Brooks Koepka is the man to beat in this week’s third major championship of 2019, the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. The 29-year-old has won four of the past eight majors he has played and that’s only half the story.
This week he is seeking a third straight U.S. Open victory and he said ahead of last month’s PGA Championship: “Sometimes majors are the easiest to win. Half the people shoot themselves out of it and mentally I know I can beat most of them.” He then proved as much, dominating the field all week and winning by two.
FanDuel lists Koepka as the U.S. Open golf betting co-favorite at +850 along with Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy. But here are four players who could derail his run.
Phil Mickelson (+5000): The Course Specialist
Five of the six previous U.S. Open champions at this course had already tasted victory there. What’s more, two of them (Jack Nicklaus in 1972 and Tiger Woods in 2000) won there twice in the season and Dustin Johnson very nearly made it three when he led this event by three strokes after 54 holes.
Can 48-year-old Mickelson complete the double? He was certainly ruthless in victory this February, his final day 65 hunting down leader Paul Casey. It was his fifth win on the course and he has spent his life putting on Poa Annua grass. It is his last chance saloon in his quest for this title and there could be no better location for him. He’s +5000 in golf futures betting with top bookmakers.
Brandt Snedeker (+5000): The Poa Annua Expert
Long term, medium term, short term. You name it, Snedeker has proved himself on these tricky greens. To begin with he is not only a two-time winner on the course (in 2013 and 2015), but he has also claimed a pair of victories on Poa Annua at Torrey Pines, another blustery seaside course in California.
He started this season in October with second in the Safeway Open at Silverado, another California course with Poa greens. And what about recently? Only last week he shot 60 Friday and finished fourth on, you’ve guessed it, yet more Poa Annua in the Canadian Open. You can back him at +5000 in golf futures betting.
Jordan Spieth (+2000): The Last Major Expert
It took Koepka 22 major starts to win his fourth major; Spieth looked set to get there even sooner when he reached win No. 3 in 19 appearances. Spieth is stuck on that number but that fact that since then he has twice finished third and only once (in seven starts) finished outside the top 25 proves how we’ve come to overlook his own prolonged excellence.
Moreover, Spieth is a Pebble Beach winner (in 2017) and arrives with three top-10 finishes on the bounce. In golf futures betting, 888Sport rates him a +2000 shot.
Dustin Johnson (+850): The Nearly Man
First things first: Johnson in the majors is almost the polar opposite of Koepka. The latter has four major wins in 22 starts; Johnson has one win in 40. Koepka possesses the freakish ability to win the big ones, Johnson the uncanny knack of losing them in a remarkable variety of ways.
But Johnson has seven top-five finishes at Pebble Beach including two wins, and he wouldn’t be the first golfer to fluff his lines in a final round at a course and return there to right the wrong. He can be backed in golf futures betting at +850.
How Koepka’s Game Matches Up With Pebble Beach
Four of the five previous winners of the U.S. Open played at Pebble Beach have won the AT&T Pro-am, a tournament hosted by the course every year. In that sense, Koepka doesn’t fit the bill because his only appearance reaped eighth. However the exception to that rule was Graeme McDowell in 2010. His previous best at Pebble? Eighth.
An important factor this week is the Poa Annua grass on the greens – it is famously fickle and infuriates many players. Koepka has won majors at Shinnecock Hills and Bethpage Black on it but did admit last month: “I’m not the most confident person on Poa believe it or not.”
Many will also suggest that Pebble Beach is a links-like test. That’s not true, but it is frequently blustery and Koepka’s least successful major efforts have been in the Open Championship when the wind has blown (his best finish of tied sixth was at a calm Birkdale).
Perhaps the biggest factor against Koepka is a simple case regression to mean. To be this prolific at the majors is remarkable and winning a third U.S. Opens in a row has been achieved just once, by Willie Anderson in 1905.