Gdula's Golf Simulations: U.S. Open

Who has the edge at Torrey Pines South? See what tens of thousands of simulations have to say.

Volatility is the name of the game in golf, and picking winners isn't easy. With fields of 150-plus golfers sometimes being separated by how a putt or two falls each week, predicting golf can be absurdly tough.

We'll never be able to capture everything that goes into a golfer's expectations for a week, but we can try to account for that by simulating out the weekend and seeing what happens.

The Process

Over the years, I have made plenty of tweaks to my original golf model, which uses a combination of the OWGR's field strength numbers and datagolf's field strength numbers to adjust each golfer's score relative to the field (on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Korn Ferry Tour).

The ultimate goal is to place a score from the Waste Management Open, the BMW International Open, and the Knoxville Open on level playing fields. This adjusted strokes metric lets me see how golfers are performing across all tours. From there, a golfer's adjusted stroke data is combined with their round-to-round variance to see how the field is likely to perform when playing out the event thousands of times.

In addition to that long-term adjusted form, I factor in course-level adjustments for course fit.

I run a second model that uses more granular strokes gained data, which allows me to very easily adjust for course fit. The results are averaged out.

I let the data do the talking and don't make many tweaks -- if any. Golfers with a small sample get regressed to a low-end PGA Tour player to round out their samples. Data points are weighted more heavily toward recent performance.

Here are the most likely winners for the U.S. Open, according to the models.

Golfer Simulated
Made Cut%
Win Odds
Jon Rahm6.3%36.7%82.6%+950
Xander Schauffele5.4%33.3%81.1%+1800
Dustin Johnson5.1%31.0%79.8%+1500
Bryson DeChambeau4.2%29.8%78.8%+1600
Justin Thomas3.9%26.7%77.8%+2300
Tony Finau3.5%26.7%77.1%+2400
Jordan Spieth3.3%24.6%75.3%+2100
Patrick Cantlay3.2%25.4%76.0%+2400
Viktor Hovland2.8%23.5%74.9%+2400
Rory McIlroy2.8%23.4%74.6%+1800
Patrick Reed2.7%22.1%74.4%+2800
Brooks Koepka2.5%20.6%72.7%+1800
Webb Simpson2.5%20.3%73.0%+5500
Daniel Berger2.4%20.0%72.6%+4400
Collin Morikawa2.3%20.9%72.5%+1900
Tyrrell Hatton2.2%18.7%71.2%+4200
Will Zalatoris1.8%17.8%70.4%+4100
Scottie Scheffler1.8%19.4%71.4%+4100
Jason Kokrak1.6%15.1%67.0%+7000
Louis Oosthuizen1.6%16.6%69.1%+5000
Paul Casey1.6%16.3%68.3%+4700
Joaquin Niemann1.5%15.5%67.9%+7000
Hideki Matsuyama1.4%15.5%67.3%+3400
Cameron Smith1.4%16.0%68.3%+6000
Matthew Fitzpatrick1.4%16.3%69.2%+6500
Abraham Ancer1.3%14.6%66.8%+7000
Corey Conners1.2%13.4%65.9%+7500
Harris English1.1%12.4%64.1%+9500
Charley Hoffman1.1%13.3%64.9%+8000
Sam Burns0.9%11.6%62.6%+11000
Shane Lowry0.8%11.2%62.3%+3700
Brian Harman0.8%11.2%63.3%+13000
Sergio Garcia0.8%10.1%60.8%+11000
Justin Rose0.8%9.7%59.5%+4700
Si Woo Kim0.7%9.7%60.0%+17000
Russell Henley0.7%7.6%56.1%+29000
Tommy Fleetwood0.7%8.5%57.8%+7500
Adam Scott0.7%9.1%58.8%+9500
Ryan Palmer0.7%9.0%58.9%+15000
Christiaan Bezuidenhout0.6%8.0%57.0%+16000
Carlos Ortiz0.6%8.5%58.4%+15000
Gary Woodland0.6%7.8%56.5%+9000
Max Homa0.6%8.9%58.8%+11000
Matt Wallace0.6%7.6%55.9%+15000
Billy Horschel0.6%7.5%56.4%+16000
Lanto Griffin0.6%7.7%57.8%+21000
Sungjae Im0.5%8.0%57.8%+8000
Stewart Cink0.5%8.8%57.9%+18000
Matt Jones0.5%8.0%57.7%+23000
Bubba Watson0.5%7.7%56.8%+15000
Kevin Streelman0.5%8.6%58.2%+18000
Marc Leishman0.5%6.4%53.6%+8500
Phil Mickelson0.5%5.8%53.2%+5500

The favorite by the betting odds, Jon Rahm (+950 at Golf odds) is technically the favorite in my model, but only just -- and not enough to want to bet him.

The betting value comes in positively on Xander Schauffele (+1800) and even on Justin Thomas (+2300), which is surprising. Schauffele has Torrey Pines ties and is feeling confident with his wristlock putting grip. We're really starting to get a strong number on Thomas, though, and that's appealing. Don't forget that Bryson DeChambeau could be had at +2800 the week of the U.S. Open last summer.

Other golfers who outperformed their betting odds in the simulations include Tyrrell Hatton (+4200), Daniel Berger (+4400), Webb Simpson (+5500 -- a former U.S. Open winner), Jason Kokrak (+7000), and Joaquin Niemann (+7000).

Tony Finau (+2400), Patrick Reed (+2800), and Louis Oosthuizen (+5000) are slight negative values but still in my consideration set.

The model is never high enough on Brooks Koepka (+1800) because he really does step up his game in majors, which is hard to quantify, and I don't aim to alter the stats to fit any narratives. However, I'm leaning toward betting Brooks at the top.

I'm settling in on Koepka, Schauffele, and Oosthuizen for now.