With Sergio Garcia having won the Masters, there will be many more arriving at Erin Hills in buoyant mood thinking that they too have a chance for a maiden win. The course can play to some 7800 yards off the back tees so on paper it could be brutally long and favour the bombers, however it is of course a U.S. Open so we would normally expect lots of rough and slick greens to properly test every part of their game.
Everything looks in place for another mouth-watering major this week. But can we find an edge on what appears to be another exciting golf betting event?
What will be required to win?
At some 7800 yards I think we really have to focus on the big hitters this week. Some of the better players who average sub 290 yards will contend but they had better have every other area of their game in perfect shape. Playing four days’ worth of approach shots with a 5 iron when DJ/Rahm etc are going in with wedge will take its toll on all but the steeliest of shorter hitters.
As well as needing to be fairly long off the tee, it is paramount to have an excellent iron game to contend at a U.S. Open and with blind approaches and fast greens this week it will be the same at Erin Hills.
The last ten winners of the U.S. Open averaged 8th for GIR and if picking one key attribute this week I think that would be it.
Scrambling will also be important but without lush rough around the greens the players will have the chance to use different shots and the standard scrambling statistic on the PGA Tour maybe doesn’t quite tell us everything we need to know.
Another key statistic for championship courses is scoring relative to par from approaches outside 200 yards. This is vital for saving par when out of position on a long par 4 or for making tap-in birdies on the par 5s. With Erin Hills having the potential to play as the longest in the history of the event then it might be even more important than normal. If the event does turn into a slog then patience will also be important as anyone who goes chasing a score that isn’t there on Thursday won’t be around come the weekend.
With the U.S. Open moving courses every year it isn’t as good as The Masters or The Players for trends but there is still some historical data that can help rule players out or in for those who enjoy a trends based approach.
- All 17 winners this century had at least a top 4 finish already that season.
- 16/17 of those winners had a previous U.S. Open Top 20 finish.
- 6/7 of the last winners had made the cut at the Masters that season.
- 6/7 had a top 12 finish last time out.
Dustin Johnson 9.0 : Current form – MC-13-12-2-1; US Open form: 1-2-4-55-MC
Both the reigning champion and favourite arrives at Erin Hills after a close to invincible 12 months. The improvement in his all-round game means he is currently the best player in the world and undoubtedly the man to beat. The long course together with the wide landing areas off the tee, make the course look ideal. The only negative is his price and a slight wobble last time out at Memorial when he missed the cut.
Jordan Spieth 15.5 : Current form: 13-2-MC-MC-4 ; US Open form: 37-1-17-MC-21
After a fairly quiet 2017 where some were questioning his long game, Spieth came flying back into the reckoning with a great tee-to-green performance at Memorial. With his solid US Open record he looks the right 2nd favourite although some may use his relative lack of length as a stick to beat him with this week. That didn’t stop him at Chambers Bay however and he will surely be involved in the shake-up come Sunday night.
Rory McIlroy 16.0 : Current form: 35-7-30-7-4; US Open form: MC-9-23-41-MC
Hasn’t been seen since The Masters and with that lack of competitive golf he is hard to fancy. The course sets up well for him but he surely can’t be considered before the off having not played in two months. Those who want to get involved may be better off watching the first round to see how he has recovered from a rib injury that looks likely to significantly impact his swing.
Jason Day 16.0 : Current form: 15-2-60-MC-22; US Open form: 8-9-4-2-59
Seemingly over his personal problems since his Mother was given the cancer all clear. Has shown patches of his 2015/22016 form, but he is surely making too many mistakes to win a US Open. However that is offset somewhat by an excellent record in the event and suitability to a course that looks a lot like Whistling Straits, the scene of his US PGA triumph.
Jon Rahm 21.0 : Current form: MC-2-MC-4-27; US Open form: Debut 23rd last year as amateur
On 2017 form he is the second best golfer in the world and the Spanish powerhouse has a great all-round game already at the age of 22. His temperament has looked a little suspect at times though and it’s far from a given that he will enjoy a patient US Open style test of golf. But he may not quite face that this year with Erin Hills appearing more US PGA than US Open.
Rickie Fowler 23.0 : Current form: 2-60-MC-11-3; US Open form: MC-MC-2-10-41
Seems to be judged to higher standards than most perhaps due to the profile he has built for himself. But ultimately he is a 2017 winner with a 2nd place finish last time out. Negatives are his poor Masters Sunday performance and missing his last two US Open cuts but that is factored into his price and he shouldn’t be dismissed lightly.
Justin Thomas 36.0 : Current form: 4-MC-5-22-39; US Open form: MC-DNP-32
Yet another to add to the list of “course suits perfectly”. Thomas also tailed off a little since his four win period through to January. Still playing very good golf however and was 4th at Memorial two weeks ago. Hard to see too many negatives at 36.0 barring maybe a mediocre US Open record to date.
My Top Fancy
I have liked Justin Rose for this most of the year. Firstly, he has an almost unrivalled record in majors for consistency over the last 5 years. Since 2012 he has played in all 21 majors, missing the cut just three times. Those 21 events have yielded 16 top 25s, with 6 of those providing returns for each way backers and of course he also has his 2013 U.S. Open win.
Rose’s game is built for majors, there are few who are as solid tee-to-green and as adaptable to any course. Difficult championship courses take the pressure off his short to mid-range putting and allow his ball-striking to rack up the pars.
The great thing about Rose is that he is just as home on a bomber’s layout as he is a fiddly, narrow course like Merion where he won in 2013.
The clincher with Rose this week is how he has played on courses similar to Erin Hills. Rose was 4th at Whistling Straits, 12th at Pinehurst No.2 but the most interesting one is his Scottish Open win. Just how much Erin Hills will actually play like a links course we don’t know but Rose’s confidence in his long game means he will be comfortable committing to a line and yardage despite not being able to see where the ball finishes.
To me there are the least negatives about Rose this week. Given his major record, there is still some value in his price, his consistency means he is almost assured to play well and his adaptability means however Erin Hills plays across the four days he will be fully prepared to handle it.
Outsiders to go well
While it looks very likely that one of the top 10 or so players in the world will come out on top this week I think there are still some longer prices around for golfers who are playing well and could at least contend, allowing us to either trade them or back them in the place markets.
Russell Henley, Kevin Chappell and Brendan Steele look like the perfect sort of low-profile, home-grown winner that we have seen over the years in U.S. majors, most recently Lucas Glover in 2009 and Webb Simpson in 2012. These left field winners are more likely to pop up at the U.S. PGA but Erin Hills has a little bit of a PGA type appearance.
Russell Henley has won already this year in Houston and he is also a fine wind player having won on exposed layouts in Hawaii and Florida. He doesn’t possess the best of U.S. Open records recently but he did finish 16th as an amateur at Pebble Beach. He also finished 12th at Whistling Straits in 2015 and arrives off the back of his best major finish to date at Augusta where he finished 11th. Henley first made his name on Tour as a brilliant putter so if he brings his best long game then he should be suited to the test.
Kevin Chappell will be on a few more radars having won in May and also finishing 4th last week. Chappell has long been my idea of a U.S. Open winner such is the consistency of his long game across 4 days on a tough course. His stats aren’t fantastic but in all honesty that isn’t really his game. He is all about making tough pars while others around him fall away. Despite this maybe not quite being the usual U.S. Open grind I think he is playing too well to leave out this week.
Brendan Steele looked a great top 20 bet at the Masters and only just fell short finishing 27th but he is slowly finding his feet at the majors. He was 15th at Oakmont last year confirming that he enjoys fast greens and his best major finish to date was at Whistling Straits where he also finished in a tie for 12th. The Texan is used to the wind and he is a two-time winner on Tour who I think has a contending major performance in him now as an experienced 34 year old. Given he is usually an unfashionable pick, he looks over priced in all the key markets.
If the links theme does play out then it might pay to have a proper links exponent on the team and for that reason I’m going to back Tyrrell Hatton and George Coetzee.
Last year Hatton was 5th at Royal Troon, he won the Alfred Dunhill Links and he also showed he is comfortable on long U.S. championship courses with another top 10 at Baltusrol. He will come into his own around these greens this week and should enjoy the test.
Coetzee is an absolute short game genius but he has been working hard on his long game too and has been reaping the rewards in Europe of late. He was last seen shooting a final round 66 to finish 4th at the Nordea Masters and that was the latest in a run of results which read 4-MC-8-8-11-8. Coetzee finished 7th at Whistling Straits and now that he feeling fitter and playing well he will fancy his chances of a good showing this week.
On the flip side there are plenty in the field that will have their work cut out on a long, firm U.S. Open course. I would be happy to be against those who don’t have the necessary touch around the greens but also anyone who doesn’t have control of their ball-flight at all times, be that from the tee or perhaps more importantly with their approach shots. It is not to everyone’s liking to lay golfers given the high odds that we are talking about but a good way of profiting from someone being unsuitable to a course is by backing against them in markets such as 72 hole match-ups.
My Outright Picks
Justin Rose – 2pts win at 28.0
Rickie Fowler – 1pt win @ 24.0
Kevin Chappell – 1pt win at 61.0
Tyrrell Hatton – 0.5pt win at 111.0
Russell Henley – 0.5pt win at 201
Brendan Steele – 0.5pt win 301
George Coetzee – 0.5pts win at 321
This course should suit both of these players very nicely but at the prices Pieters has to be backed. Koepka has a very impressive major record already with 4 Top 10s and 9 top 25s. But he hasn’t been at his best recently and he played poorly at the weekend around a course where he has finished 2nd and 3rd the last two years. Pieters was last seen finishing 14th at Wentworth which isn’t a course that you would expect him to enjoy.
He hits it as long as Koepka does but he has a far better touch around the greens.
The Belgian is destined for the very top of the game as his 4th place finish on his debut at the Masters proves. This match-up looks far more like a 50/50 sort of bet so the heavy odds against should be taken on Pieters.
Back Thomas Pieters
Again I just think this price is wrong and relies on the opinion that McIlroy is the better player of the two. I don’t subscribe to that theory personally and everything that we have seen in the last 4 years since Spieth arrived on the scene backs that up. I’m not saying that I think Spieth is better but I really don’t think there is much in it. But when we look at this bet at every major where they have both teed it up then Spieth would have returned the money ten times while McIlroy backers would only have won six times. Additionally people seem to think that Spieth is all about the putting but this season he ranks 1st in strokes gained: approach to the green while McIlroy’s figure would only be good enough for 3rd.
Spieth is also far and away better than McIlroy around the greens and with the short game test looking stiff around Erin Hills that should also be brought into consideration. Spieth should be at worst 50/50 here but you could argue that he should be nearer a 1.60 favourite even before you consider that McIlroy hasn’t played for 2 months with a rib injury. Take Spieth at 2.18 knowing that at the very least you are getting a value play.
Back Jordan Spieth