The Confidence Factor: 119th U.S. Open Preview

Prime-time Pebble Beach.

Father’s Day weekend.

Pull up a chair.

Will a new face be added after this year’s event?

Nope, would be my answer.

119th United States Open Championship

Pebble Beach Golf Links

Pebble Beach, California

Yards (per official scorecard): 7,075
Par: 71 (35-36)
Greens: 3,500 square feet; Poa annua.
Stimpmeter: 12 feet.
Rough:  Ryegrass starting at 3.5 inches.
Bunkers: 118
Water Hazards: Pacific Ocean.
Architect(s): Jack Neville & Douglas Grant (1916)
Purse: $12.5 million. 600 FedExCup Points. $2.25 million (winner).
Defending Champion: Brooks Koepka (281).
Defending Champion (course): Graeme McDowell (E) 2010.
Notes: 6th U.S. Open.
Notes II: Top 60 and ties play the weekend. There is no 10-shot rule.
Notes III: As of 2018 there is no more 18-hole playoff. It’s now a 2-hole aggregate followed by sudden death.

Previous Winners:

Year Winner Total Comment
       
2018 Brooks Koepka 281 Became the first man to defend his title since Curtis Strange (1988-89).
2017 Brooks Koepka 272 No wind at Par-72 Erin Hills made for plenty of scoring records; Koepka won by four.
2016 Dustin Johnson 276 Romped at Oakmont as he won by three.
2015 Jordan Spieth 275 Johnson three-putted the final hole to hand Spieth his second major in as many events. Chambers Bay hosted.
2014 Martin Kaymer 271 The new Pinehurst No. 2 fit the eye of the German as he won by eight over Rickie Fowler.
2013 Justin Rose 281 Merion played soft, wet and over-par as Rose held off Jason Day and Phil Mickelson by two.
2012 Webb Simpson 281 Posted 68 early in the final round at Olympic Club and held on for his first major.
2011 Rory McIlroy 268 Set the scoring record on a soaked Congressional layout.
2010 Graeme McDowell 280 Johnson led by three after 54 but his 82 on Sunday left the door open for McDowell.

2018-19 Winners

Event Winner
   
Safeway Open Kevin Tway**
CIMB Classic Marc Leishman
CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES Brooks Koepka
Sanderson Farms Championship Cameron Champ**
WGC-HSBC Champions Xander Schauffele
Shriners Hospitals for Children Bryson DeChambeau
Mayakoba Golf Classic Matt Kuchar
The RSM Classic Charles Howell III
Hero World Challenge* Jon Rahm
Sentry TOC Xander Schauffele (2)
Sony Open in Hawaii Matt Kuchar (2)
60th Desert Classic Adam Long**
Farmers Insurance Open Justin Rose
Waste Management Rickie Fowler
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Phil Mickelson
Genesis Open J.B. Holmes
WGC-Mexico Championship Dustin Johnson
The Honda Classic Keith Mitchell**
Arnold Palmer Invitational Francesco Molinari
THE PLAYERS Rory McIlroy
Valspar Championship Paul Casey
WGC-Match Play Kevin Kisner
Corales Punta Cana Graeme McDowell
Valero Texas Open Corey Conners**
83rd Masters Tournament Tiger Woods
RBC Heritage C.T. Pan**
Zurich Classic of New Orleans Ryan Palmer & Jon Rahm (2)
Wells Fargo Championship Max Homa**
AT&T Byron Nelson Sung Kang**
PGA Championship Brooks Koepka (2)
Charles Schwab Challenge Kevin Na
Memorial Patrick Cantlay
RBC Canadian Open Rory McIlroy (2)

(* unofficial event; **First-time winner)

Facts and Figures:

Tournament Record (major): 268; Rory McIlroy (Congressional) 2011.
Event Record (most recent): 63; Tommy Fleetwood (Shinnecock Hills), 2018.
Lowest Round (major) 62; Branden Grace, 2017 (Open Championship, Royal Birkdale).
Defending Champions (entered): Brooks Koepka 2017-18.
Multiple Winners (entered) Woods (4); Koepka (2); Ernie Els (2).
First TOUR win: N/A.
First Appearance: Francis Ouimet, 1913.
Oldest Winner: Hale Irwin, 45, 1990.
Youngest Winner: John J. McDermott, 19, 1911.
Odd Fact: Last playoff was 2008.
Odd Fact II: Tiger Woods won by 15 shots here in 2000.
Odd Fact III: Johnny Goodman was the last amateur to win (1933).

The Confidence Factor was the weekly column I wrote for PGATOUR.COM. It has evolved into Horses for Courses. I’ve included the link here for you.

Thoughts

Mark O’Meara won the Pebble Beach Pro-Am five times.

In three U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach he finished 58th, MC and T51.

Night and day, U S G A.

I enjoy that ONE TIME PER YEAR that golf is impossible and par is a great score.

I enjoy penal rough, fast greens and impossible pin placements.

Once a year.

If winning a major championship is a big deal, it should be an exhausting examination of mind, body and golfing ability.

It will be.

Of course I’ll have left somebody out.

Sometimes intentional, sometimes not.

Reach out mikeglasscott@gmail.com or on the Twitter if you need or want clarification or more details.

The Chalk

Dustin Johnson: The 2016 champion flexes his muscles in this event annually and I don’t think this year will be an exception. He plays here each February with Wayne Gretzky and has had plenty of success. Sure, there’s the 82 from the final round in 2010 but I doubt that, or anything else for that matter, keeps him up at night. He’s No. 1 in scoring and No. 2 in SG: Total.

Tiger Woods: Leading the TOUR in GIR won’t hurt again this week as he looks to knock off Payne Stewart as the last guy to win the U.S. Open in his forties. He’s well rested and healthy, as far as we know, and that’s the biggest key this week. As we saw at Augusta, he’s hardly concerned with the burden of history. As we saw in Augusta, he knows and loves that course and that should also be the case this week.

Brooks Koepka: Willie Anderson was the last to win three in a row. He actually won four in five from 1901 to 1905 so yeah. History wasn’t on his side to repeat at Shinnecock and that didn’t bother him. History wasn’t on his side to repeat at the PGA and that didn’t bother him. I find it incredible that he keeps flipping the switch and will be on board until he doesn’t.

Patrick Cantlay: The Californian will have a chance to go back-to-back and claim his first major and after storming to the trophy at the Memorial. His worst finish this year is T24 and has eight top-10 paydays so this isn’t somebody who has just turned on the pilot light. He’s second on TOUR in scoring, third in SG: Total and has cashed T9 and T3 in the first two majors.

Webb Simpson: Maybe I’m overrating him here but I love his ability to hit fairways and his ability to get up-and-down. I’ll point out his U.S. Open title was up the street at Olympic Club and his form is not in question. He’s made the cut in 16 of the last 18 majors and his last six are T29 or better.

Rory McIlroy: Well, shit. This was easy until last Sunday but now the doubt has crawled in to my brains after THAT performance. The Ulsterman hasn’t made a cut in this event since 2015 as the graduated rough and tough putting conditions maybe don’t match up well with his “normal” game. He hit it unbelievable well to win in 2011 and showed plenty of THAT last week. He’s the biggest wild card in the top 10 this week.

Hideki Matsuyama: I thought I had him nailed on before Bethpage but a Sunday 77 continued the trend of not putting four rounds together. His tee-to-green game is ace and he won’t have to navigate giant putting surfaces this week. The ability to keep the ball in the fairway this week should work greatly to his advantage. Closing the door to win his first major will be the major question that needs to be answered.

Jordan Spieth: Make it as hard as possible and let his short game grind it out. Similarly to Matsuyama, he’s been ticking over but hasn’t popped just yet. With three top 10s on the bounce, he’s heading in the right direction. Nobody is going to “expect” to hit a ton of fairways and greens this week so I believe that will help his psyche. The way he chips and putts, it should! Also, keeping a 3-Wood in play might be easier than relying on his driver so I’m bullish.

Brandt Snedeker: I was so excited about how well he’s been hitting it that I put him in my preview for Memorial even though he wasn’t in the field. #Clues. Todd Anderson has got him swinging again and the results have been noticeable on ball-striking courses such as Bethpage, Colonial and Hamilton. He’s won twice here on TOUR and was T8 in 2010 so he’s beyond comfortable. And he’s playing really well.

Jason Day: I should move him up now that he’s put Steve Williams on the bag. His record at Pebble matches his record in this event: a shitload of top 10s but never a breakthrough. Day’s advantage this week is his incredible ability to navigate heavy rough and Poa annua greens.

Matt Kuchar: His streak of eight straight was busted last year at Shinnecock. The streak started with a closing 68 in 2010 at Pebble Beach to secure his only top 10 (T6) in 16 tries. The MC at Memorial was a complete shocker but his T4 in Canada last week should have wiped out any lingering doubts. Short courses are his bread-and-butter and this more than qualifies.

Adam Scott: Don’t look up his record at this event! I’m more concerned with the now than how he fares in a traditional set-up. We haven’t seen a run like this from the Aussie since his monster year of 2016. Like most of the big guns, his world revolves around the major championships and bah gawd he’s making putts!

Shane Lowry: Three straight on his own ball in the top 10 should make him a very popular target this week. I’m going to type this once: He was seven-UNDER after 54 holes at Oakmont in 2016 so I have no concerns about his ability on difficult golf courses. Toss in this form and I’m giddy.

Justin Rose: Welcome to the class vs. form continuum where we try and crack the code of the world’s best that are just not firing on all cylinders. With his caddie situation finally cleared up I would suggest that will free the mind. His one major was a quirky, short Merion layout (2013 U.S. Open) so it’s obvious he knows what is required on a non-bombers course. His 63 at Memorial suggests his form is turning in the proper direction.

Xander Schauffele: He didn’t seem to have any problem with Erin Hills or Shinnecock Hills. Just tell him this is Pebble Beach Hills and he should be fine. The big stage hasn’t bothered him one bit as he cashed in eight of nine and half of those are top 10s.

Rickie Fowler: Weird that he hasn’t played Pebble Beach since 2012 and even weirder that he hasn’t finished inside since the top 60 at Torrey Pines since 2013. Is it Poa, the west coast or early season? He’s in here because he’s cashed in the last 12 majors with six of the last nine inside T12.

Phil Mickelson: I can’t dismiss his fife titles here just as I cannot dismiss his complete absence of form. Remember when everyone said the New York crowd would push him forward at the PGA Championship? Or at Shinnecock last year? I’m also not dismissing his dismissal of the USGA and the way they operate this event. Mind games are part of this test just like having the discipline to put away the driver. To say this will be a boring week for Phil is just plain wrong.

Jon Rahm: I’ve struggled mightily with this supremely talented fella. I’m not sure if he has the temperament YET to handle this but my inclusion in the top choices reinforces my conundrum. I think it’s feast or famine for Rahm and it will all be based on his decision-making process off the tee. It doesn’t take much to get sideways here and there won’t be multiple chances to pick up birdies to clean up the card. Should I point out he’s MC in his last two at ball-strikers venues? Nobody said this would be easy.

Mystery Man

Justin Thomas returned to action with a bit of rust at Memorial (MC) before T20 at Hamilton last week. I was encouraged by how well he hit it but he didn’t have it on the greens. He’s only played Pebble once in TOUR conditions so I’m not sure on his arc this week. The wrist is a non-issue, his words, but with rough approaching five inches in places, it’s hard for me to wipe out of my head.

Next Tier

Tommy Fleetwood: Fantastic tee-to-green but hasn’t been in the shining form recently.

Jim Furyk: Keeping it between the 21 yards from rough-to-rough will have its advantages this week. So will a track that doesn’t play 7,800 yards. He’ll provide the steady option for any roster and has the chops to hang around on the weekend.

Ian Poulter: Grind away, mate.

Bryson DeChambeau: I can only imagine the calculations at sea level and dealing with five inches of ryegrass. All joking aside he knows what to expect and deal with in USGA events and sometimes that’s half the battle. T15 at Oakmont and T25 at Shinnecock aren’t scaring me off either.

Tony Finau: He’s flashed at the Masters (T5) and almost won at Colonial (2nd) but everything between was rubbish.

Billy Horschel: Making cuts for fun and trending in the proper direction, he was also in contention at Merion.

Matt Wallace: Blows wonderfully hot and cold but nobody can fake it at Bethpage in my opinion.

Lucas Bjerregaard: T21 and T16 in the first two majors.

Henrik Stenson: If a steady diet of “less-than-driver” is required this week, I’ll gladly take a look.

Louis Oosthuizen: T23 or better in the last four U.S. Opens. Of course he had a WD a few weeks ago just to scare the hell out of all of us.

Patrick Reed: Probably reaching a bit too far here because his recent from is really poor. That’s how much respect I have for his short game.

Emiliano Grillo: With four consecutive results better than the previous, I’m in. With ball-striking numbers like his, you should be too.

Erik Van Rooyen: T29 or better in six of his last seven worldwide including T8 at Bethpage.

Tyrrell Hatton: I never know where to stick him. He’s banged out six straight worldwide including T8 at Colonial.

Scott Piercy: Don’t game angry.

Functioning Form/Long Shots

Kevin Na: He’s rattled off five straight in this event and his best was at Oakmont. Bounced back from MC at Bethpage with a WIN at Colonial. Hasn’t teed it since.

Danny Willett: T41, T27 and T8 in his last three.

Martin Kaymer: OK, I’ll bite. I saw plenty at Memorial to chuck him in at the death.

Everyone with Washington connections: Poa players C.T. Pan, Joel Dahmen, Andrew Putnam, Nick Taylor have plenty of reps on this surface. Pan won on tiny greens at Harbour Town and was T3 at Colonial recently. He’s had one poor round in two months on his own ball. Taylor opened 64-65 last week at Hamilton and only MC twice in the first 16 weeks of 2019. Dahmen was second at a difficult Wells Fargo while Putnam backed up T3 at Colonial with T17 at Memorial.

Justin Harding: Made the cut at both the Masters (T12) and PGA (T54).

Scottie Scheffler: Plenty of pedigree and is white hot on the Web.com.

Viktor Hovland: Connecting the 2018 U.S. Am dots.

Jason Dufner: A pair of top-10 paychecks in his last four starts suggests this isn’t completely out of the question.

Rory Sabbatini: Playing great and gives zero f#cks. T39 or better in ELEVEN STRAIGHT.

Abraham Ancer: Gotta have some stretch. T12 at TPC Sawgrass and T16 at Bethpage.

Luke Guthrie: Picked up three top-10s in his last five Web.com starts and is 2-2 at Pebble from his TOUR days.

David Toms: T16 and T33 in the last two U.S. Opens here. He’s old, but doesn’t hit it crooked.

Collin Morikawa: Cal grad made his pro debut with T14 last week.

Fades

Sergio Garcia: He’s missed the cut in seven straight majors and his last two on TOUR. Wife, baby, life is good.

Graeme McDowell: It’s all relative, my friends! For my money, he reached the finish line last week as he made a 30-footer at the last to book his Royal Portrush ticket and take the weight of the world off of his shoulders. I believe that’s more important than “defending” this week. I don’t think “free rolling” at Pebble in U.S. Open conditions is a happy marriage.

Bubba Watson: Speaking of happy marriages, this isn’t one for Bubba. He’s MC five times in his last eight with only one paycheck inside T51 (T32).

Lucas Glover: This was a tough one to include but he hasn’t made the cut in his last seven attempts. His metrics suggest the streak could end this year (17th SG: Total) but I’m not one for breaking streaks at national championships.

Gary Woodland: I’m not sure this is the event or the course. I’d rather have a place where he can swing it.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter (@MikeGlasscott) or email me mikeglasscott@gmail.com.

 

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