Frequently dubbed as the most difficult of the four majors, the U.S. Open is this year played at Erin Hills, a course which can be stretched out to up to 8000 yards in length. Quite what the point would be in turning the event into a long drive contest is anyone’s guess but, given the fact the par for the course is the normal 72, the official yardage of 7741 does at least become a little less daunting.
That being said, as with all U.S. Opens, this Wisconsin track will naturally favour the long hitter. There is simply no getting away from that fact. However, the search for the short grass off the tee isn’t as elusive as previous years – the fairways here are 50-60% wider than at previous renditions of this event – something which will allow the shorter hitters to pull the driver out of the bag more often that not.
As far as tips go, the “Big Four” – Johnson, McIlroy, Spieth and Day – come into the event with odds ranging from 7/1 to 14/1. As ever, it’s difficult to split them. Johnson has just become a father for the second time so can hardly have had a preparation which justifies his 7/1 price tag. Then again, it’s not like he’d have forgotten to play overnight, and he apparently played a couple of practise rounds here last week. 10/1 might have convinced me but 7? There’s better value elsewhere.
Oddly despite the fact he’s on the comeback from a rib injury and has a bunch of new TaylorMade clubs in the bag, I like McIlroy’s chances this week. Having got married recently I like that he is now settled off the course – something which is widely deemed to have influenced Sergio’s win at Augusta (albeit he gets married later in the summer). He’s using the new TaylorMade Spider putter and hits it plenty long enough to compete. A strong first two days will make him difficult to beat – his four major titles have all been wire to wire wins where he’s led the field after each day.
As for Spieth and Day, I probably prefer the latter’s value at 14/1. Although Spieth did play here back in 2011 in the U.S. Amateur, he reportedly can’t remember much about the course. Day on the other hand hasn’t demonstrated the form of previous seasons but has notched a T2 and a 15th in his two most recent events. A long hitter, he ranks 145th in driving accuracy so will benefit from the added leeway off the tee. #moxeystips therefore sees McIlroy and Day as the options offering the best value from this pack.
Is there money to be made elsewhere? Of course there is. #moxeystips has pulled a few names out in a bid to emulate my somewhat successful showing at Augusta. Odds are from betfair, who are paying 8 places.
Jon Rahm – 18/1
How long it takes the Big Four to merge into the Big Five is surely only a matter of time. 22 year old Rahm will have taken inspiration from his compatriot Garcia winning the Masters two months ago as he looks to clinch his own first major title. Such has been the Spaniard’s meteoric rise it was only this time last year that he was collecting the prize for top amateur at this event. Fast forward 12 months and he’s notched up more top 10’s than any other player on tour this year. Immaculate from tee to green, if he has a good week with the flat stick he’ll be tough to beat – but is 18/1 too short for a man with only one PGA Tour victory? #moxeystips rating: 7/10
Rickie Fowler – 20/1
Due a major title. Erin Hills is an open course with no trees that will be susceptible to wind, something which could lend a links-type feel to the event. Fowler is a versatile player whose game is perhaps more versatile than that of his average countryman – note, for instance, his win at the 2015 Scottish Open and T2 at the Open in 2014. Converted a 54 hole lead into a win for the first time this year and ranks third in this season’s scoring averages. #moxeystips rating: 8/10
Adam Scott – 28/1
Bare with me. At 28/1, I like Scott’s chances. The Aussie averages over 302 yards off the tee and ranks 10th in this season’s scoring averages. He comes into the week with two top 10’s in his last three events and in his last 20 major appearances has only been outside the top 20 five times. Has been let down in recent times by one poor round within the four so if he can keep that off his card then don’t be surprised to see the 36 year old bag his second major. #moxeystips rating: 9/10
Louis Oosthuizen – 40/1
I like the South African’s chances here. For starters, he’s due a good major showing. Since his two runner up finishes at the U.S. Open and Open in 2015, his best major finish is a 15th at last year’s Masters. He comes into the week off the back of a T2 at the Players, frequently labelled the “5th Major”, in May after a pair of 73s at the weekend. He followed that up with an 18th at the AT&T a week later and has been sharpening his game for these four days ever since. The winner of the 2010 Open Championship, the 34 year old knows how to get over the line in an event of this magnitude so I really like his 40/1 starting price. #moxeystips rating: 8/10
Shane Lowry – 50/1
Given the tendency of Americans to win their home open championship it has perhaps been foolish to have picked only one home player in my five picks but it was simply too difficult to leave Lowry on the sidelines. T9 in 2015 and T2 last year but Lowry has hardly set the world alight in 2017, something which has caused his price to drift a little. But this is a course which will suit his style of play. A long, high hitter with a deft touch around the greens, I’d be surprised if the Irishman doesn’t compete well. #moxeystips rating: 7/10
Ones to watch
Ross Fisher – 125/1: Englishman Fisher was resurgent last season and added a QF finish in the WGC Matchplay to his T3 at the WGC in Mexico this year. Tees it up here for the first time since 2010. 9/2 for a top-20 finish looks good value. #moxeystips rating: 8/10
Si Woo Kim – 150/1: The 21 year old South Korean catapulted himself to #28 in the world with his recent win at the Players Championship. If he was American his odds would probably be around the 40/1 mark. 23/10 for a top-40 finish. #moxeystips rating: 6/10
Alexander Levy – 200/1: Good odds for a man who, despite having barely scratched the surface of the PGA Tour, is a consistent performer in Europe. #moxeystips rating: 7/10
Berger, Kisner, Hatton, Rahm, Wiesberger, Fowler, Grace, Casey and Lowry to make the cut AND Willett, Fleetwood and Els to miss the cut: 62/1
Top Spaniard – Jon Rahm (EVS)
Top Swede – Alex Noren (7/4)
Top Argentinian – Emiliano Grillo (1/2)
First round leader – Dustin Johnson (14/1)
Top South African – Louis Oosthuizen (11/4)
Selected bets – £10
£1 on McIlroy
50p on Fowler to win
£2.50 EW on Scott
£1 EW on Oosthuizen
50p EW on Fisher
£1 on the accumulator