The US Open First Round Leader Picks, Bets & More (2024)

Here we go with golf’s third major as the PGA Tour convenes at one of the most difficult courses on the planet. That’s usually what happens when the USGA gets involved, but we also have the reinsertion of the LIV guys — along with the other top players in the world. This is a massive field where everyone is chasing down the same guy, the unfathomable reality that Scottie Scheffler is currently +300 to win. He’s far from the only big name in this event, but Scheffler is on a rare run that just doesn’t happen in this sport. He’s not only dominating the field, but all the courses as well, and he will factor in heavily as we make our US Open first-round leader picks.

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There are a few names on top of the odds board with a decent shot of knocking off Scheffler like Rory McIlroy or Xander Schauffele, even down to some mid-range golfers with hopes of taking down Pinehurst No. 2. This magnificent course is long and unforgiving, namely defending itself on and around the greens. We haven’t seen the LIV guys since the previous majors, so eyes will be on guys like Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.

We will look at just how to beat Pinehurst No. 2 more so than anyone particular in the field. While an outright ticket may have to contend with Scheffler, we look at the course more than anything with a first-round leader. This isn’t just about meeting course requirements or any history at Pinehurst; it’s more than that. This is a major with the USGA hovering, meaning this might be the toughest course we see all year. As wild as this sounds, it actually won’t hurt lower scores.

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The US Open First Round Leader Picks

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The Keys To The Kingdom

Pinehurst is long and requires serious course management. Second shots will come primarily off longer irons, and getting to the greens in scoring positions won’t be the problem — it will be staying on them. The USGA is known for extending holes, making par 5’s longer par 4’s — even pushing back the tee boxes to add some additional length. Outside of the greens — deserving of their own paragraph — golfers will decide to either blast off the tee or take a more conservative strategy. In recent years at Pinehurst, we’ve seen a looser approach as golfers are fine hitting out of the rough so long as it’s closer to the hole.

Putting will be a problem for most people this week. It’s not just the greens themselves, as the Bermuda grass will pose some issue; rather, it is staying on the turtle shells. I’ve seen it described as an upside-down bowl, and if anyone has ever played a Donald Ross course, they know how tough those greens are in general. The best defense at Pinehurst is the green surface and what’s around them. Be it a false front, tough rough or bunker, the penalty for not keeping the ball on the green can be severe.

US Open First-Round Leader Picks

US Open First Round Leader Picks: Xander Schauffele (+2200 at BetMGM)

It’s been quite a run for Xander Schauffele, as he’s only been overshadowed by Scheffler playing the greatest stretch of golf since Tiger Woods. Schauffele comes in with a win at the PGA Championship followed by an eighth at Memorial. In fact, he has 14 top-10s over his last 25 events, including three straight and six of his last eight. If not for Scheffler, we would be heaping even more praise on the breakthrough moment for Schauffele at the PGA carrying into this week. Instead, he’s playing as well as anyone (OK, mostly anyone) in the world and is flying under the radar this week at Pinehurst.

Schauffele is winning in different ways, gaining a massive number of strokes at the PGA Championship while competing at the Memorial and Wells Fargo (2nd) on approach shots. He lives for this event, with some of the best US Open history over the past five years. This course will be handled, dare I say tamed, by long iron approach shots, some from nearly 200 yards. Looking at the field, this is where Schauffele can distance himself with sticky landings on slick greens. While we are confident in his game approaching and around the green, his accuracy off the tee will be a saving grace.

US Open Tournament First Round Leader Picks: Tommy Fleetwood (+4500 at BetMGM)

We love a crowd favorite or heartwarming story whenever it makes sense for an underdog. The 45-1 odds for Tommy Fleetwood roll nicely into the already existing love affair we have with wanting to see this guy break through and win. Let’s start with the fit at Pinehurst, where Fleetwood is one of the better golfers at gaining strokes off the tee in both driving distance and driving accuracy. The latter will be huge here, setting up proper second shots, something he’s rather adept at doing. His ability to scramble and save pars is valuable and shows little weakness for Fleetwood when attacking this course.

He’s also a gamer. Finishing third at the Masters then 26th at the PGA Championship, Fleetwood is unfazed by the large field or top names. We get a great number on a seasoned golfer who is good enough to win on tour despite not having a single victory. He wouldn’t be the first to break out on the major scene, but his comfort and fit at a place like Pinehurst are enough to jump out for a first-round leader. Fleetwood has a shot to win this thing, but he’s best played as a first-round leader and top-10 first round.

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