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Handicapping

The US Open Predictions

Event: The U.S. Open
When: June 15-18, 2017
Where: Erin Hills Ė Erin, WI
TV: FOX/FS1
by: Evergreen of Predictem.com

Go big or go home is cheesy little phrase that is often used by folks who are just about to attempt a feat that is equal parts brave and stupid. Well, it is go big or go home time for the PGA Tour with the 117th U.S. Open taking center stage this week. The USGA is not shy about taking the challenges of golf to the limits of fairness or sanity and the result is the most demanding golf tournament you could imagine. Wisconsin will add to its Major Championship profile with Erin Hills getting the hosting nod. The brutally long course sits only about a half hour away from Milwaukee but there will be no metro feel for the players and fans. Erin is going to have a more of a British Open look than many other U.S. Open sites like Congressional or Pinehurst but no matter the look or feel, it will definitely be difficult.

Dustin Johnson is the betting favorite (13/2) and will look to go back-to-back at the U.S. Open after a stellar win last year. The USGA favors superstar pairing so DJ will be joined by Jordan Spieth and Martin Kaymer for the first two days. Jason Day, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy are grouped together with Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler and Joh Rahm teeing up for the first two rounds. Three Masters champs will go around as well with Bubba Watson, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia making up the last of the truly star-studded groups. There is a good chance that the winner will emerge from one of the groups but the U.S. Open plays no favorites and the overt level of difficulty will quickly separate those who are not playing up to the Open standard, regardless of name power.

There is very little known about Erin Hills in terms of first hand player experience. The 7,693 yard, par-72 course was carved out of the Southeast Wisconsin landscape barely ten years ago and just the few that were in the 2011 U.S. Amateur field are going to have any kind of specific course knowledge. The 7,693 yards of raw distance are just short of the record setting length of Chambers Bay but the USGA has the room to stretch Erin Hills out to nearly 7,800 yards if they so choose. All four par-5 holes stretch over 600 yards and two par-4ís will measure 500 yards. That unadulterated distance looks to favor the big hitters but you simply cannot play this course from anywhere outside the fairways. The short grass isnít ribbon tight like some U.S. Open editions but there is not much room once you get off the fairways before you enter potentially unplayable fescue grass. The primary cut of rough is nasty and spinach-like for sure but the fescue is essentially a hay field and it will be a chore to find balls in that grass much less play a golf shot from it. The property overall is rolling and plagued by dunes and sand traps, similar to Whistling Straits and other American links style venues. The USGA is not afraid of having a winning total come in over par and Erin Hills could provide that after three straight years of 4-under or better needed to gain a victory. The course has seen plenty of rain as storms passed through late Monday through early Tuesday so the early rounds might score a bit easier but look for the weekend to ramp up the difficulty as the course dries out and the pin positions get tough.

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Justin Rose (22 to 1 to win)

Rose broke through in 1998 as the low amateur at the British Open but it would take until the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion before he would win a Major Championship. Since that win, Rose has missed just two cuts with five top-10 finishes in all Major events. He has missed just one cut on the season and is plenty rested since last teeing it up at the Players Championship. I think you have to be a top-notch ballstriker to win this or any U.S. Open and Justin is just that with top-15 ranks in both tee shot and overall tee-to-green categories. I also think you need to be an above average distance player, especially if the course is playing slow due to rain, and Rose qualifies there as well with a top-30 driving distance. He is top-10 in both birdies and scoring despite relatively average putting stats so he will contend if he can figure out the greens early.

Paul Casey (50 to 1)

Casey must be among the best players that have yet to win a Major. I think 13 Euro PGA Tour wins puts him in that group but he is also in that conversation based on skill set. I would not be surprised to see Casey win a Major or two in the back half of his career and it could be a U.S. Open based on his overall ballstriking ability. He enters the week 18th in total driving, 7th in greens hit and 3rd in overall approach performance so I think he will be able to tackle the tee-to-green challenges at Erin Hills. Casey isnít gaining strokes on the greens most weeks but he does turn in the 15th best scoring average so the putter isnít poor either. He adds a top-5 scrambling rate so the clutch gene is there and he will need that to survive this week.

Louis Oosthuizen (50 to 1)

The 2010 British Open champion should be considered a threat at any shot making event and he has what appears to be a leg up on the links style US Open set up after a T2 in 2015 at Chambers Bay. Erin Hills is supposed to be quite different from Chambers but I think the general challenge of controlling your ball on every shot still applies and Louis is exactly that kind of player. Oosty hasnít missed a Tour cut this season and has a couple of nice contending runs with T2 at the Players and a T3 in Phoenix against a strong field. He is top-20 in tee-to-green performance, adding a top-20 mark in scrambling as well. That scrambling ability helps turn in the 23rd best scoring average despite a birdie average that is outside the top-125. It is going to be a grind this week and Louis has that ability to grind out pars, stay patient and gain strokes on the field by simply avoiding the disasters.

Head-to-Head Matches

Picks to win based on predicted score after all four rounds. Check with your 5Dimes Sportsbook for the best array of single round matches and a the best variety of prop bets.

Matt Kuchar v. Jason Dufner (pick to win: Dufner)

The books were right to pair these fellas together if they wanted a 50/50 split on tickets because hashing through the stat sheets here and picking a winner seems to be a coin flip. Both men should handle Erin Hills well as both have the type of control game that will help them avoid a trainwreck day. There is really no meaningful difference between these players statistically other than Dufnerís edge in birdie average. Jason is 21st in birdies per round entering the week with Kuch at 134th.† The scoring nets to about the same so Dufner is making a few more mistakes on average but I do think that ability to score a few more birdies will pay off through the week.

Rickie Fowler v. Jon Rahm (pick to win: Fowler)

Here is another popular pairing with both scheduled to do well this week. Rahm is making a hard charge to be in that group of young guns that are ready to take over but he needs a bit more Open seasoning to be a serious challenger right now. Rickie just missed a win at the Memorial and remains 3rd in both birdies and scoring. Rahm is not hitting fairways at the rate you would like heading into a U.S. Open venue so that might lower his ceiling a bit and really take his aggressiveness away. Rickie is coming into his veteran status while still being at the top of his physical game which is a nice combination. Fowler is motivated to win and there are few that can beat him when he is on. These players will tee it up together for the first two rounds and that gives Rickie a little edge most likely as he will have the crowd support.

Good luck and good golf.

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