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U.S. Open 2024: Course Preview for Pinehurst & Best Bets

June 11, 2024

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There's a certain feeling in the air, the week of a U.S. Open.

Sure, it's a major weekend, and those are always more special. There's nothing like that opening scene of the camera rolling down Magnolia Lane at Augusta National, PGA Championship weeks always make you feel like there's going to be a special accomplishment, and classic links courses at the Open Championship are always a cool detour from the weekly schedule. But there's something almost... primal about whatever course the USGA has decided to put into play that year for the U.S. Open.

Looking at this year's host course, Pinehurst #2, primal certainly fits the bill.

Last year was a little bit out of the box. Plenty of people had something to say about the first major tournament that Los Angeles Country Club hosted in over 80 years, and some of the criticisms were fair, if not a little misunderstanding that rain significantly softened up the course.

In previous years, however, the U.S. Open has proved to be one of the most challenging tests of golf. The summer months mean that greens are baked dry, proving that just one bounce could send a ball rocketing off the green. Extremely deep rough is teamed with narrow fairways, while Par 5s that are turned into 500+ yard Par 4s are customary, due to the USGA preferring a course par of 70. It's not uncommon for a U.S. Open to finish in single-digit scores; the last time that a U.S Open was held at Pinehurst #2, exactly one player finished with a score better than -1.

Let's dive into my U.S. Open course preview for Pinehurst #2, and we'll get a look at some of my favorite bets heading into the season's third major.

2024 U.S. Open Course Preview

Pinehurst #2 is not only a massive test for golf's best players, but it also has a long history in golf lore. When Donald Ross designed this course all the way back in 1907, he opined that it was the "fairest test of championship golf" that he had ever designed, and that's certainly seemed to hold true. While this course can play ultra-hard and result in an even par win, like it did for Michael Campbell in 2005, you can also game this course, which Martin Kaymer did in 2014, winning by eight shots.

There isn't any single course that quite compares to the mystique that surrounds #2. It forces you to think strategically like most long U.S. Open courses do, but it also will make your head spin if you can't string consistent shots together.

Zooming out a bit, Pinehurst is a standard U.S. Open track. It plays as a Par 70 with only two Par 5s (both playing over 585 yards this year), and features several long Par 4s. You can't obliterate this course with length, as wayward tee shots will take bounces into gorse bushes, wiregrass, and pinestraw.

The course also features an insane amount of bunkers that dot the entire landscape. With 117 total bunkers on the course, this ranks as the second-highest concentration of sandpits on the PGA Tour schedule.

Most perilous are the tabletop greens that are a signature on Donald Ross designs. Despite the average green size at Pinehurst being a tad over 6,500 feet, which ranks somewhere in the middle, you realistically only have 2-3,000 square feet to work with. Shots that aren't pinpoint in relation to the flag will be punished by severe false fronts and back/side runoffs that lead to extremely difficult uphill chips from tightly mown lies.

Rithmm Models used for U.S. Open Course Preview

In every Course Preview, we’ll be diving into Rithmm’s proprietary model to help you build the best betting model for that week’s course! Rithmm has its own AI model that it generates based on thousands of sims, but you also might want to build your own model, so that’s what this section is for.

When we get into Rithmm’s modeling aspect, it has five customizable sliders that you can mess around with: Recent Performance, Par 5 Performance, Par 4 Performance, Par 3 Performance, and Course Fit. You can adjust these to your heart’s content, and make it reflect the way you see the important stats.

My model for the 2024 U.S. Open is below:

Rithmm Model for 2024 U.S. Open Course Preview

Pinehurst #2 is a BEAST of a golf course. Not only do you need to be in the best form to have a shot here, but you have to deal with extremely fast, undulating greens, you only get 2 Par 5s, and if you're wayward off the tee, you can get into trouble really quickly.

Looking at our model this week, we're emphasizing two thigs most of all: Recent Form and Course Fit. As with nearly any major championship, these are the two most important plays on our Rithmm model.

Looking at Pinehurst, there's almost no course comp that you can make that will be a perfect match, but both Augusta National and Shinnecock come close. As a result, golfers with the best Course Fit here come with strong numbers in stats such as: Good Drives Gained, Birdies or Better Gained, Scrambling: Tight Lies and Strokes Gained: Ballstriking.

Recent Form is pretty simple for majors. If you aren't coming into the event with good recent finishes, especially in the last two majors, you aren't going to be considered. At a course like Pinehurst, where the slightest of mistakes could lead to triple bogey, you have to be on top of your game.

Par 4s are the most important here, given that there are several lengthy ones on this track, standard for a US Open. However, there are a couple of "breather" holes that play under 400 yards, and scoring on those could go a long way towards a possible deep run.

Lastly, I group the Par 5s and Par 3s pretty tightly here. You only have two Par 5s on this iteration of #2, as the USGA took two of the usual Par 5s and converted them into long Par 4s for the purpose of this event.

Best Betting Picks for U.S. Open 2024

It’s time to build our Rithmm betting card for this week. We’re going to go into each of Rithmm’s favorite picks for Top 20/10/5 based on my model, and whether I agree or disagree with it.

Top 20: Russell Henley +240 (38.1% Rithmm Win Probability)

Henley has a pretty solid case here. He ranks 16th in my model this week, and one thing that will always play in his favor is his driving accuracy leading him to be in a good spot to target greens.

That ability will suit him well at Pinehurst, with the pnalty for missed fairways being a choice between a gorse bush, an unsteady lie in the wiregrass, or the pinewood causing issues. Henley is also adept with his ballstriking. He has gained strokes on approach in each of his last six events, which puts him in good form to try and contend this weekend.

Henley doe have some experience here. He placed 60th in the 2014 U.S. Open here, and has solid results at comp courses like Augusta National and Los Angeles Country Club. I'll be playing this line.

Top 10: Corey Conners +550 (21.3%)

A very intriguing play here. +550 equals out to 15.38% implied odds, so we're getting a terrific play here from the Rithmm machine. Three weeks ago, Conners didn't have a single top ten finish this season despite playing ome extremely solid golf all season. He proceeded to finish solo sixth at the RBC Canadian and then added a T20 at the Memorial Tournament for good measure.

Conners hasn't been much of a majors guy in his career lately, but he did happen to string together three straight top ten finishes at Augusta National from 2020-22. Playing well at comp courses is, again, what we're looking for this week as one of our core values, so Conners gets a solid bump from that.

It's also notable that Conners has gained strokes on approach in every single event this season. If there's a spot to nitpick the Canadian, his short game can be abysmal at times and get him into trouble. If he can keep the ball in the short grass and putt around the green runoffs instead of chip, I like this play. I'm riding with it.

Top 5: Justin Thomas +800 (17.5%)

Not the man that I expected would be at the top of my top-five list under my Rithmm model, that's for sure. JT missed the cut here in 2014 in his first-ever major of his career, but he can't be penalized completely by that.

The main reason I'm not very comfortable with this pick is that for a top-five finish, Thomas realistically needs to be one of the best drivers in the field. Unfortunately, driving accuracy has not been one of JT's strong suits this season. He's only gained on the field in driving accuracy in two of his 12 events, and ranks 107th in this field in Good Drive Percentage.

I'm fading Thomas this week. I understand why my model likes him, and you're getting a good price, but this is a pass for me.

Outright Winner Pick for U.S. Open: Xander Schauffele +1100 (11.1%)

What if I were to tell you that there is only one player on the PGA Tour this year that ranks top 40 in strokes gained off the tee, approach, around the green, and putting this season? The vast majority of you would nod and say: " Of course, with his upgraded putting, it's Scottie Scheffler."

You would be wrong.

Schauffele has been, by all accounts, nearly as good as Scottie this season, but the results haven't really been there. X-Man got the monkey off his back a couple of weeks ago, though, with his dominant performance at the PGA Championship. Winning your first major can result in the floodgates being opened, and there really isn't a reason that Xander can't play as well here as he has in other places.

Schauffele won't treat this tournament like the others. He has lost in the final pairing several times this season and had plenty of close calls. There's a certain wisdom that comes from winning big tournaments and realizing that closing there is a skill.

At the end of the day, I believe that one of two golfers will win this event: Xander Schauffele or Scottie Scheffler.

Best Round 1 Pick (AI Caddie)

The AI Caddie is an awesome Rithmm tool that allows you to go hole by hole with any player you choose and it will show you a chart of how likely that player is versus the field to get any score on a hole.

Closing Remarks on 2024 U.S. Open Course Preview

There aren't many weeks better than a U.S. Open week, and Pinehurst has been circled on the calendar for years by some people. I hope that my best bets & course preview gives you all the insights and predictions needed to make informed wagers.

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