U.S. Open Expert Picks: Our Staff’s Favorite Bets for Round 2 at Pebble Beach
Michael Madrid, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Dustin Johnson
The first 18 holes of the U.S. Open are in the book and, judging by the Round 1 leaderboard, this should be a terrific weekend.
Justin Rose is the pace-setter after shooting 6-under on Thursday, but there are several big names in striking distance including Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele at 5-under and Rory McIlroy at 4-under.
Here are our staff’s favorite bets for Round 2, which gets underway at 9:45 a.m. ET on Friday.
The Bet: Fade Sergio Garcia
You want a Friday fade? I’ve got your Friday fade right here. As reported by Golf Channel’s Will Gray, everything about this exchange is amazing: “After shooting -2 Sergio [Garcia] said he was feeling ‘horrible.’ I asked him to expand. ‘I can say it louder, but not clearer.’ Shared that his game is currently a mess and despite the start he doesn’t believe he has a chance to win this week.”
I mean… what?!
That’s the type of response you expect from a guy who just shot 80, not one who posted a 69 and is only three strokes out of the lead. I usually don’t know what’s going through that man’s head and I have even less of a clue right now, but I know this much: It ain’t good.
Whomever you can get in a matchup against Sergio, who’s MC’d in seven consecutive major starts, take it.
The Bet: Sam Saunders (+175) Over Marcus Fraser, Carlos Ortiz
I’m backing a guy who struck the ball well (Saunders) over two guys who didn’t.
Saunders gained 2.4 strokes ball-striking and struggled with the short game, losing 1.75 strokes putting. Fraser and Ortiz were on the opposite side of things.
Both stayed afloat with the short game and lost ground with their ball-striking. They’ll be in the afternoon wave with a little bit of wind and some bumpy poa greens, so ball-striking will be the premium.
The Bet: Tyrrell Hatton (-104) over Shane Lowry
Outside of gaining 2.4 strokes putting on Thursday, Lowry was abysmal everywhere else. Overall, he lost 2.4 strokes on approach, 3.4 strokes ball striking and 4.7 strokes tee-to-green, all of which ranked 139th or worse in the field. You’re not going to play well at a U.S. Open if you’re not striking your irons well and that’s where Lowry fell short today.
Meanwhile, Hatton was solid today, gaining 2.9 strokes on approach, 1.2 strokes ball striking and 2.1 strokes tee-to-green, per Fantasy National. I’ll take my chances taking the slight underdog against a guy who wasn’t striking it well the day before.
Dr. Lou Riccio
The Bet: Aaron Wise to Win the U.S. Open (50-1)
My model liked Aaron Wise before this week, placing him in my top 15, so I’m not surprised to see him excel after one round. After the hot start, in which he’s one back of the lead, my model really likes Wise’s chances: It says he has the third best chance to win out of the entire field. The expected odds, according to my model, should be around 10-1. So you’re getting extreme on Wise because, well, his name is Aaron Wise, and not Rory McIlroy or Rickie Fowler. Still, this isn’t some no-name long shot: Wise has serious game. Take advantage—if Wise can combine the length and accuracy he showcased on Thursday, and continue it on the weekend, this 50-1 number will really seem like a discount.
Dr. Lou Riccio, a PhD senior lecturer, teaches rational decision making at Columbia’s Graduate School of Business and has served on the USGA’s handicap research team for three decades. More of his predictive analysis can be found over at Golf Digest.