U.S. Open betting guide: 11 picks our experts loves this week

Scottie Scheffler

Our expert likes Scottie Scheffler's chances this week.

Getty Images

Welcome to our weekly PGA Tour gambling-tips column, featuring picks from GOLF.com’s expert prognosticator, Brady Kannon. A seasoned golf bettor and commentator, Kannon is the host of the HeatStrokes podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @LasVegasGolfer, and you can read below to see his favorite plays for the U.S. Open, which gets underway on Thursday at Los Angeles Country Club. Keep scrolling past Kannon’s picks, and you’ll also see data from Chirp, a free-to-play mobile platform that features a range of games with enticing prizes, giving fans all kinds of ways to engage in the action without risking any money.

The third major championship of 2023 is the 123rd U.S. Open. For the first time in 75 years, the championship will be staged in Los Angeles; not since 1948, when Ben Hogan won at Riviera, has the tournament come to Tinsel Town. This time, we are at another George Thomas design, not far from Riv: the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club.

A stellar Golden Age design (ranked 20th on GOLF’s list of Top 100 Courses in the World), the course sits on a massive property, on and around hillsides and valleys, with a dry riverbed, or barranca, running through it that is bound to swallow up some balls and create some interesting escapes. The layout features lots of elevation change. Many of the fairways are wide — some up to 70-80 yards — but several are canted in one direction or the other — often in the wrong direction one will want to go. Position is key to preventing a blind second shot, or worse. A rugged, undulating, fast, firm, parkland-style course, in the heart of Beverly Hills, on land estimated to be worth several billion dollars? Sounds like a Hollywood script in the making.

The golf course will stretch to roughly 7,400 yards and play as a par 70, but there are plenty of options for the tees, and the yardage will likely vary from day to day. There are no water hazards and the rough is expected to be 3-5 inches long — brutal in some areas but also very playable in others. The course configuration is unusual in that there are five par 3s, three par 5s, and 10 par 4s.

The fairways are Bermuda grass and the greens are bentgrass. Conditions are expected to be very firm and fast, but I don’t believe the greens will be too crazy — at least until the weekend. The greens are on the smaller side. Many are also elevated and surrounded by tough bunkering. There are some areas of thicker rough around the greens and also some shaved run-off areas that spill into collection areas. The penalty for missing greens stands to be severe, whether it be into a bunker, nasty rough, or a tightly mown collection area below the putting surface.

It is going to be a very different type of U.S. Open test. Not your standard tight fairways, 8-inch rough, and crazy-fast greens. I think the golf course will require more creativity as it will present more options, angles, and possibly unfamiliar outcomes. I believe controlling your driver will be crucial and from there it will take a lot of thought, patience, strategy, and first-class touch around the greens. I feel that you will see a wide variety of scoring — birdies, maybe some eagles, and also double and triple bogeys, which ought to make for a compelling championship.

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In 2010, Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner and Geoff Shackelford completed a multi-year restoration of this course. Other Hanse restorations include The Country Club, where the U.S. Open was held last year; Plainfield and Ridgewood Country Club, where they had the Barclays in the mid 2000s; St. George’s, where they played the Canadian Open last year; Winged Foot, which hosted the 2020 U.S. Open; Southern Hills, site of the 2022 PGA Championship, and Aronimink, where they played the 2018 BMW Championship. Shackelford believes, by the way, that the 13th hole will play as the most difficult on the course this week.

This edition of the U.S. Open is not expected to be a bomber’s paradise. Distance will be helpful with the length of the course but the fast conditions will bring shorter hitters into the mix. It will be a second-shot test in which long iron play and work on and around the greens will likely be of more importance than distance off the tee.

As far as comparable golf courses, I don’t think there is really a great match but there are some courses that have some isolated similarities to what we will find at Los Angeles Country Club. I used Merion, site of the 2013 U.S. Open, for its bunkering and parkland style. Southern Hills for the creativity needed around the greens. Shinnecock, where they most recently played the 2018 U.S. Open, for its undulation, firm conditions, and links-ish type terrain. Augusta National, with the wide fairways, elevation change, and touch needed around the greens. Chambers Bay, where they played the 2015 U.S. Open, for the unique and undulated test it presented — and the Plantation Course at Kapalua — with its super-wide fairways and dramatic elevation change. Players should find a little bit of all of this in one 18-hole layout at LACC.

The skill sets I focused on this week were Strokes Gained Approach, Strokes Gained Around the Green, Proximity to the Hole from 175-250 yards, Par 4 Scoring (450-500 yards), Strokes Gained Putting (Bent grass), and Bogey Avoidance.

To Win the U.S. Open (and finish Top 20)

Scottie Scheffler (+750)

Many observers, myself included, have asserted that if Scheffler has a decent week putting — just average even — he will win this championship by multiple strokes. His tee-to-green game has been at a Tiger Woods-like level this season. Even while losing several strokes to the field with the putter, Scheffler has still managed to finish Top 5 in each of his last four starts. Of the favorites, I believe he is the man to beat.

Jordan Spieth (26-1)

It is hard to think of Spieth as a player flying under the radar, but his four Top 5 finishes in his last six starts do seem to have gone by very quietly. It is also odd to note that in his last start, a fifth-place finish at the Memorial Tournament, he ranked second in the field for Driving Accuracy. Accuracy off the tee is usually the one weak spot for Spieth. He won at Chambers Bay in 2015, has a remarkable record at the Masters, including a win, and he also has a win at Kapalua. Each of these courses feature wide fairways, like LACC. We know Spieth can be a magician around the greens. I believe his imagination and creativity will help him find his way toward the top of the leaderboard once again — and I think he has an excellent shot to capture his second U.S. Open.

Jordan Spieth hits shot at 2023 PGA Championship
Jordan Spieth ticks the boxes for our expert this week. Getty Images

Cameron Smith (32-1)

Speaking of imagination, creativity, and a wicked short game, that is exactly what you have with Smith. Smith took fourth at Chambers Bay in 2015, has three Top 5 finishes at The Masters, and finished 13th last spring at Southern Hills for the PGA Championship. Max Homa, who shot 61 at LACC during a Pac-12 Conference event while attending UC Berkeley, said that one can play this whole course along the ground. We’ve mentioned the firm and fast, links-like conditions. Well, Smith is also your reigning Open champion, winning last July at St. Andrews. I’m not sure if some of the bombers from the LIV circuit are a great fit for the golf course this week, but I think Smith very well could be with the game he brings to the table.

Justin Rose (75-1)

I’ve had this ticket in pocket for three weeks now. On Monday, I saw Rose priced around 40-1. At this point, I think 50-1 or better is a solid play. Rose has such a strong profile coming in. He has a win this season at Pebble Beach, finished eighth last week in Canada, and was sixth at the Players in March. He drives it straight, his long iron play is excellent, and he’s one of the best putters in the game. How about the correlated courses? Won the U.S. Open at Merion in 2013, 13th at last year’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills, 10th at Shinnecock for the U.S. Open in 2018, fourth at St. George’s in Canada last year, second at Aronimink in 2018, and he’s finished Top 10 at the Masters six times. There isn’t much to not like about Rose this week.

Rickie Fowler (80-1)

It was not long ago that if you said you were picking Fowler to win this week, people got a chuckle out of it. It is not a joke anymore. Fowler has been putting together a fantastic season and like Rose, he is one of the best putters in the game. As with Rose, the line on Fowler has come down quite a bit — but I’m still okay with 50-1 or better. For many years, when preparing for the U.S. Open handicap, I have referred to the Charles Schwab Challenge and the Memorial Tournament as I feel both are excellent indicators of U.S. Open success. Fowler is coming off a sixth-place finish at Colonial and a ninth two weeks ago at the Memorial.

Patrick Reed (110-1)

When was the last time we saw Reed at triple-digits to win a major? Has he ever been priced this high before? This is the same guy who finished 18th at the PGA Championship and fourth at the Masters. It’s also the same guy who finished fourth at Shinnecock in 2018, 14th at Chambers Bay in 2015, 13th at Winged Foot in 2020, and has won before at Kapalua and Augusta. He also has a total of five Top 10 finishes at Colonial and the Memorial. Like Spieth and Smith, Reed is known for his imagination, escapability, creativity and short game. I expect those traits to come in handy.

Full Tournament Head-to-Head Matchups (32-25-3 YTD)

Jordan Spieth (-125) over Collin Morikawa

Matt Fitzpatrick (-140) over Max Homa

Tony Finau (-135) over Justin Thomas

Rickie Fowler (-120) over Sungjae Im

Patrick Reed (-105) over Bryson DeChambeau

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