2023 U.S. Open Round 3 Odds & Picks: Continue to Bet Cameron Smith
Pictured: Cameron Smith. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES — Last month’s PGA Championship, hosted at Oak Hill Country Club, played strikingly similar to a regular U.S. Open setup, with fairways guarded by gnarly rough and green complexes trickier than most.
Theoretically, that meant we were about to witness back-to-back U.S. Opens in majors, except a funny thing’s happened at the actual U.S. Open this week.
It looks much more like an Open Championship.
Critics of the USGA’s failure to achieve brutally demanding conditions over the first two rounds will be quick to point out that this “funny thing” really isn’t very funny. With LACC North taking on a brownish hue and shots emulating a rollout usually reserved for links terrain serving as the greatest determining factor for scoring, the event itself and the number of red figures on the leaderboard look more like something we’d see in the U.K. in July.
That could all change this weekend.
One by one, players in the Friday afternoon wave walked off after their second rounds and explained that it was a different golf course than the one they’d played a day earlier.
They also explained that it was going to be a different course over the next two days, one that should continue to firm up.
Rickie Fowler (+400) leads at the midway point and has posted a two-round total of 10-under, which includes an astounding 18 birdies. Wyndham Clark (+700) is next at 9-under, followed by Rory McIlroy (+300) and Xander Schauffele (+450) at 8-under, Harris English (+2500) at 7-under and Dustin Johnson (+1200) and Min Woo Lee (+2500) at 6-under.
There’s an obvious benefit to being in one of those last four groups — it means you’ve played well and are in contention for the title.
There’s also a detriment. The final tee time on Saturday afternoon is 3:40 p.m., which means the later pairings will be on a course that has spent the day baking in the sun.
This likely means the course will play easiest for those teeing off early — the first tee time is 9:33 a.m. PT — and become increasingly more difficult as the round continues.
All of which could lead to some major turnover on the leaderboard — perhaps not unlike what we witnessed at Shinnecock Hills five years ago in this championship, when Daniel Berger and Tony Finau started many hours ahead of and 11 shots behind 36-hole leader Dustin Johnson, only to be tied with him for the lead at day’s end.
Using that logic, whether it’s for DFS purposes or some live top-10 plays, I like players with early tee times who have a propensity for going low on faster, firmer courses.
Those names include Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry, Russell Henley, Ryan Fox and even Padraig Harrington. It’s not out of the realm of reason that players who finish before the contenders tee off could post better scores than any of those starting in the 3:00 hour.
If you’re looking for a live outright, well, I’m going to triple down.
I've already doubled down on my original favorite outright play of Cameron Smith and I’m going right back to him.
I interviewed the Aussie for the U.S. Open Radio broadcast after his second-round, a 3-under 67 that leaves him at 4-under and six shots back. When I asked if this was a “Cam Smith type of course,” he replied, “it’s getting there.”
It isn’t hard to read that unsubtle, underlying message: The crispier this course gets, the more he’s going to be licking his chops.
If Smith can cut his deficit in half Saturday, well, you better believe I’ll be quadrupling down on him going into Sunday.