf betting expert Steve Rawlings in his big preview of the year's third Major...

  • Will putting be key at Pinehurst again?

  • Read Steve's in-depth preview of the US Open

  • Read Dave Tindall's 10-year trends piece here


Tournament History

First staged back in 1895 and won by Englishman, Horace Rawlins, who picked up a whopping $150 after posting a 36-hole total of 173 (rounds of 91 and 82), the US Open has been a 72-hole stroke play event since 1898.

The US Open is a nomadic championship staged by the often heavily criticised United States Golf Association. It used to follow the US Masters as the second major of the year but after a reworking of the PGA Tour schedule in 2019, which saw the US PGA Championship moved from August to May, it's now the third of four.

This year's US Open is the 124th edition and it's to be staged around the No.2 Course at the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.


Venue

Pinehurst No.2 Course, Pinehurst Golf and Country Club, Pinehurst, North Carolina.


Course Details

Par 70, 7,543 yards

Pinehurst No.2 was designed by Donald Ross in 1907 but it's undergone several renovations since.

Robert Trent Jones Sr, in 1974, and Rees Jones, in 1996, both worked on the layout but the most significant renovation occurred in 2011 when Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw used aerial photographs taken in 1943 to restore the course as closely as possible to Ross' original design.

The rough was removed and replaced with sandy waste areas with wiregrass so a missed fairway can result in either a terrible lie or a decent one and the Bermuda greens are really tough.

The putting surfaces are of an average size but they're crowned like upside down saucers so it's tricky to hold them with approach shots and any shots that aren't spot on will get repelled, leaving a very difficult up-and-down for par.

The Fried Egg's video below which features Coore and the 2006 US Open winner, Geoff Ogilvy, who describes what it's like to play Pinehurst brilliantly is a must watch to whet your appetite for what should be a fantastic spectacle.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 12:30 on Thursday.


Last 12 Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices

2023 - Wyndham Clark -10 120.0119/1
2022 - Matt Fitzpatrick -6 32.031/1
2021 - Jon Rahm -6 12.011/1
2020 - Bryson DeChambeau -6 30.029/1
2019 - Gary Woodland -13 110.0109/1
2018 - Brooks Koepka +1 34.033/1
2017 - Brooks Koepka -16 60.059/1
2016 - Dustin Johnson -4 17.016/1
2015 - Jordan Spieth -5 11.010/1
2014 - Martin Kaymer -9 50.049/1
2013 - Justin Rose +1 28.027/1
2012 - Webb Simpson +1 100.099/1


Previous US Open winners at Pinehurst No.2

1999 - Payne Stewart -1 50/151.00
2005 - Michael Campbell Level par 200/1201.00 & 370.0369/1 on the Exchange
2014 - Martin Kaymer -9 40/141.00 & 50.049/1 on the Exchange


What Will it Take to Win the US Open?

We have to bear in mind that the course is significantly different to the one played in 1999 and 2005 following Coore and Crenshaw's renovation in 2011 but looking at the three US Open results here so far, all three winners ranked inside the top-ten for Driving Accuracy, 18th is the worst any of them ranked for Greens In Regulation and Scrambling has been a key stat at all three renewals.

Campbell only ranked 28th in 2005 but nobody got up-and-down more times than Kaymer a decade ago and back in 1999, the front three ranked third, second and first for Scrambling.

The stats suggest that relentless accuracy off the tee isn't essential given that Kaymer (9th), Henrik Stenson (8th) and Jason Day (23rd) were the only players inside the top-11 to rank better than 40th for Driving Accuracy in the only renewal since the renovation but I'd think twice about backing anyone that isn't known for their putting prowess.

The three US Open winners at Pinehurst have ranked third, third and first for Putting Average.

Looking at the scoring here, Stewart was the only player to break par for the week in 1999, nobody finished the week under-par in 2005 and although Kaymer reached -9, he won by eight and he was one of only three men not to be over-par at the end of the week. Pinehurst is a very tough track.

2014 leaderboard.jpg

Although the Championship is nomadic, given the courses are generally set up similarly year after year, in addition to looking at the stats at Pinehurst, it's worth a quick look at the results over the last decade, so here are the average rankings of the last ten US Open winners in all the traditional main categories.

Driving Accuracy - 23.7
Driving Distance - 12.5
Greens In Regulation - 4.1
Scrambling - 10.7
Putting Average - 16.1

There have only been Strokes Gained figures produced for the last five US Opens and as is the case most weeks, the most important metric has been SG: Tee-to-Green.

Here are the average Strokes Gained rankings, with the average number of strokes gained in each SG category by the winners over the last five years.

SG Tee - 6.6 (ranking average) 1.0548 (strokes gained average)
SG Approach - 13.6 (ranking average) 1.3798 (strokes gained average)
SG Around the Green - 13.8 (ranking average) 0.8868 (strokes gained average)
SG Tee to Green - 4.0 (ranking average) 3.3032 (strokes gained average)
SG Putting - 18.2 (ranking average) 1.109 (strokes gained average)

Putting has been the least important SG stat over the last five years with only two of the five winners ranking any better than 20th (Gary Woodland in 2019 and Wyndham Clark last year, who both ranked fourth) but the averages may come down this year given how important putting has been here previously.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

The US Open produces more than its fair share of event specialists.

Andy North only ever won three PGA Tour events and two of them were US Opens! Jeff Maggert only won three PGA Tour events too and none of them majors but between 1994 and 1999 he finished inside the top-ten in this championship four times.

An out-of-form Brooks Koepka finished 55th in 2022 when on the verge of joining LIV, he finished 17th last year after winning the US PGA Championship, and he missed the 2020 edition through injury, but he finished first, first, second and fourth in the four US Opens he played in before 2022 and he finished fourth here ten years ago.

It's very easy to concentrate too hard on previous major champions whenever we start looking at form for any major championship but it's odds-on that the winner won't have tasted success before if recent history can be believed.

Scottie Scheffler won the US Masters for the second time in April, but Xander Schauffele was winning his first major when victorious at Valhalla last month and 23 of the last 35 (66%) major championships have gone to a first-time major winner and if we look at this major in isolation, seven of the last eight were breaking their major duck.

Don't be surprised if we get another first-time winner but do expect them to feature fairly highly in the Official World Rankings because 45 of the last 46 majors have gone to someone inside the top-50. Phil Mickelson's shock win at the 2022 US PGA Championship is the odd one out.


A recent high finish looks a solid pointer

As many as nine of the last 11 winners have posted a top-15 finish in one or both of their previous two starts.

US Opens are really tough, and you simply can't just rock up and find your game from nowhere, as the last two editions both demonstrates this perfectly...

Here are the form figures for the top-nine prior to the off in 2022 and for the top-seven last year.

2022
1 Matthew Fitzpatrick - 2-5-MC-10
T2 Will Zalatoris - MC-2-MC-5
T2 Scottie Scheffler - 15-MC-2-18
4 Hideki Matsuyama - W-14-3-60
T5 Collin Morikawa - 29-55-40-MC
T5 Rory McIlroy - 5-8-18-1
T7 Denny McCarthy - 25-48-27-5
T7 Adam Hadwin - MC-71-18-35
T7 Keegan Bradley - 4-2-48-37

2023
1 Wyndham Clark - 24-1-MC-12
2 Rory McIlroy - 47-7-7-9
3 Scottie Scheffler - 5-2-3-3
4 Cameron Smith - 6-2-9-9
T5 Tommy Fleetwood - 5-18-MC-2
T5 Rickie Fowler - 14-MC-6-9
T5 Min Woo Lee - MC-MC-18-40

Looking specifically at the three US Open winners here, two victors had won an event earlier in the year and the other one should have done.

Payne Stewart had won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am four months earlier, Kaymer had won the Players Championship wire-to-wire and Cambell had led the British Masters by three with a round to go.


Recent major form a huge plus too

As Dave Tindall highlights in his 10-year trends piece, last year's winner, Clark, had shown nothing to speak of in a major championship but he's most definitely the exception and not the rule.

Wyndham Clark win US Open.jpg

Having finished 10th in the US Masters in April, the 2022 winner, Fitzpatrick, then contended strongly at the US PGA Championship a month before he won this event, finishing fifth behind Justin Thomas at Southern Hills, and he was the ninth US Open winner in ten years to post a top 10 in at least one of their previous two majors.

Very recent form, and recent form in either the US Masters or the US PGA Championship, or better still, both, is a huge plus.


Florida form well worth considering

Given the entire course is laid to Bermuda and that we're on the east coast, it's perhaps not too surprising to see that each of the three US Open winners at Pinehurst had some nice form in Florida, and one event in particular - the Cognizant Classic (formerly known as the Honda Classic).

Payne Stewart finished inside the top-three three times (at two different venues), Michael Cambell finished seventh in the Honda the year after he won at Pinehurst at the Country Club at Mirasol, and Kaymer was fourth in the Honda in 2017 at the PGA National.

Goosen, who led at Pinehurst by three with a round to go in 2005, finished runner-up at the Players Championship at Sawgrass, Kaymer won the Players before winning at Pinehurst and although the German had form figures at Bay Hill reading MC-23-33, Goosen finished fourth there a couple of times, Stewart finished third there and Campbell was second at Bay Hill in 2002.

Anyone that plays the Florida Swing nicely needs to be considered.


Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four

2023 - Wyndham Clark - tied for the lead with one other 4.84/1
2022 - Matt Fitzpatrick - tied for the lead with one other 4.3100/30
2021 - Jon Rahm - tied sixth, trailing by three 13.012/1
2020 - Bryson DeChambeau - solo second, trailing by two 3.55/2
2019 - Gary Woodland - led by one stroke 3.1511/5
2018 - Brooks Koepka - tied for the lead with three others 5.59/2
2017 - Brooks Koepka - tied second with two others, trailing by one 5.59/2
2016 - Dustin Johnson - tied second with one other, trailing by four 4.84/1


In-Play Tactics

This major tends to be an almighty grind, making headway up the leaderboard as the week progresses is incredibly tough, and up with the pace is where you need to be in a US Open. And that's been the case at this venue so far.

Payne Stewart trailed by a stroke after round one in 1999, he was tied at halfway with David Duval and Phil Mickelson, and he led Lefty by a stroke with a round to go before they both shot 70 in round four.

Michael Campbell sat tied for 17th and four off the lead after round one in 2005 but he was two back and sixth at halfway and he sat tied for fourth with a round to go, trailing the three-stroke leader, Retief Goosen, by four.

Kaymer won wire-to-wire cozily having led by three after round one ten years ago but we did see plenty of drama here in 2005.

Looking to defend the title and win his third US Open in five years, Goosen finished tied for 11th having led by three, Olin Browne fell from tied second to 23rd and poor Jason Gore shot 84 to fall from tied second to tied 49th!

Looking at last year's edition, Clark was always inside the top three places, and he was the 13th winner in 16 years to sit first or second with a round to go.

The 2021 winner, Jon Rahm, sat tied for sixth and three off the lead with a round to go but that was as far back as he'd been all week long and most winners are in the van throughout.

The last 25 US Opens have been won by someone within four strokes of the lead with a round to go.

Lee Janzen trailed by five at the Olympic Club in 1998 but he was only tied for fourth and his cause was helped considerably by the poor final round by Stewart, who had led by three through 54 holes.

I'll look at the past stats in plenty of detail in the In-Play Blog once we're underway but concentrating on the leaders is the way to go.


Market Leaders

Scottie Scheffler @ 4.57/2

US Open Form - MC-27-MC-7-2-3
Current Form - 1-1-2-1-1-8-2-1

It's nigh on impossible to make a case for opposing the world's best player at Pinehurst this week.

He arrives on the back on an incredible run of form, all his stats are excellent, and he won both his two starts on the Florida Swing - at the Arnold Palmer and the Players Championship.

Scheffler was priced up at about 5.95/1 when he won the US Masters in April and he was a 5.49/2 chance when holding off Collin Morikawa on Sunday at the Memorial Tournament so he's a bit shorter here, but justifiably so.

Currently ranking fourth for Scrambling, he'll cope nicely with the repellent Ross greens and he's most definitely the man to beat.


Rory McIlroy @ 14.013/1

US Open Form - 10-MC-1-MC-41-23-9-MC-MC-MC-9-8-7-5-2
Current Form - 3-22-33-1-1-12-4-15

It's now 13 years since Rory McIlroy won the US Open at Congressional in very soft conditions and ten years since he won the last of his four majors - the US PGA Championship at Valhalla.

Rory is one of the few market leaders to have played in the 2014 edition at Pinehurst, when he finished tied for 23rd, so that has to be perceived as a plus but I'm more than happy to swerve him in the major that appears to suit him the least given he failed to break 70 when finishing 15th last week in the Memorial Tournament.

Rory McIlroy plays from the rough at Pinehurst in 2014.jpg


Xander Schauffele @ 16.015/1

US Open Form - 5-6-3-5-7-14-10
Current Form - 2-5-8-18-23-2-1-8

Xander Schauffele's eighth last week at the Memorial Tournament was a reasonable effort given it was his first start back after winning the US PGA Championship at Valhalla last month - his first major success.

Schauffele has a very strong record in this major and it wouldn't be a huge shock if he was to emulate Brooks Koepka by winning both the US Open and the US PGA Championship in the same year.

Koepka won the two Championships in 2018 (his first two majors) and then defended both titles the following year.

As you'd expect of the world number two ranked player, his stats are impeccable, and he's ranked inside the top-five for Scrambling in each of his last five starts but his approach play and his putting were just off last week and that's a concern.


Collin Morikawa @ 18.017/1

US Open Form - 35-MC-4-5-14
Current Form - 75-3-9-23-16-4-4-2

The two-time major winner, Collin Morikawa, has hit form at just the right time and he commands plenty of respect but he's short enough for my liking given he's not as resolute in-contention as he once was.

He was a selection of mine at the US PGA Championship, where he went off at around 40.039/1, but he was very disappointing in the end, finishing fourth after being tied for the lead with Schauffele with a round to go.


Scheffler backed before the off

I nearly backed Viktor Hovland at 23.022/1 on Friday but after his 77-75 over the weekend at the Memorial Tournament, I'm glad I didn't, although I'm kicking myself for not taking the 80.079/1 available about the 2022 winner, Matt Fitzpatrick.

This place could well suit him nicely, but he hasn't been at his best this year and the 55.054/1 he now trades at looks short enough.

I also like the chances of Hideki Matsuyama but after much deliberation I'm happy to go into the tournament with only the favourite, Scheffler, backed before the off.

I fancy up with the pace will be the place to be at Pinehurst again so I shall be concentrating very hard on the early pacesetters in-running, and I'll be back tomorrow with the Find Me a 100 Winner column, as I attempt to emulate last year's achievement of finding the winner at a juicy price (Wyndham Clark was a selection at 120.0119/1) but for now I'm happy to go with just Scheffler.


Now read Dave Tindall's 10-year trends piece here


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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