It’s major number three this week as the United States PGA brings the toughest test in golf to Los Angeles and their country club. I encourage everyone to check out either (or both) the fried eggs or Golf Digest‘s course breakdown because Los Angeles Country Club is a golf nerds delight. In a world measured by par, LACC understands that par is what we make it as George Thomas’s original design and Gil Hanse’s restoration incorporates “half par holes”. Basically this means that what you will see this weekend is stretches on the course like 6 and 7 where the goal is to come out of there with a six. Whether that is from birdie on the funky and drivable par four and a par on the par 3 seventh that measures up to 290 yards or bogey on 6 with a hole in one on seven it doesn’t matter, you just need six. Another Thomas signature is the relatively easy opening hole to wake you up followed by second hole designed to make sure you’re up.
LACC also has incredibly wide fairways which sounds like a plus for the inaccurate bombers but it actually lends an advantage to the accurate drivers. Missing the fairway has penalties that get worse exponentially as the drive falls further from the short grass. Additionally, the undulation of the fairways (if you ever need to impress a golfer just mention the undulation of the greens or fairways) could cause drives that hit the fairway to roll off so putting the ball in the right spot off the tee matters more that getting it way down there.
There was a lot going on in the world of golf that doesn’t involve anything on the course. LIV, the PGA Tour, and the DP World Tour (the European PGA) announced a merger that rocked the sporting world and even got the attention of the United States Congress. We can’t bet on that (unless…) so I don’t want to talk about it. Instead let’s talk about some golfers that I like and some bets that I love.
+650 to win
There’s world where Scottie putts like an average PGA Tour player and has won 5 of his last seven events including the Masters. We are not in that world which is good for us because he’s still “only” +650 in this world. Scottie’s is gaining more strokes tee-to-green than the players winning the tournaments gain total over the last few weeks due to putting troubles that I can only chalk up to God evening the playing field. Scottie’s ball striking number’s are Tiger Woodsian so this is a bet on his putter. I have to believe that a regression to the mean has to come from a guy who lost 8 strokes putting last time we saw him and his lag putting has still been good this year which could play a factor at LACC with their large and UNDULATING greens. If you believe in Scottie’s ability to find it with the putter like I do, this will be a dominant week for Scottie and an easy victory. If you don’t believe in Scottie… I hate you, but Rahm is basically a less polarizing Scottie with higher odds. Obviously, any of the guys at the top of the betting board have legitimate win equity but give me Scottie to start my betting card.
The next grouping where I feel you need one on the betting card is Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Viktor Hovland. To say their due is not a great analytical argument but they’re each due. Cantlay and Schauffele are as close to inseparable as it gets. They play together in every team event that exists (more team events coming from the LIV merger) and even in this article they’re lumped together. Both have had major success without the win and both have excellent all around games that U.S Open championships always require. Meanwhile, Hovland has gone T2 and T7 in the two majors to start this year and won the memorial with excellent ball striking and a resurgent short game. His profile is similar to that of Scottie Scheffler’s before he won the Master’s last year. I like both Viktor and Schauffele but cantlay has been better than both of them this year. Cantlay is gaining strokes in every category and is third in strokes gained total this year behind Scheffler and Rahm. Cantlay is a UCLA grad and is one of the few guys to actually have played this course. I expect a big week from all three of these guys (though Viktor is very short game dependent. If he can’t get the wedges to work a missed cut could be in his future) but Cantlay is primed to have the biggest of the three and get his first major.
This list of players who I think can win this tournament ends at Hideki and his 45-1 number. The neck injury that plagued Hideki to start the year appears to have gone away as he has finished in the top 30 in each of his last 7 tournaments including a fifth at the PLAYERS. While he has been more inconsistent in his ball striking, something has come alive to keep Hideki relevant in all of these tournaments. Hideki has the pedigree to win a major, already having won a green jacket and this setup fits his eye as another all around guy. Other guys in this range I like are Jordan Spieth and Cam Smith. Both have the creativity to work their ways around this course but betting Spieth is always a roller coaster and Cam Smith has some driving accuracy concerns that could see him put up big numbers at bad times.
Other Bets I like
Victor Perez Top French Competitor +150
There are 5 French golfers competing this week at LACC and he’s the only one with stats in the database I use (That one is Perez if you needed help with that one). Because it’s golf, Victor could go 15 over and lose this but I don’t see anyone else winning this.
Justin Rose Top Englishman +260
I like nationality props and this is the most interesting of them. Englishmen include last years winner Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrell Hatton, Rose, and Tommy Fleetwood. All excellent golfers with some win equity and all four are 2-1 to be top Englishman. The only one I will say to avoid is Hatton given his temperament and the courses difficulty but any of the other three is a good bet. I just prefer Rose’s odds given his putter and recent form.
Top debutant Carson Young +1800
This is another that the total volume of debutants makes the odds better and his are my favorite. Arguably the better Young this year (more on my dislike for Cameron soon) has been putting and ball striking very well this year and the other debutants all have their own concerns around here. I like Carson to impress this weekend.
Players to birdie one
As previously discussed, Thomas liked to design courses with easy first holes and the par 5 590 yard first is another example of this. A birdie on one is +150 or better for almost every player so you basically need half of them to hit to make money. last week at the Canadian Open 18 was the “birdie” hole and it saw 15 eagles and 254 birdies to 195 pars or worse playing a half stroke under par for the tournament. I expect 1 to play tougher than that this week but it’s reachable in two and reachable in two par fives are birdie holes.
Shane Lowry to lead after one +6500
I like Shane Lowry this week but this is more to talk about the wave differences I expect this week at LACC. The course is expected to play softer in the morning and then dry out so much that there is talk of watering the greens before the afternoon wave tees off to make it softer. I don’t expect that to happen so I expect this course to get much tougher in the afternoon. this means that the first round leader pool is basically cut in half. From that morning wave I like Lowry.
Shane Lowry over Cam Young in a matchup -110 and Cam young to miss the cut +130
Cam Young has not been right this year losing strokes in the short game consistently and on approach frequently. When he was dominating last year, Cam gained strokes across the board while bombing the ball off the tee. He hasn’t been better than T51 since his seventh place finish at the Master’s and LACC is not a place to try and figure it out. Fade Cam.
The Jesster’s laughably good pick of the week
Scottie and Schauffele to both top five is 12-1 do that and have a good week. Let’s get this Loot.