119th U.S. Open could produce high drama

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The 119th U.S. Open tees off Thursday at Pebble Beach Golf Links with several captivating storylines that should help produce some high drama, one of which is the course itself which curves along the Monterey Peninsula.

It’s one of the most gorgeous courses in the world, but it can also play like one of the nastiest when the winds come howling in off the Pacific Ocean. This will be the sixth time the U.S. Open has been held at Pebble Beach, the last coming in 2010 when Graeme McDowell battled the winds and won at even-par, and before that, it was Tiger Woods crushing the field by 15 strokes to win the first of his three U. S. Opens and third of his 15 major wins.

Woods comes in as one of the key stories and has been the most popular golfer bet over the last month at Las Vegas sportsbooks after winning the Masters this season, his first major victory since winning the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. 

“The most tickets we’ve written has been on Tiger, and it’s by a pretty good chunk,” said Caesars Palace sportsbook director Jeff Davis on Monday. “We’ve had Tiger at a high of 12-1, a low of 8-1, and now have him 10-1 just because of more recent action and larger wagers on other golfers.”

Station Casinos book director Jason McCormick says Woods has the most tickets written followed by Brooks Koepka (8-1) and the most risk is on Phil Mickelson (30-1) and Patrick Cantlay (16-1).

“The action has been fantastic so far, “McCormick said Monday. “And with Rory’s win this past weekend we are getting a good push on him as well.”

All McIlroy did in the RBC Candian Open was get progressively better in each round starting with a 67 on Thursday and ending with a 61 on Sunday to win by seven strokes. He’ll be looking for his fifth major win and second U.S. Open win. He went wire-to-wire in the 2011 U.S. Open.

Just about every book had some immediate reaction to McIlroy’s odds.

“We lowered Rory McIlroy from 15 to-1 down to 8-to-1 just because of the great round he had Sunday,” Davis said.

Along with McIlroy’s brilliance to pay attention to this weekend, Koepka’s attempt at winning three straight U.S. Opens looks to be the top story this week, just a notch above Tiger being back on the prowl. Only Willie Anderson from 1903-05 has won three straight U.S. Opens. 

Koepka defended his PGA Championship win last month, making him the only player to own back-to-back victories in two different majors simultaneously.

“We opened Koepka as the 6-1 favorite and he was bet the most initially following his PGA win,” Davis said. “But the last few weeks it’s been more action on other golfers to limit his risk and so he’s 9-1 now.”

The crazy thing about Koepka is that he finished a stroke back in the Masters and he could have been on his way to a Brookslam had Tiger not held on.

The new favorite to win this weekend was forced upon Caesars Palace by action taken and risk.

“We took a large wager in Mississippi on Dustin Johnson at 8-1 odds and now have him as the lone favorite to win at 7-to-1,” Davis said. “He deserves to be the favorite in part because of his past success at Pebble Beach which includes a couple wins, runner-up, fourth-place and then there was the 2010 U.S. Open where he blew a chance of winning by shooting an 82 on the last day after leading after the third round.”

Johnson’s only major win came in the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont and he comes in this week with two wins on the season as well as two runner-ups.

Mickelson is going for the career slam with the U.S. Open trophy be the only missing from his collection of five major wins. He’s been the U.S. Open runner-up six times. He turns 49 on Sunday and him walking down the fairways close to the lead would certainly be one of the weekend highlights. But the oldest golfer to ever win the U.S. Open was Hale Irwin in 1990 at Medinah.

Mickelson comes in having missed the cut in four of his last seven tournaments which makes his odds at 20-1 to 30-1 not too attractive. But it’s the bettors who set the market and it shows people still believe in Lefty.

The good news for the Mickelson bettors is that Pebble Beach has always been a good place for him with five PGA Tour wins there, including his only win of 2019 in the Pro-Am.

Handle this weekend for the U.S. Open is on pace to beat what most bet shops did for the PGA Championship but still be below what they did in the Masters which has a massive shelf life being posted after the British Open.

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