U.S. Open picks 2023: Don't overthink it, take Jon Rahm
As Brooks Koepka famously formulized at the 2019 PGA Championship, there are realistically only 20 or 30 guys who have a serious chance in the major championships. Four times a year, bettors go insane trying to figure out which of those 20-to-30 it’s going to be. The breakthrough candidate? The odds-on favorite? The forgotten man whose odds are skyrocketing?
As our experts are arguing for this week’s U.S. Open, it’s much, much simpler than that. Don’t overthink it at LACC, folks.
Scroll down to see who we like this week at the 2023 U.S. Open.
U.S. Open picks 2023: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions
Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Jon Rahm (11-1, FanDuel) — Somehow, I feel like Rahm is being forgotten about among the elites. Scheffler’s on another level. Rory’s always front and center. Koepka’s on a tear. But this course should be perfect for him. He has worked a ton on his short game over the past two years, and he’s won five times this season. That’s insane in this era. To me, he should be the favorite, and I’ll take the double-digit price.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Jon Rahm (9-1, DraftKings) — While all the attention goes to Scottie Scheffler for being better than 2000 Tiger Woods tee-to-green but not being able to make a putt, Rahm was the slightly lesser version of that at the Memorial. The Masters champ gained 11.4 strokes between driving and approach and dropped over five with his putter. The difference being, Rahm has been consistently great on the greens in his career whereas the missed short putts have become commonplace for Iron Scheff. Between Scheffler, Brooks, Hovland, and the struggles of Rory, Rahm seems to be entering the US Open devoid of any attention. But the truth is, he’s won four times already in 2023, has gained over 8.8 strokes on approach in four of his past seven starts, has lost strokes twice off the tee since 2019, and has actually gained at least 3.6 strokes on the field in eight of his past 14 events. Plus, he’s been absolutely dominant in the state of California in his career.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Jon Rahm (11-1, FanDuel) — Rahm isn’t very far removed from winning virtually everything he played in. He’s the only golfer with long-term data that’s close to Scottie Scheffler’s, and Scheffler is the clear favorite this week. At this number, Rahm is a good value play.
Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Xander Schauffele (18-1, DraftKings) — Los Angeles Country Club will demand elite ball-striking where the difficulty of many approaches is determined by the placement of the tee shot. Schauffele has been one of the best ball-strikers in the world recently, gaining 33.58 strokes over his last five tournaments – per the RickRunGood.com golf database. He matches those ball-striking gains with short-game earnings making him one of the best all-around elite golfers on tour. Without a win, his major championship record is unmatched, earning five straight top-18 finishes. This is the right time and place for Schauffele to break through and add the biggest win to his resume.
Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Jordan Spieth (30-1, DraftKings) — Smylie Kaufman might be biased, but he knows Spieth’s game as well as anybody. He told us last week Spieth will win multiple times this year, and he’s currently at zero wins. The ball-striking numbers from the Memorial (T-5) and PGA Championship (T-29) were massive, and his short-game creativity should really come alive here at LACC. It’s a great fit and a great number on Spieth.
Christopher Powers, Golf Digest staff writer: Jordan Spieth (30-1, DraftKings) — The wrist issue was certainly a concern, and then he damn near won the Memorial Tournament, arguably one of the toughest physical tests to date this season. So the wrist is fine, he’s been ball-striking his face off all year, and everything we’re reading and hearing about LACC screams thinking-man’s/shotmaker’s golf course. Spieth checks all of these boxes, not to mention the fact he’s come so insanely close to winning multiple times this year. The definition of “due.”
Andy Lack, RickRunGood.com and Inside Golf podcast: Patrick Cantlay (17-1, FanDuel) — I understand that many golf bettors have become frustrated with backing Patrick Cantlay at such short prices, particularly in major championships where he has failed to truly contend. Yet I would exercise patience and look at the track record of many of the world’s best prior to their big breakthrough. Winning has actually not been the problem for Cantlay, who already owns eight PGA Tour victories, with five of them coming in extremely strong fields. Yet his major record still leaves much to be desired. On the surface, with 12 top 25s in 25 major starts, Cantlay has been an incredibly consistent performer in these events, but it’s the lack of truly high-end finishes that leaves bettors frustrated. I am far from deterred, and I have a strong feeling that Cantlay is going to make a major statement this week on a golf course where he has already fired a 62 before in the Pac-12 Championships when he was at UCLA.
Past results: As we head into summer, the panel remains as hot as ever, with 11 outright victories on the year as a group. Brandon Gdula leads the way with five of his own, and our newest expert picker, Andy Lack, checks in next with two.
Listen to Golf Digest's weekly betting podcast, "The Loop," (below) where we interview the industry's leading experts (and sometimes tour pros) to help you make your bets and pick your fantasy lineups. And be sure to subscribe to "The Loop" wherever you get your podcasts!
U.S. Open picks 2023: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win
Caddie: Keith Mitchell (300-1, PointsBet) — The commentary on LACC is that iron play and short game will be massive this week. But don’t sleep on the fact that despite the massive scale of this property, you’ll gain an edge and have great chances to score if you can drive it long with precision. Keith Mitchell is first on tour in Total Driving, and that should give him more chances to attack than other players. We know he likes LA golf, based on him playing in the final group at Riviera this year. Look for him to be a factor this year.
Mayo: Joaquin Niemann (80-1, DraftKings) — The US Open always felt like it would be the best fit for Niemann’s game. His low ball flight allows him to really take advantage of the firm-and-fast conditions, and this particular location at LACC may be a perfect storm for his skills. Bentgrass is the only green type he is gaining strokes on for his career, Los Angeles is the site of his biggest career win at Riviera, his game actually excels the more difficult the conditions and rough are, and a ton of his career best performances have come at venues with wildly uneven lies like Kapalua, Muirfield Village, and Augusta National.
Gdula: Wyndham Clark (85-1, FanDuel) — Clark won a designated event as a long shot, and it’s because he’s just really good at golf right now. He has the distance to surge out ahead of the competition this week, and the irons and putting are on point.
Gehman: Joaquin Niemann (80-1, DraftKings) — It’s difficult to assess the full status of Niemann’s game since LIV Golf lacks the advanced metrics that help tell the story. Despite that, Niemann has always been a great ball-striker in his career, with more distance than you’d expect from his frame. We saw him go wire-to-wire in victory at Riviera in 2022, another George Thomas design. If he can putt well on these surfaces, there’s a path for Niemann to get to the first page of the leaderboard.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Si Woo Kim (80-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — Si Woo’s ball-striking is dialed right now. He’s gaining more than five strokes per event in the ball-striking categories over the past five tourneys, per RickRunGood.com, which includes 8.18 SG/ball-striking en route to a fourth-place at the Memorial. He missed the cut at the PGA, but that was due to his short game—which one caddie once told us is one of the best on tour.
Powers, Golf Digest: Justin Thomas (50-1, DraftKings) — Tying Justin Thomas’ name in the longshots section is making me feel feelings, and I can’t figure out if they are good or bad. Put it this way, we’ll know just how good (or bad) of a bet this is early on Thursday. If he continues to be a brick fest with the putter, he might be destined for a MC. If that flips, however, you’re holding on to a golden ticket.
Lack: Mito Pereira (110-1, FanDuel) — I have absolutely loved what Mito Pereira is doing from a ball-striking standpoint, both on the LIV Tour and at the first two major championships of the year. Mito gained over 7.5 strokes ball-striking at both the Masters and the PGA Championship, and now he travels to a golf course that might actually be the best fit for his game. Pereira has already tasted contention at the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills, another wide, Bermuda based golf course with Bentgrass greens and tight runoff areas. Do not be surprised if the Chilean makes another major run.
U.S. Open picks 2023: Players We’re Fading
Caddie: Viktor Hovland (12-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — He’s becoming a popular pick based on his great play in the majors and his big-time win at Memorial, but I really see this as a different kind of test. He will miss more greens here than any other major venue, and though his short game has improved massively, it’s still not a top-50 short game in the world. That will ultimately cost him here.
Mayo: Patrick Cantlay (14-1, DraftKings) — Does Cantlay have a good chance at winning? Sure. But I’m not ready to treat among the top-five favorites in this field, which his odds suggest.
Gdula: Matt Fitzpatrick (31-1, FanDuel) — Fitzpatrick is pretty much the outlier among the favorites in iron play recently, and his US Open title and recent putting-infused strong finishes have the odds too short to want to back.
Gehman: Collin Morikawa (35-1, DraftKings) — The curious case of Collin Morikawa continues after a WD before the final round of the Memorial. He was within two shots of the lead before back spasms forced him out of the event. On the course, he’s still one of the best approach players in the world but the rest of his game is creating volatile results. In his four events before the WD, he missed the cut twice and finished T-26 and T-29. The greens at LACC will put incredible pressure on his flat stick and he’ll need to drive it better than he has in recent weeks to find success.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Viktor Hovland (12-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — I wanted to convince myself to bet Hovland, given the run he’s on—but Andy makes a great point about the unique short-game shots Hovland will face this week. This number’s just too short for someone with that weakness.
Powers, Golf Digest: Max Homa (35-1, DraftKings) — The hometown kid makes good narrative rarely works out, at the majors specifically. Of course, he’s won at Riviera and almost won for a second time there this past February, but it’s simply too large of a weight on one’s shoulders to pull off something similar in a U.S. Open.
Lack: Viktor Hovland (12-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — I seem to be much lower than the market is on Viktor Hovland this week. I do not believe that we can equate strong short-game performances at Oak Hill and Muirfield Village to the task that he will be faced with at Los Angeles Country Club. While he may have figured out a “stabby” chipping technique that works well out of thick Bluegrass rough, I’m still far from sold on him having the creativity and touch to answer the variety of questions that this George Thomas masterpiece will ask players around the greens.
U.S. Open picks 2023: Matchups
Caddie: Xander Schauffele (-110) over Viktor Hovland (DraftKings) — Xander is an absolute top-10 machine, and this all-around test should be a great fit for his game. I don’t think Hovland will miss the cut, but a 30th- or 40th-place finish is more likely than with Xander’s major prowess.
Mayo: Jon Rahm (+115) over Scottie Scheffler (DraftKings) — Jon Rahm at plus odds over anyone on earth is a good bet.
Gdula: Sungjae Im (-112) over Shane Lowry (FanDuel) — Im has the better stats in three of the four strokes-gained categories over the past 50 rounds, per datagolf, and the putting is a big differentiator this season.
Gehman: Matt Fitzpatrick (-110) over Cameron Smith (Bet365) — The reigning U.S. Open Champion, Matt Fitzpatrick, is one of the most well-rounded golfers on the tour without a hole in his game. Smith, on the other hand, is reliant on his putter and has a tendency to miss big off-the-tee. Those big misses will be more penal at LACC than recent major venues like Oak Hill and Augusta National.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Russell Henley (-130) over Gary Woodland (Circa) — I love Henley’s consistency in a matchup over Woodland, whose ball-striking is a strength—but his short game is not.
Powers, Golf Digest: Rickie Fowler (-120) over Jason Day (DraftKings) — Back-to-back missed cuts for J-Day since his Byron Nelson win. Fowler, meanwhile, keeps on keeping on, finishing inside the top 15 in six of his last seven starts.
Lack: Xander Schauffele (-110) over Viktor Hovland (DraftKings) — This is an easy one, as Xander Schauffele is one of my picks to win and Hovland is the elite that I have the least confidence in this week. Schauffele has been an absolute menace in U.S. Opens, with five top 10s in six appearances, and his track record on firm golf courses is just as impressive. There are still some red flags around Hovland’s short game on firm golf courses with tight runoff areas, whereas Xander is more prone to the mistake-free style of golf that allows him to compete so consistently on USGA setups.
Matchup Results from the RBC Canadian Open: Gehman: 1 for 1 (Fleetwood (-125) over Theegala); Hennessey: 1 for 1 (Hatton (+130) over McIlroy); Powers: 1 for 1 (Hatton (+130) over McIlroy); Mayo: 1 for 1 (Hatton +115) over McIlroy); Gdula: 1 for 1 (Hojgaard (-134) over McNealy); Caddie: PUSH (Hadwin (-110) over Bramlett (WD)); Lack: 0 for 1
Matchup Results from this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Gehman: 20-10-2 (up 8.46 units); Hennessey: 19-12-1 (up 5.94 units); Caddie: 16-13-3 (up 2.2 units); Powers: 16-14-2 (up 1.93 units); Lack: 11-10-1 (down 0.18 units); Gdula: 14-17-1 (down 5.08 units); Mayo: 12-17-0 (down 5.4 units)
U.S. Open picks 2023: Top 10s
Caddie: Russell Henley (+650, DraftKings) — Henley doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his precision. He might hit every fairway, and he’s one of the best iron players on tour. He also was in that final group at the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, and don’t overlook his top-10 at Augusta this year.
Mayo: Cameron Smith (+260, DraftKings) — Of note: Cam Smith hasn’t finished outside the top 10 of any event since the Masters. Now, LIV events only have 48 players, but that’s still remarkable consistency. I’ll die by the claim (I won’t actually) once you get off the tee box Cam is the best player in the world. Too bad driving is such an important part of the game, especially at the US Open. However, if he’s able to be around average with the driver on these wide fairways, he’s shown remarkable consistency on and around the greens, and his best performances have come at courses with similarly angled fairways — Augusta, Kapalua, St. Andrews.
Gdula: Tony Finau (+350, FanDuel) — Tony Finau and top 10s are almost always a good pairing. Finau is struggling with the putter right now but has good underlying stats from within 15 feet. He has the distance and irons to elevate this week versus the field, too.
Gehman: Wyndham Clark (+550, DraftKings) — Clark is in the midst of the best season of his career and it’s not even close. During the 2023 campaign, he’s gaining 1.43 strokes per round – per the RickRunGood.com golf database. That rate is slightly worse than Tony Finau (+1.54) and better than both Max Homa (+1.20) and Collin Morikawa (+1.19). He’s a bomber off-the-tee who has turned into an elite approach player. His putter has gained him strokes in seven of his last eight events so he possesses a combination of skill-sets that is difficult to find on tour.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Russell Henley (+650, DraftKings) — Getting in the action here tailing our anonymous caddie. We also had Ben Carr on our podcast on Monday, who got to play a practice round with his fellow Georgia native. Henley has played LACC a number of times, according to Carr, so I like his familiarity—and I’ll be tailing Powers on the FRL.
Powers, Golf Digest: Russell Henley (+650, DraftKings) — Happily tailing our anonymous caddie here. Henley has become something of a majors maven. Since 2011, the Georgia native has played in 18 majors, made the cut in 14 of them, and finished inside the top 25 in five of them. Love him as a sneaky top-10 play this week and we REALLY love him as a first-round leader play.
Lack: Tony Finau (+350, FanDuel) — I love this buy-low spot for Tony Finau, who remains a top-five iron player in the world this season. Finau has gained over two strokes to the field per round on firm golf courses over the past two years, ranking second in this entire field. A fifth-place finish at Shinnecock and a 14th-place finish at Chambers Bay come to mind as appealing reference points. With a proven track record of success in the U.S. Open and on firm golf courses, I feel fairly confident that he will find his way onto the first page of the leaderboard by week’s end.
Top-10 results from the RBC Canadian Open: Everybody: 0 for 1
Top-10 results from this season: Hennessey: 7 for 32 (up 10.95 units); Gdula: 9 for 32 (up 10.2 units); Lack: 7 for 22 (up 5.4 units); Gehman: 8 for 32 (up 4.6 units); Mayo: 6 for 29 (down 0.9 units); Caddie: 8 for 32 (up 1.6 units); Powers: 4 for 32 (down 5.9 units)
U.S. Open picks 2023: One and Done
Gehman: Brooks Koepka — Strategy-wise, there’s a ton of value in being able to use a LIV golfer at a major championship, while still preserving your stable of PGA Tour golfers for the rest of the schedule. Koepka is the obvious choice of LIV golfers if you have him available – finishing T-2 at the Masters and winning the PGA Championship already this year. LIV offers smaller fields but Koepka hasn’t finished outside the top 12 anywhere in the world in his last seven starts. Now he looks to add to his immaculate U.S. Open record which includes two wins, a runner-up and a T-4 in his last five starts.
Previous weeks: Fortinet Championship: Emiliano Grillo. Sanderson Farms Championship: Sam Burns. Shriners: Taylor Montgomery. Zozo: Sungjae Im. CJ Cup: Matt Fitzpatrick. Bermuda: Denny McCarthy. Mayakoba: Viktor Hovland. Houston Open: Aaron Wise. RSM Classic: Brian Harman. Sentry TOC: Cameron Young. Sony Open: Hideki Matsuyama. American Express: Brian Harman. Farmers: Jason Day. AT&T Pebble Beach: Maverick McNealy. WMPO: Scottie Scheffler. Genesis: Justin Thomas. Honda: Sungjae Im. API: Rory McIlroy. Players: Jon Rahm. Valspar: Justin Rose. WGC-Match Play: Cameron Young. Valero: Rickie Fowler. Masters: Jordan Spieth. RBC Heritage: Collin Morikawa. Zurich: Kurt Kitayama. Mexico Open: Ben Martin. Wells Fargo: Viktor Hovland. Byron Nelson: K.H. Lee. PGA Championship: Xander Schauffele. Charles Schwab Challenge: Min Woo Lee. Memorial: Patrick Cantlay. RBC Canadian Open: Tyrrell Hatton.
Hennessey: Max Homa — He’s going to be a popular play, but I’m banking on folks going with Koepka here and being slightly different (maybe?).
Previous weeks: Fortinet Championship: Cam Davis. Sanderson Farms Championship: Denny McCarthy. Shriners: Emiliano Grillo. Zozo: Hideki Matsuyama. CJ Cup: Sungjae Im. Bermuda: Mark Hubbard. Mayakoba: Viktor Hovland. Houston Open: Jason Day. RSM Classic: Brendon Todd. Sentry TOC: Patrick Cantlay. Sony Open: Matt Kuchar. American Express: Brian Harman. Farmers: Will Zalatoris. AT&T Pebble Beach: Seamus Power. WMPO: Collin Morikawa. Genesis: Justin Thomas. Honda: Chris Kirk. API: Keith Mitchell. Players: Rory McIlroy. Valspar: Adam Hadwin. WGC-Match Play: Tyrrell Hatton. Valero: Nick Taylor. Masters: Scottie Scheffler. RBC Heritage: Jordan Spieth. Zurich: Sahith Theegala. Mexico Open: Gary Woodland. Wells Fargo: Xander Schauffele. Byron Nelson: Tyrrell Hatton. PGA Championship: Jon Rahm. Charles Schwab Challenge: Justin Rose. Memorial: Corey Conners. RBC Canadian Open: Tommy Fleetwood.
Powers: Dustin Johnson — Rick makes a good point about using a LIV golfer and since I’ve already burned Brooks, we’ll go with his buddy DJ, who’s shown he’s still a winner on LIV and undoubtedly has at least one or two more major runs in him,
Previous weeks: Fortinet Championship: Sahith Theegala. Sanderson Farms Championship: J.T. Poston. Shriners: Sungjae Im. Zozo: Hideki Matsuyama. CJ Cup: Tyrrell Hatton. Bermuda: Russell Knox. Mayakoba: Thomas Detry. Houston Open: Sepp Straka. RSM Classic: Davis Riley. Sentry TOC: Xander Schauffele. Sony Open: Gary Woodland. American Express: Cameron Young. Farmers: Taylor Montgomery. AT&T Pebble Beach: Maverick McNealy. WMPO: Sungjae Im. Genesis: Collin Morikawa. Honda: Chris Kirk. API: Will Zalatoris. Players: Patrick Cantlay. Valspar: Justin Suh. WGC-Match Play: Tom Kim. Valero: Matt Kuchar. Masters: Tony Finau. RBC Heritage: Rickie Fowler. Zurich: Robby Shelton. Mexico Open: Luke List. Wells Fargo: Viktor Hovland. Byron Nelson: Tom Hoge. PGA Championship: Brooks Koepka. Charles Schwab Challenge: Tommy Fleetwood. Memorial: Shane Lowry. RBC Canadian Open: Justin Rose.
About our experts
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. Mayo helped create the golf stats and research website Fantasy National along with the Race for the Mayo Cup One and Done contest. Mayo won the 2022 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and is a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2023 (Best Podcast, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 27 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are second-most all-time. Follow him on Twitter: @ThePME.
Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @gdula13.
Rick Gehman is the founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.
Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from New York City who now resides in Los Angeles. He hosts Inside Golf, a twice weekly podcast focused on the PGA Tour, betting, daily fantasy, golf course architecture, and interviews, as part of the BlueWire podcast network. As well as contributing to Golf Digest, Andy is also a data analyst and writer for RickRunGood.com, where he covers PGA Tour betting and daily fantasy. He came to Golf Digest’s betting panel after previously writing for Golf.com, the Score and GolfWRX. In his free time, Andy can likely be found on a golf course. Follow him on Twitter: @adplacksports