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Horses for Courses: Only most well-rounded candidates will thrive at Pinehurst

5 Min Read

Horses for Courses


    Written by Mike Glasscott @MikeGlasscott

    The U.S. Open returns to Pinehurst No. 2 for the fourth time overall, and the first since 2014. The 7,548-yard, par-70 track will test the best in the world this week with a diabolical combination of turtleback greens and unpredictable sandy areas off the fairways.

    Although many in the field are playing this course for the first time in competition, let’s take a look at the players who are best suited to succeed. It’s a list that, as should come as no surprise, includes some of the most well-rounded players in the 156-man field.

    SG: Tee to Green

    Players listed are in the field this week; 2024 season stats.

    1Scottie Scheffler
    2Xander Schauffele
    3Hideki Matsuyama
    T4Si Woo Kim
    T4Rory McIlroy
    6Justin Thomas
    8Corey Conners
    9Aaron Rai
    10Tony Finau
    11Collin Morikawa
    12Ludvig Åberg
    13Alex Noren

    The first challenge will be finding the fairways. With landing areas averaging 35 to 45 yards, the penalty for missing the short grass can be severe. The 2011 restoration peeled off the Bermuda rough. Natural wire grass litters the landscape and provides uncertain lies on recovery shots. Additional wire grass was planted in the sandy areas leading up to the event to increase the difficulty. The 6,500 square-foot putting complexes look inviting from the middle of the fairway but require full concentration. The pushed-up greens run off on all sides, and only the most quality iron shots will hold the proper landing areas. Players who can hit it high and control the spin will have the best chances at making a par and moving on.

    Martin Kaymer (+20000) in 2014 was second in Total Driving to Rory McIlroy, finding 43 of 56 Fairways (T9), and hitting 45 of 72 GIR (T18). The field for the week averaged just under 57 percent in GIR and only one player hit more than 50 (Henrik Stenson, 54). The two-time major champion picked up his other top 10 from 15 starts at Pebble Beach (T8) in 2010.

    The 2011 winner at Congressional, Rory McIlroy (+1200), thrives in a U.S. Open setting. Making his 16th start, the 2023 runner-up to Wyndham Clark (+6600) has rattled off five consecutive paydays inside the top 10. Cashing ten times, eight Sundays have found the four-time major champion in the top 10.

    T1Hideki Matsuyama
    6Webb Simpson
    8Alex Noren
    10Collin Morikawa
    12Justin Thomas
    13Mackenzie Hughes
    14Scottie Scheffler
    15Beau Hossler
    17Tommy Fleetwood
    19Lucas Glover

    Kaymer led in Scrambling at 70.37 percent in 2014, while the field did not hit 50 percent. The play from the bunkers and waste areas was more difficult. Only 44 percent got up and down. The run-offs are closely mown areas that will require creativity and club selection. All 14 clubs in the bag will be in play this week. Indecision in execution around the greens will make for a short weekend for most. Using the contours, spin, and loft to get the ball close is an art, and artists around the greens will save shots and carry the momentum forward.

    Brooks Koepka (+2200) joins three-time champion Tiger Woods (+25000) as the only multiple winners in the field this week. The 2017 victor at Erin Hills repeated the feat the following year at Shinnecock Hills and joined Ben Hogan (1950-51) and Curtis Strange (1988-89) as the only players post-World War II to defend the title successfully. Cashing in nine of 10, the five-time major champion has finished T4 or better five times, including 2014 at Pinehurst, and T18 or better eight times.

    2Denny McCarthy
    4Billy Horschel
    6Taylor Pendrith
    7Peter Malnati
    8Christiaan Bezuidenhout
    9Jason Day
    10Beau Hossler
    12Mackenzie Hughes
    13Thomas Detry
    14Harris English
    16Xander Schauffele

    Kaymer three-putted once, needed just 110 putts (3rd), and led the field in Putts per GIR on bentgrass. Only one player making the cut did not have a three-putt for the week. The change to Bermuda will keep a consistent, fiery, surface throughout all four rounds without the risk of “burning out.” Sloping slightly from back to front, putts from above the hole will get the blood pressure pumping. Lagging putts is also a skill, one of many tested this week.

    The PGA Champion from Valhalla, Xander Schauffele (+1100), is flying high into the third major championship of 2024. In seven appearances, the native of California has never finished worse than T14 and owns six top-10 paydays. Over 28 rounds, he owns a scoring average of 70.25.

    1Scottie Scheffler
    2Xander Schauffele
    3Rory McIlroy
    4Alexander Noren
    5Sahith Theegala
    6Hideki Matsuyama
    7Ludvig Aberg
    8Collin Morikawa
    10Wyndham Clark
    11Billy Horschel
    12Christiaan Bezuidenhout

    Dustin Johnson (+8000) won his first major championship at the 2016 edition at Oakmont, the site of the 2025 tournament. Making his 17th appearance, the seven-time finisher in the top 10 cashed T4 in the 2014 tournament. The big hitter from South Carolina is one of the seven players who finished in the top 10 the last time at Pinehurst. He joins Kaymer, Rickie Fowler (T2; +15000), Keegan Bradley (T4; +8000), Jason Day (T4; +8000), Adam Scott (T9; +12500), and Koepka.

    Click here to see the results from the 2014 event.

    Oddsmaker’s Extras

    Matt Fitzpatrick (+4000): Champion at The Country Club in 2022, where he won the U.S. Amateur, the Englishman posted T17 in defense last year. Missing the cut just once in nine tries, he was T48 as an amateur here in 2014.

    Scottie Scheffler (+333): After an inauspicious start of missing the cut in two of his first three starts, the current No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings has rattled off solo third, T2, and T7 in his last three appearances.

    Tommy Fleetwood (+3300): The Englishman has posted top-five paydays in half his weekend appearances, including signing for 63 twice in the final round.

    Hideki Matsuyama (+4500): The only time from 11 starts that the Japanese ace missed the cut was 2016 at Oakmont. His first visit to Pennsylvania was his first U.S. Open at Merion, where he cashed T10. The runner-up in 2017 was also fourth at The Country Club in 2022. The 2021 Masters champion sat at level par through 36 holes in 2014 before finishing T35.

    Collin Morikawa (+1400): Like Scheffler, once the light went on at this event, it has yet to be turned off. His last 12 rounds (T14, T5, and T4) have produced nine below par. In his last three U.S. Open visits, he has posted three of four rounds under par.

    Harris English (+15000): A perfect eight-from-eight, the four-time winner on TOUR opened his account with T48 at Pinehurst in 2014. Finishing T8 in 2023 was his third top-10 payday in his last four starts (3rd 2021, 4th 2020). Everybody needs a long shot, right?

    OWGR Ranking/Player (cuts made/starts)Top 10Top 25US Open Notes/Scoring Average
    01 Scottie Scheffler (4/6)33MC twice in first three; 70.55
    02 Xander Schauffele (7/7)67T14 or better in all seven; 70.25
    03 Rory McIlroy (10/15)895 straight in the top 10; 71.12
    04 Wyndham Clark (1/3)112023 winner at LACC
    05 Viktor Hovland (3/5)03Best finish was Low Amateur 2019 T12
    06 Ludvig Aberg (0/0)First Appearance; 3rd major career
    07 Collin Morikawa (4/5)23T35 or better; 70.56
    08 Jon Rahm (6/8)365 straight T23 or better; 71.21
    09 Patrick Cantlay (8/8)05T14-T15-T14 last 3; 71.63
    10 Max Homa (1/5)00T47 2022; 73.92
    11 Sahith Theegala (1/3)00T27 2023; 72.88
    12 Brian Harman (6/8)126 straight started T2 2017; 72.11
    13 Tommy Fleetwood (6/8)33MC in two of the last four; 71.29
    14 Hideki Matsuyama (10/11)377 straight; 71.26
    15 Keegan Bradley (5/11)22T4 2014; Made 1 of last 5; 73.09
    16 Matt Fitzpatrick (8/9)14Only MC was 2020; 71.59
    17 Russell Henley (7/10)04T27 or better 4 of last 5; 72.62
    18 Sepp Straka (1/3)00T28 2019 debut; MC last 2 years; 72.00
    19 Cameron Young (1/4)00T32 2023; 72.80
    20 Tyrrell Hatton (4/7)12T6 2018; 72.32
    21 Jason Day (8/11)565 top 10s first 6 attempts; 71.79
    22 Tom Kim (2/2)12T8 2023, T23 2022; 69.88
    23 Byeong Hun An (3/7)02T16 2019 best; 73.55
    24 Matthieu Pavon (1/3)01T25 2018; 73.50
    25 Justin Thomas (6/9)24T8 2020; T9 2017; 72.23
    26 Jordan Spieth (8/12)142015 winner; 72.15
    27 Sam Burns (3/5)00T27 2022; 72.38
    28 Tony Finau (4/8)23T8 2020; 5th 2018; 71.83
    29 Chris Kirk (3/6)00T28 2014 Pinehurst; 74.17
    30 Sungjae Im (2/5)0122nd 2020; 72.64

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