The U.S. Open
Date: June 14-17, 2018
Location: Shinnecock Hills GC - Southampton, NY
By Evergreen, Golf Betting Handicapper, Predictem.com
We are again at the threshold of the second Major championship of the PGA Tour season and it is time again to worship at the altar of the USGA and ridiculously hard golf. Shinnecock Hills will serve as host for the 118th U.S. Open, marking the fifth time the venerable New York course has held this championship. In previous versions, Shinnecock has played favorite to veteran talent but there are plenty of young guns looking to take down that coveted U.S. Open trophy. Dustin Johnson, fresh off a win in Memphis, is the odds-on favorite to win this week but Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth are also seeing a lot of betting action. Brooks Koepka defends his 2017 U.S. Open title at 22 to 1 odds, the same as Tiger Woods. Justin Thomas and Jason Day also standout atop a strong field that is tightly limited to those who have earned the right to play. Winners of past events and those inside exempt ranking thresholds have gained entry but sectional qualifiers are also teeing it up, including Keegan Bradley, Steve Stricker and Adam Scott. A list of amatuer qualifiers round out the full field.
That field will be tasked with solving a Shinnecock layout that has seen the hands of the mysterious and devilish “Open Doctors”. The 7,445 yard, par-70 course is an American Links style track that is much more reminiscent of something you would see overseas than on the East Coast. There isn’t a tree to be found on the course but there are plenty of wide swaths that contain thick rough and fescue. Those tall grass areas even reach up to and around the greens so the need for accuracy is relentless at Shinnecock. Winning scores in past Opens here have ranged from even par to 4-under but there is plenty of conjecture that this year’s scores will be better as Shinnecok’s fairways are being widened from the standard set in previous events. The average fairway this week will measure roughly 40 yards wide which is about 10 yards more than in 2004 when Retief Goosen won. That is an important factor as the thickest rough lies just off the fairways on most occasions so that extra room will save strokes for sure. The tall grass and sand challenges are reminiscent of Chambers Bay and Erin Hills. Both of those U.S. Opens featured scoring that was easy by USGA standards with Brooks Koepka going 16-under to win last season. I haven’t heard anyone predicting that level of scoring but no one is suggesting an over-par winner is likely either. This should play into the hands of the ball strikers rather than the bombers but anyone that can put together a good run of tee-to-green success should be in great shape. Recovering from around these greens will be another big factor as pars will be huge. It is so difficult to control the spin from the rough that it can become impossible to stop the ball on these greens, even from just around the putting surface. Those that can keep it in the fairway and control the approaches will see a big advantage over the field.
Each week, we take a look at the board at Bovada and highlight some of the best values on the board. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple head-to-head matches that you can find at just about any golf betting outlet. Here are our picks to win the 2018 U.S. Open.
Rory McIlroy (14 to 1)
This might not be the most imaginative pick but talent wins out at tough events more often than not and there are few that are more skilled from tee-to-green than Rory. He led the Tour in off-the-tee metrics in 2016 and was third in that category last year. He enters the week 22nd in off-the-tee performance but the bottom-line is that no one outside of Dustin Johnson is better with the driver than Rory when he is on his game. McIlroy has putted pretty well in 2018, netting the 13th best scoring average and his win at the Palmer shows he can win against a stacked field. He has been a cut victim in each of the last two U.S. Opens but he does have a win back in 2011 and I would rather have a guy that has been there before than look to someone who has yet to prove himself on this stage. McIlroy is an underrated recovery player but he is adept around the greens (currently 26th in scrambling) and has seen enough Major Championship golf to know the smart play in a variety of scenarios. If he is finding the fairways, there is no way he is not among the leaders heading into the weekend.
Matt Kuchar (55 to 1)
Kuch is getting long in the tooth but experience has proven to be necessary at Shinnecock and few outside of guys like Tiger and Phil have been through as many battles as Kuchar. Matt has the right low-key approach to stay grounded through a difficult week and he checks all the right accuracy boxes. He is 12th in sand saves and 30th in scrambling so he should be a good fit for a low scoring pace. He also ranks 18th in approach proximity which helps him not only hit it close on the green but also miss close and set up easy up and downs. He is looking for his first Major championship but Matt has a FedEx playoff win at the Barclays, a WGC win and a Players Championship so he has elevated to win multiple second-tier events. He was T12 and T16 in 2015 and 2017, respectively so he should be in good shape if Chambers Bay and Erin Hills are good predictors of this week. He is also coming off a T13 at the Memorial so the recent trend is good. A winning score of 10-under or more might outpace Kuchar’s chances but something like 4 or 5-under would be right in Matt’s wheelhouse.
Francesco Molinari (66 to 1)
Molinari is still in search of his first win in the states but it seems constantly possible, especially after a BMW win vaulted him to 18th in the world ranks. The U.S. Open relevant stats for Franky are his 7th best off-the-tee numbers and 15th ranked overall tee-to-green game. There are few that are better than that in this field and none are close to providing a 66 to 1 payout. The trouble for Molnari comes on the greens where he ranks outside the top-175 in just about every putting category. That hits his birdie numbers as well as par-saves but I feel fine with laying a modest wager here and hoping the putting perks up with all the rest looking good. He has made the cut in just half of his career U.S. Open so this is a legit longshot but I think he has enough elements in his favor to lean on and produce a career result if it all breaks the right way.
Picks to win based on predicted score for all four rounds. Check with your favorite online betting site for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.
Thomas has snuck past Spieth in the eyes of some and is 14 to 1 to win this week with Spieth not far behind at 18 to 1. It would not be a shock to see Thomas beat Jordan, or any other top player for that matter, but I think the books have it a bit wrong here. Spieth is still as gutty as they come and that is a factor at an event like the U.S. Open. Jordan is 2nd in greens hit on Tour and has an edge in fairways found over Thomas. Justin has the slight edge in birdies and scoring but that is only due to a large advantage in putting so far. Basically, Spieth has dueled Thomas to a relative stalemate on the stat sheet while not putting up to his standards. If Spieth remains pedestrian on the greens this week, he remains at risk to have a less than stellar result but even an average week with the putter should have Jordan in the top-20 at worst. As the 2015 U.S. Open champ, Spieth has a win on a links course and also won this head-to-head at Augusta this year. Its a nip-and-tuck pick on paper but I think too many are discounting how good Spieth was over his run and at 24 years old, he isn’t all of a sudden going away.
I have hammered Mickelson over the last few years as a big name that was mostly incapable of rising to the level he set for himself throughout his career. The sportsbooks still listed Phil against capable opponents and I was all too happy to take Lefty’s opponent in these head-to-head pairings. That is not the case with Watson as Bubba is wild off the tee and does not possess the recovery game that Phil does. Watson really isn’t cut out for the U.S. Open as his five made cuts in eleven starts would suggest so there are few scenarios that I would pick Bubba in anyway. Mickelson has six career runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open so the extensive experience is there and he has made the Open cut in 23-of-26 chances. Phil has missed four of his last eight Major cuts overall but I think he still has that ability to focus and perform beyond his current trend under the right circumstances. Neither of these players are inside the top-125 in fairways hit so both could be in serious trouble off the tee but there is no question that Phil is the better recovery player. He really is just more comfortable playing from the garbage than anyone on Tour. Phil is about 100 spots better than Bubba in the putting ranks and manages top-9 marks in birdies and scoring with Bubba outside the top-45 in those categories. It is a scary bet in some regard but Phil is the play for the U.S. Open.
Good luck and good golf!