The U.S. Open heads back to New York for the second time in three years, this time at historic Winged Foot Country Club, home of Phil Mickelson’s disastrous 18th which cost him the 2006 U.S. Open and helped lift Geoff Ogilvy to his first major championship. The winning score that year? An incredibly-high 289, or +5, making it the highest-scoring winning number at the U.S. Open over the last 45 years! In other words, don’t expect the same scoring assault that you saw a year ago at Pebble Beach. A year ago at that Open, Gary Woodland held off Brooks Koepka from winning his third straight U.S. Open with an incredible finish that include a near chip-in on 17 and a long birdie putt on the last hole. Woodland enters this year, though, as a longshot to defend, while Koepka enters at the favorite.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Koepka is the current 8-1 favorite to win the U.S. Open. Koepka won the event in 2017 and 2018, including at challenging Shinnecock Hills where the winning score was +1. Koepka finished in the top-4 in all four majors a year ago and has finished as the winner or runner-up in four of the last five major championships. There’s no reason to pick against Koepka again as he rises to the occasion at every big tournament. At 8-1, it’s not a bad investment of your money.
Dustin Johnson, Rory McIloy and Jon Rahm are listed right behind Koepka at 10-1, with Tiger Woods at 14-1 and Justin Thomas at 20-1. Patrick Cantlay follows them at 22-1. Woods missed the cut the last time the U.S. Open was at Winged Foot, although there’s an asterisk next to it as it was the first tournament Woods played following the death of his father. That being said, it’s a challenging course for Woods where driving accuracy will be at a premium, something Woods has struggled with in recent tournaments and recent majors. The advantage Woods had at Augusta last year is you could miss off the tee there as rough is not a concern on that golf course. It is at Winged Foot.
The favorite I like the most of the group above is Patrick Cantlay at 22-1. Cantlay plays the major well. While he hasn’t won a big one yet, he has risen to the top-10 in the world and finished in the top-10 in two of last year’s four majors, including a third-place at the PGA Championship and a ninth place at the Masters where he actually led the tournament late on the back 9. Cantlay has finished in the top-5 in seven of his last 16 tournaments overall! He knows how to grind and get his name towards the top.
While McIlroy has played great over the last six months and has regained the Number 1 ranking in the world, he has struggled at the U.S. Open. Since his win at Congressional in 2011, McIlroy’s best finish was a T-9 in 2015 and 2019. He has finished in the top-10 just twice since his win. He does not play well for the same reason Woods has struggled; his driving accuracy tends to be off and he’s struggled on fast greens, hence his lack of a green jacket.
Three Long Shots to Play
The first longshot play I like is Xander Schauffele at 25-1. In fact, he’s worth a wise investment at every major this season as he is the most due of any golfer, and has played the majors the best of anyone outside of Koepka over the last two years. He finished runner-up at Augusta a year ago, third at last year’s U.S. Open, and is ranked ninth in the current world golf rankings. He has also finished in the top-6, including two runners-up, in four of his last seven major championships.
The second long shot I love is Webb Simpson. I would jump on him now with odds at 33-1 because they’re likely to come down. You could argue Simpson is one of the three or four golfers in the world right now despite his Number 7 ranking. Looking at his odds of 33-1, you would think he’s ranked outside the top-15. But Simpson has won a U.S. Open before and is the 2018 Players champion. He knows how to win the big ones. In Simpson’s last 10 starts, he has a victory, seven top-10s, and five top-3 finishes! In his last eight majors, he has finished in the top-20 six times and top-30 all eight times. He is an amazing value play at 33-1.
My final long shot play is going way down the board. Colin Morikawa comes in with odds of 70-1. Many who don’t follow golf has no clue who this is, but he is one of the young superstars in the game you will be hearing about in the next five years. He also is on good form. Since turning pro late last year, he has a win and four top-5 finishes. He is known for consistency. He won’t flash you with his distance or his fist-pumping, but he will flash you with his shot making and ability to stay calm under pressure, which is crucial in a U.S. Open. Mark my words: Morikawa will be a top-5 player in the world three or four years from now, and he will break out sooner rather than later.
Tips to Betting the U.S. Open
The U.S. Open is different from other majors, especially at Winged Foot. The courses are set up different and it’s more about pars rather than birdies. Don’t pick a player because he’s leading the field in birdies; rather, pick the guy who knows how to drive it straight and has great scrambling percentages. These are the guys that will be up there in the end.
When picking a long shot, you need to be realistic and pick guys who are playing well coming in. If a guy is finishing outside the top-10 every week, chances are he’s not going to find his game all of a sudden at Winged Foot. You want a guy coming in who is confident with his game. Not a lot of people picked Graeme McDowell in 2010, Webb Simpson in 2012, or even Gary Woodland a year ago, but all three of those guys entered the week with top-10 finishes all over their resume entering the Championship. Those are the long shots you want to play. I was lucky enough to have a 50-1 on Patrick Reed at the Masters in 2018 because Reed was finishing in the top-5 nearly every single week entering Augusta. He was due. Guys that are playing well tend to give themselves a chance to win on Sunday.
Also, recognize the current trend in golf and have in open mind. The game is getting deeper and deeper, and picking a major champion is difficult. Not many picked the last two major champions, Gary Woodland and Shane Lowry. Don’t automatically think the player that’s going to win is a top-10 player in the world. It’s very hard to win a major championship, and the U.S. Open is probably the toughest of the four to win because of how grueling the course is set up.
Props to Play
You don’t just have to pick a winner. There will be lots of other golf plays at the U.S. Open, such as where a player will finish, head-to-head matchups, will there be a hole-in-one, final score, and whether there will be a playoff. Many of those odds will open up the week before the tournament. Playoffs are extremely rare at the U.S. Open. In fact, you have to go back to 2009 to find the last time a U.S. Open went extra holes. The reason is the course is so difficult it tends to swallow up 99% of the guys and leaves a very left standing. So don’t go running to the window betting on a playoff.
Look at the weather and read news reports on the course setup when playing score totals, such as over/under lowest score of the championship and winning score. Winged Foot is very tough with 289 winning last time, but a lot of that had to do with a brutal setup and hard, fast conditions. If rain softens the course up, that allows for more birdies and a lower score. Also, the U.S. Open changed their philosophy a year ago, lightening the difficulty up a lot after the complaints at Shinnecock Hills. Mike Davis no longer is in charge of course setup, and it was under him where we saw the brutal scoring conditions in 2018, 2016, 2015, 2013, and 2012.
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