Rory McIloy and Jordan Spieth head the market for this week's US Open, but it could pay to look further down the betting list for some value alternatives.
The 115th edition of the US Open tees at Chambers Bay, Washington on Thursday and it promises to be like no other renewal due to a layout more akin to a British links-style (seaside) course, with very wide fairways and fescue grass throughout.
Phil Mickelson has likened it to St Andrews (which hosts the Open Championship next month) and according to Tiger Woods it’s the closest thing to a links Uncle Sam has to offer. Both are past winners of our Open (thrice in the case of Woods) and other great links exponents near the head of the market include Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson (he got there eventually!) and Rory McIlroy (providing the wind doesn’t blow!). At bigger odds, the likes of Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley, Louis Oosthuizen, Ernie Els and Shane Lowry are all shown they like this particular form of golf.
But it’s not just links form we should be looking at – if only it was that simple! For one, wind (a constant factor on British links) will not be coming to the course’s defence this week with benign conditions forecast all four days – Rory will be pleased. Just as important is length off the tee and Brooks Koepke, who played in the 2010 US Amateur Championship here and ranks 10th on Tour for Driving Distance, summed it up when he said: “It’s perfect for bombers, I think it’s great. Fairways are 60 yards wide sometimes, close to 100 yards wide it feels like, so if you’re a bomber and hit over 300 yards I think it’s paradise for you.” (more of him in a bit).
I think we can safely add scrambling skills to the identikit winner. The typical US Open setup demands these and Chambers Bay even more so. Ian Poulter caused a stir when tweeting the course was a “farce” and he was joined in his disapproval by Ryan Palmer, who said “it’s not a complete championship golf course” where the greens are concerned. That’s harsh and both have probably beat themselves before teeing off, but some imagination around the greens is clearly going to be required – players may have aim 20-30 yards off line from the pin in order to get it close – and whoever lifts the trophy on Sunday will have scrambled for his life over the four days.
So, who are the most likely winners? – I hear you say. Rory for sure and I wouldn’t be too worried by his two missed cuts leading up to this – he’s notoriously inconsistent and could easily bounce back. I’d rather back him than reigning US Masters Champ Jordan Spieth, who hasn’t done much in two Open Championships (44th and 36th) and is tied-69th in the Tour’s Driving stats. But as always bookies have the Northern Irishman’s measure at just 8/1 and the following five players all offer more in the way of value in what is a wide open US Open.
Hideki Matsuyama @ 35/1 Paddy Power
The Japanese 23-year-old has been a regular fixture on leaderboards all season and is coming off his eighth top-10 finish (including five top-5s) at the Memorial Tournament, which was also the scene of his maiden Tour victory in 2014. A brilliant amateur and a multiple winner on home soil, he looks destined for Major success before too long and it could come this week. He finished tied-10th on his US Open debut in 2013 and bettered that when finishing tied-6th at the Open Championship later that year, played on a links layout of course. What makes him really interesting, though, is his scrambling skills – ranked seventh on Tour – and the fact he sits third in the all-around ranking tells you he has no weaknesses to his game.
Brandt Snedeker @ 45/1 bet365
Snedeker is an even better scrambler – ranked third on Tour – and is one of those players who you can say is “due a Major”. That doesn’t always translate into one of course – just ask Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood – but ‘Sneds’ is the right age at 35 and invariably finds himself in contention on the Sunday of this particular Major, as his form figures of 23 (20007)-9-MC-8-11-17-9 demonstrate. A winner of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am earlier this year, he’s been playing some nice golf coming into this with a tied-2nd at Colonial and tied-6th at the Byron Nelson on his last two starts. What’s more he has ‘previous’ in the Open Championship, finishing third at Royal Lytham in 2012.
Brooks Koepke @ 66/1 BetVictor
Unlike Poulter and Palmer (along with several others), Koepke has been sounding positive about taking on Chambers Bay and he does have some experience of the track having played in the 2010 US Amateur here. He’s got every right to be feeling chipper too has he has the game to prosper here and not just because he hits it a country mile off the tee – he sits 8th in the all-around rankings and has no real weakness, other than his lack of experience playing in Majors. That said, he didn’t fare to badly when fourth in last year’s US Open and having played a lot of his golf on the European Tour, including on links courses, he’ll have a better idea than most of what to expect.
Webb Simpson @ 100/1 BetVictor
It was a toss-up between Simpson and Rickie Fowler for the next pick and Fowler lost out by virtue of his relatively skinny price of 22/1 – which is ridiculous when you consider his poor winning record – and the weather forecast. Fowler excels in the wind and rain, while others struggle, and he might find it hard to separate himself from the pack. Simpson, on the other hand, has been there, done that and got the t-shirt in terms of the US Open, winning the 2012 version at the Olympic Club, which moved him to as high as fifth in the World Rankings. He’s struggled to reach the same heights since, but a tied-2nd in Charlotte two starts back suggests his game is in pretty good shape coming into this week and he’s another who has the necessary skills (5th all-around, 15th scrambling) to contend.
Phil Mickelson @ 18/1 Betfred
How could I leave Mickelson out given his Major record? The mercurial left-hander has five Majors to his name and, while the US Open has so far eluded him, he’s managed to finish runner-up five times no less and third once. At 45, time is running out but this week’s venue definitely gives more experience players like him an edge and who wouldn’t have been impressed by his final round 65 in last week’s St Jude Classic. That will will have teed him up perfectly for this and you could see the glint in his eyes when talking about his prospects for this week, saying he had a “game plan” in place, which I seem to remember him saying before he won the 2013 Open Championship. He’s lost none of his touch around the greens and it would be truly epic if he can land the career Grand Slam on Sunday – don’t bet against it!
All five selections are with bookmakers offering place terms of one quarter the odds, six places – don’t accept anything less!