The Confidence Factor: 118th U.S. Open

All of our favorite muses on a fantastic track.

Proper golf.

My picks will drop in here tomorrow around noon, as usual, but there is PLENTY of stuff in here to get you started:

ED: Preview added at 11:45 am

118th United States Open

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club

Southampton, NY


Shinnecock Hills Golf Club Cheat Sheet

Yards (per official scorecard): 7,440
Par: 70 (35-35)
Greens: Poa annua; 5,000 sq. ft. on average
Stimpmeter: Championship speed
Rough: Graduated fescue
Bunkers: Plenty
Water Hazards: 1
Architects: William Flynn (1931); Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (2012)
Purse: $12 million/$2.16 winner/600 FEC Points
Defending Champion: Brooks Koepka (-16, 272; Erin Hills)
Fact of the Week: No player has ever won the week before the U.S. Open and claimed the second major of the year.



  • 156 players. Top 60 and ties will play the weekend.
  • 20 amateurs.
  • 21 local-sectional qualifiers.
  • 49 first-time participants.
  • Two-tee start beginning at 6:45 AM.
  • Winner receives a five-year exemption on TOUR and to every major.
  • Winner also receives a 10-year exemption to the U.S. Open.
  • Playoff: two holes and then sudden death. No more 18 holes on Monday.


2017-18 Winners

*First-time winner

**First-time winner AND rookie winner

Event Winner
Safeway Open Brendan Steele
CIMB Classic Pat Perez
WGC-HSBC Champions Justin Rose
Sanderson Farms Ryan Armour*
Shriners Hospitals for Children Patrick Cantlay*
OHL Mayakoba Patton Kizzire*
The RSM Classic Austin Cook**
Sentry TOC Dustin Johnson
Sony Open Patton Kizzire (2)
CB Challenge Jon Rahm
Farmers Insurance Open Jason Day
WMPO Gary Woodland
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Ted Potter, Jr.
Genesis Open Bubba Watson
Honda Classic Justin Thomas
WGC-Mexico Championship Phil Mickelson
Valspar Championship Paul Casey
Arnold Palmer Invitational Rory McIlroy
WGC-Match Play Bubba Watson (2)
Corales Puntacana Resorts Brice Garnett*
Houston Open Ian Poulter
Masters Patrick Reed
RBC Heritage Satoshi Kodaira*
Valero Texas Open Andrew Landry*
Zurich Classic of New Orleans Billy Horschel & Scott Piercy
Wells Fargo Championship Jason Day (2)
THE PLAYERS Championship Webb Simpson
AT&T Byron Nelson Aaron Wise**
Fort Worth Invitational Justin Rose (2)
Memorial Bryson DeChambeau
FESJC Dustin Johnson (2)


The Confidence Factor is the weekly column I write for PGATOUR.COM and contains plenty of angles on the track and those who have aced this exam. 

You need course form? Read the above.

You need keys to victory? Read the above.

You need course preview? Read the above.

You need a history lesson? Read the above.

Every week.

Every column.

Previous Champions last 10 years

*- playoff

Year Winner Site
2017 Brooks Koepka, -16 Erin Hills
2016 Dustin Johnson, -4 Oakmont
2015 Jordan Spieth, -5 Chambers Bay
2014 Martin Kaymer, -9 Pinehurst No. 2
2013 Justin Rose, +1 Merion
2012 Webb Simpson, +1 Olympic Club
2011 Rory McIlroy, -16 Congressional
2010 Graeme McDowell, E Pebble Beach
2009 Lucas Glover, -4 Bethpage Black
2008 Tiger Woods, -1* Torrey Pines


Facts and Figures:

Tournament Record: 268; McIlroy
Course Record: 64; McIlroy (2014)
Defending Champion(s): Curtis Strange (last) 1988-89
Multiple Winners: Woods (3x), Els (2x)
First TOUR Win: n/a
First Win in First Appearance: Francis Ouimet (1913)
Low Round Last Year: 63, Justin Thomas (Erin Hills)
Rookies of Note Last Year: Xander Schauffele, T5; Trey Mullinax, T9
Odd Fact: Shinnecock hosted the second U.S. Open in 1896 as 35 players battled it out for the title. There were just 11 players in the first U.S. Open.


Quick Thoughts

If my choices are this style of golf versus the “new” style, I’m riding with tradition. I want difficult. I want frustrating. I want my pound of flesh as a golf fan. I want to see the best tested to the brink and I want to see how they handle it. Everyone out here has talent. I want to see guts.

That being said, this generation of golfers is excellent and there are more young ones than older ones. This younger generation is completely fearless and has racked up plenty of wins and majors over the last few years. They were awfully quiet at Oakmont, another classic U.S. Open set-up. I’m going to take my clues from there this week if I need to split some hairs.




In order of preference for this week and this tournament; LTO= LAST TIME OUT; LW= Last week; LY= Last year this event. I’m tired of typing all that out!

Dustin Johnson: If his weakness is checking in at No. 20 in SG: Putting then let him be weak. His driver is a weapon and he’s under no pressure to win this week unlike last week where a win took him to No. 1 in the world. I’d point out he won at Oakmont but you already know that.

Justin Rose: I love his disposition, talent and form. He’s exactly what the modern golfer should be: jetsetter, weekly contender, class act. He’s already run down and passed Mickelson to win one so I’m not sure what’s going to rattle him on Sunday afternoon. Put on a clinic at Colonial, another classic track, in his most-recent win.

Jason Day: Remember this: HE NEVER PLAYS WELL AT MEMORIAL and his record in this event is staggering besides a win. His five top 10’s in seven events are insane and he’s already won this season. Twice. His power and his short game are no secret and will be his biggest weapons this week.

Rory McIlroy: He’s the only guy in the field that can win without his A+ game this week. His bad weeks are top 15’s while his average weeks turn out to be top 10’s. After laying an egg at THE PLAYERS, he was vanquished by Francesco Molinari heads-up at Wentworth and snuck into the top 10 at Memorial (64-69) after making the cut on the number. I’m not sure how great the putting is going to be this week so I’m leaning on the tee-to-green guys and he easily qualifies.

Rickie Fowler: For my money and I write this just about every year, he has the most COMPLETE bag in the game thru 14 clubs. I have no doubt he can get over the finish line but until he does so he hasn’t. Newly engaged, everything in his life is falling into place and his form is rounding into shape. He’s on every roster in every format.

Phil Mickelson: Part of me hopes him MC instead of losing another heartbreaker on Sunday. The gaming part of me believes his experience and short game will be the most valuable parts. The forecast is also in his favor as it’s going to be perfect so he should be fresh all four rounds.

Justin Thomas: I never know what he does well. The answer is everything. He’s Fowler with the major and the top 2 world ranking and better overall numbers. He makes winning look effortless, at least he did at Quail Hollow last year in picking up his first major and his other four victories. He’s rounding into back into form after an excellent winter so I’m interested to see how he handles this classic track.

Jon Rahm: He wasn’t happy at Colonial as he watched Rose nip 3-Woods 300 yards during calm conditions and runaway victory. He was hoping for difficult so his driver would be a weapon. Well, here you go! The wind won’t be the issue this week but the graduated rough will bring plenty of unease on the tee boxes. Part of me thinks his temper will bother this week. The other part thinks he doesn’t GAF and will bomb this place to Bolivian. If it goes south for the Spaniard, it won’t be pretty. The talent offsets the perceived attitude.

Brooks Koepka: The reigning champ has faced five U.S. Open tests. He’s won and added three top-18 finishes. He’s exploded back on the scene after a wrist deal and I’m not letting the final round at Memphis sway my thoughts.

Branden Grace: Maybe should have won at Chambers Bay? Bounced back nicely with T5 at Oakmont the following year. He hasn’t MC in 20 straight worldwide and is a proper grinder. The evidence is five top 10’s in 24 starts in majors. Been there, done that and shot 62 at Royal Birkdale, the record low-score in ANY major.

Henrik Stenson: Somebody find his driver and snap it in two. His short-game numbers are pleasantly surprising but I’d prefer him to find all of the fairways and all of the greens. Battle tested and tough, his putter makes or breaks his week but his ball-striking gives him the chance.

Tommy Fleetwood: Fantastic tee-to-green player that won’t be bothered by any wind. He clearly flies underneath the radar this week because of his newness to these big stages but he has plenty of game. He has one finish outside the top 30 this calendar year from 12 events.

Patrick Reed: Captain America returns to the NYC area for the second time in less than a year but this time is the Masters champ. He went 3-1-1 at Liberty National in last year’s Presidents Cup so he should have more than a few fans this week. The American Jason Day hits it a mile and has the equal short game for my money. He won’t mind the grind either.

Hideki Matsuyama: An afterthought for me for much of the winter and spring, the Japanese has strung together his best two events his last two times out (T16, T13). He’s 23-under in his last seven rounds on TOUR. Choo. Choo.

Francesco Molinari: Faced down and beat McIlroy heads-up to win at Wentworth and almost snuck in the backdoor to win his home open the following week. The form checks the boxes and his lira is made by painting fairways and finding GIR, both necessary components this week.


Next Tier

Just missed the list above because of a wart or two; order isn’t important.

Jason Dufner: Some guys hate this format and some guys embrace it. Dufner has top 10’s on the toughest America has to offer (Olympic, Merion and Oakmont) so it’s clear where he stands. His propensity to keep the ball in the fairway is the “why”.

Bryson DeChambeau: Maybe I’ve rated him too highly but he’s earned that distinction based on his play this spring. He’s won USGA events and won everything at every level so the field and course aren’t going to bother him. He’s 12th in SG: Total and was in the fight at Oakmont before 74 on Sunday saw him collect T15. He’s also entering off a win LTO at Memorial.

Matt Kuchar: I don’t think he has the power or the form to contend this week; he simply doesn’t miss many cuts, 10 since the beginning of 2014. He’s re-enforced that value as he’s played the weekend in the last eight national championships over a variety of styles of golf course.

Jimmy Walker: He’s hot. One of my tiebreakers this week are guys who are in form as this set-up and track aren’t going to give guys time to find their footing. Nothing worse than T20 in his last five including T20 at Augusta and T2 at TPC Sawgrass, not pitch-and-putts!

Martin Kaymer: He’s way too high here but his T8 in Italy LTO is something after an AWFUL first six months of 2018. He gets a look because he’s made 10 consecutive cuts in majors and is 8/10 career in the U.S. Open.

Adam Scott: I keep reminding myself there are 20 amateurs and 21 local qualifiers in the field this week. So now we’re at 116 guys to beat. I can make the argument that he’s in the top half based on his class alone. He’s going with a local caddy this week which will help on the greens. This smells as a boom-or-bust week but I’m leaning on his class.

Charl Schwartzel: His fine lines between really good and OH MY GUARD, WHAT HAS HAPPENED HERE!!! is just that. I like playing with sharp objects but he’s had more good ones than bad ones recently and knows how to get the ball in the hole. LIVE DANGEROUSLY.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello: Can’t keep him hidden! Trending, top 25 OWGR, what else do you need?

Louis Oosthuizen: Everyone talks about the swing but it’s his deft short-game tactics that I enjoy. His last two events include 64 at Colonial and a closing-round 65 at Memorial. Ballin’.

Marc Leishman: Nah, save him for Carnoustie and thank me later. Or play him this week and hope the wind blows harder than the forecast. Ignore his T62 at Memorial as that was tournament to wash off the “I can’t believe I got beat heads-up by Aaron Wise” event.

Steve Stricker: 20 played. 18 made. His last 11 of these he’s collected a check.

Aaron Wise: Some guys have it and some don’t. He has it. Check his metrics and get back to me. I’ve ranked him way too highly here but nobody is asking him any questions this week and he can go about his business. Every year a “young guy” pops into the leaderboard and I won’t be surprised if it’s him.

Luke List: This is his first major in over a decade but he hits it a mile and is 21st SG: Total. His world ranking keeps him out of the “sleeper” category but that’s where he belongs.

Cameron Smith: Any dude who picks up T6 at Riviera and T5 at Augusta in the same year not named Watson needs some attention. His MC x 3 in his last three should keep the hounds off his scent. Wonderful wedge and short-game player will gladly fly under the radar this week with no expectations. He’s played in seven majors and has two top fives.

Kyle Stanley: Patently unlucky at Memorial but I think he has the disposition to be all right this week. He’s dealt with bad breaks that could have/might have cost him the golf tournament. Perhaps that evens out this week. He pounds fairways and greens (4th in both) and is 45th in SG: Total.

Chez Reavie: Recent form is good, ball-striking is good, short game is good and he was T62 in ’04. That checks a few boxes that some others won’t. If you’re worried about length, he was T16 at Erin Hills, just like Steve Stricker…

Chesson Hadley: He’s 14th in SG: Total. That’s not made-up or a “feel”. He’s made eight cuts in a row. The downside is this is only his fourth major. I like.

Emiliano Grillo: Feels like he’s been around forever because he makes the cut every weekend he plays. He’s a bit uneven in the majors as he cashed in his first six and MC in his last three. Don’t lose the fact that he’s PLAYED NOYNE majors and is NOYNE in SG: Total.

Ben An: Blew a tire last week but he’s been on form. He’s a powerhouse off the tee and tee to green and that’s what I need in a guy in support staff.

Gary Woodland: I thought he would fire at Memorial and he picked up T23. Not bad after you see his results after his win Phoenix! Again, he should be in the sleeper category but I’ve gone with the top 60 as my guide. He has plenty of power and hit it great at MVGC so I’m hoping that continues.

Zach Johnson: Form suggests a pass but his only top 10 in recent memory was at Oakmont. He entered that week on less-than-stellar form as well. Closed with 67 at Memorial to find some mo’ LTO.

Patrick Cantlay: He burned me at Augusta but he’s too efficient tee to green (11th) to just toss aside. He’s also 18th in SG: Total so he’s not a one-trick pony. Missed a playoff at Memorial LTO by a shot.


Proper Long Shots

With the top 60 OWGR in the field this week, let’s dig deeper:

Keegan Bradley: His neck of the woods plus he’s making cuts.

Brendan Steele: T15 at Oakmont and T13 Erin Hills and lightly raced since the Masters.

Patrick Rodgers: Momentum does crazy things and Rodgers has the pedigree to be involved. He was T8 at Memorial followed by a sectional qualifier the next day. T46 at Oakmont.

Jim Furyk: I don’t recommend this but his accuracy has value this week. He was T2 at Oakmont and T23 at Erin Hills but he’s special exemption for a reason this week…

Russell Knox: If he makes anything on the greens this week…Top 30 in GIR and Fairways.

Trey Mullinax: Bop it. Find it. Bop it again. T2 at Valero and T9 LW plus a T9 at Erin Hills.

Matthew Southgate: Tell him it’s The Open where he’s finished T12 and T6 in the last two. Hell, Southampton is an English city as well!

Danny Willett: If he makes the cut, you’ll be one of the few. T8 in Italy LTO but this is a major, major ask.

Ollie Schniederjans: He won’t have to worry about his hat flying off. Played the weekend twice as an amateur. Lovely outsider on nine paydays in a row. The grind of par should help this week. He’s 52nd in scoring.



The road to success is filled with potholes. You don’t drive your car over them so why put them on your fantasy team?

Jordan Spieth: This is completely relative to your situation but I don’t believe he’s been close to firing on all cylinders since Augusta. He looked lost in Texas at both events and his record at this event is quite bland outside of his gift victory in 2015. He’s struggling with the putter on perfect greens so how long before the Poa drives him crazy? I’m not going all in on T36.

Tiger Woods: He didn’t find any joy here in his pomp in 2004 and this Woods isn’t anywhere near 2004. His short game will save but it will be the tee ball that eventually ruins him for gamers. He’ll make the weekend, barely, because nobody grinds better than he does.

Bubba Watson: Has found absolutely no joy at this event since 2007 at Oakmont. Plenty has happened since then but none of it in the top 25.

Sergio Garcia: He has the class to flip the switch but it’s been quite a lull over the last two months. He already has his major and he might just be fine with that.

Brandt Snedeker: People will fall in love with his record at these events but that’s not the Snedeker that is coming to town this week. I get that he hit the top 10 last week but take out his round of 62 and the other three rounds are combined over-par. I need more than one round for a major championship.


If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me

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