By Flint Wheeler
This weekend the world’s best golfers will head to Oakmont Country Club, widely regarded as the toughest course in the country, for the 2016 US Open.
Oakmont takes a long, tough course with greens made of glass along with 6-8 inch deep rough. The last time the USGA got a hold of Oakmont for the US Open, back in 2007, the winning score was a 5-over 285 by Angel Cabrera.
So in looking at the board for value, I want players that play well on difficult courses, avoid the big number, have a good history in Opens and are coming in playing quality golf.
Justin Rose (20/1): The 2013 U.S. Open champion has always fared well at very difficult courses. He won the Open at Merion and has PGA Tour wins at Congressional, Muirfield Village and Doral. Those are beastly courses. He hasn’t played since The Players, but in 11 events this season he has eight top 25s and five top 10s. Rose finished T10 at Oakmont in 2007 and has four top 10 finishes in the last five majors. I like Rose’s value best among the top 10 guys on the board here.
Brandt Snedeker (50/1): Snedeker was as hot as anyone on Tour to start 2016, but cooled off in the early spring. A T17 last week may indicate his game is rounding into form and he’s already got a T10 in the first major of the year at the Masters. The Open has always fit Snedeker’s game as he has four top 10 finishes and three other top 25s (including the ’07 US Open at Oakmont) since 2007.
Charl Schwartzel (60/1): Schwartzel is in solid form of late, with a T25 and T11 finish in his last two starts, and he’s been a steady U.S. Open performer since 2010. Even though he’s a Masters champion, the Open has consistently been the major where he performs the best. He’s got four top 25s (2 top 10s) in the last six Opens, including a seventh place finish last year.
Rory McIlroy (7/1): This may come as a surprise. Rory won the Irish Open recently and has been a top 10 machine this season — five top 10s in his last seven PGA Tour starts — but I still have some concerns about him being the co-favorite with Jason Day from a value perspective.
Yes, he’s been getting top 10s, but many of those have been backdoor top 10s, where he’s not in contention on Sunday and posts a low number to move up the leaderboard into a quality finish. He’s also scrambling desperately to figure out his putting. Even in his win in Ireland, he had 127 putts over four days, and quickly ditched the cross-handed grip he’d been trying out to go back to the conventional style.
Rory is a contender for sure, but I’m not sure his putting is in good enough form for the speedy greens at Oakmont. When he won in 2011 at Congressional — in one of the most impressive displays ever at a U.S. Open — he was doing everything well. We haven’t seen that same Rory this year.
Henrik Stenson (25/1): I understand that his world ranking dictates that he’s among the favorites, but Stenson’s form right now and performance in recent majors has me wary of him in this spot. He hasn’t finished in the top 10 at a major since the 2014 PGA and has missed the cut in his last two PGA Tour starts. He made a charge for a T4 at his home event in Sweden on the European Tour last week, but his putting this year has not been good.
Bubba Watson (30/1): I’m not sure what’s going on with Bubba right now, but he’s in a funk. Watson was as hot as can be in late February and early March, winning at the Northern Trust and then finishing second at Doral, but since then he’s yet to record a top 25 finish in four events.
Watson has never fared well at the U.S. Open, missing the cut three of the last four years. The punishing rough of the Open isn’t something Watson deals with well, and, even though his lone top 10 of his career at a U.S. Open was in 2007 at Oakmont.