Last week was an eventful one with the debut of the LIV Golf tour and the controversy surrounding it. Charl Schwartzel held on to win the largest purse of his career and cash a 30-1 ticket for this column.
However, the most exciting golf of the weekend took place at the RBC Canadian Open where Rory McIlroy showed he is still one of the best players in the world, winning the tournament at 11-1 and holding off playing partners Tony Finau and Justin Thomas in the final grouping. The victory had an even more significant meaning for McIlroy as it got him to 21 PGA Tour wins, or as he said, "one more than somebody else," alluding to Greg Norman, the CEO of LIV Golf Investments. Norman had referred to McIlroy as "brainwashed" due to his outspoken defense of the PGA Tour and criticism of LIV Golf.
LIV Golf will still be a major topic of discussion leading up to Thursday, when the 122nd U.S. Open will begin at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston.
McIlroy, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, is now this week's favorite at 11-1. Justin Thomas (12-1) won golf's previous major last month, cashing a 17-1 ticket for us at the PGA Championship. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (14-1) has cooled off a smidge from his scorching start to 2022 in which he won four events (including the Masters) in six starts over a two-month span, but he cannot be ignored. Jon Rahm (16-1) is the defending U.S. Open champion and earned this column a victory at 11-1 last year at Torrey Pines. He won the first week of May in a weak field at the Mexico Open, but his game around the greens, ordinarily a strength, will need some tidying up this week. Cameron Smith (22-1) has had a stellar season, with two victories including The Players Championship, but has drifted a bit from peak form after falling short at the Masters.
Xander Schauffele (22-1) clearly has a game that fits a U.S. Open champion considering he has never finished worse than seventh in any of his five U.S. Open starts. Patrick Cantlay (25-1), ranked No. 4 in the world, has emerged as one of the game's best players but has yet to show out in major championships. Cantlay has only one Top 5 finish (third at the 2019 Masters) in 21 career major starts. Jordan Spieth (28-1), the 2015 U.S. Open champion, has been hit and miss in 2022. He won the RBC Heritage (in a playoff over Cantlay) and has runner-up finishes at the Byron Nelson and Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but the putter has let him down too often, leading to missed cuts at The Players and the Masters. Collin Morikawa (30-1) was solid early in 2022 but has not contended in a while.
Matt Fitzpatrick (30-1) won on this golf course in the 2013 U.S. Amateur as a 19-year-old. Will Zalatoris (30-1) has five Top 10 finishes in the last seven major championships, including a runner-up last month at the PGA. A host of players at 35-1 include Viktor Hovland, Tony Finau, Shane Lowry and Sam Burns.
It has been nearly 18 months since Dustin Johnson (40-1) has won anywhere in the world. DJ elected to take the money and join LIV Golf, so it’s fair to wonder if that competitive drive is still there. Brooks Koepka (45-1) has won two of the last five U.S. Opens (2017, 2018), but his last tour victory came in February 2021 as various injuries have plagued him. Speaking of injuries, 2020 U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau (100-1), who is joining LIV Golf next month, has missed a lot of time with a wrist injury and is priced in some markets at higher than 100-1.
The U.S. Open, sanctioned and governed by the United States Golf Association, returns to The Country Club for the first time since 1988. The Country Club has hosted three prior U.S. Opens (1913, 1963, 1988) in addition to six U.S. Amateurs (1910, 1922, 1934, 1957, 1982, 2013), three U.S. Women's Amateurs (1902, 1941, 1995), plus the 1999 Ryder Cup, which is known as the "Battle of Brookline" and featured a furious comeback victory (14.5-13.5) by the U.S. team after trailing by four points (10-6) heading into Sunday.