If PGA Tour players (along with some amateurs) want the ultimate pressure and challenge on the golf course, look no further than four days at a U.S. Open layout.
This week’s event, the 112th playing of the event and the PGA Tour’s third major of the year, will be played at The Country Club at Brookline, Mass.
It will be the fourth time the course has played host to the U.S. Open, the most recent one being 1988 when Curtis Strange won the first of his back-to-back U.S. Open titles. But, let’s get back to the challenge of playing and winning the U.S. Open.
The USGA, which runs the tournament, loves to make sure the course and players are on even terms. Par is the USGA’s friend.
Since 1930, when the USGA started tracking scores relative to par, the numbers are pretty startling compared to other PGA tournaments where a birdie-fest breaks out. The numbers tell the story of the USGA’s attempt to make it the toughest event players will face.
Even-par has won the tournament seven times and a one-over-par score has hoisted the trophy eight times.
On the other end of the spectrum, the winner has reached double figures just three times. Tiger Woods (imagine that!) hit 12-under-par in winning back in 2000 while Rory McIlroy’s winning total in 2011 was 16-under-par, and Brooks Koepka also was 16-under-par in winning in 2017.
But except for those three years, the course is usually the winner with players holding on for dear life. Some of the ways the USGA makes life tough for the players is lush rough and greens faster than your hardwood floors.
The bottom line is the player who makes the least number of mistakes has the best chance to hoist the trophy. It’s simple: Keep the ball in the fairway and trust your putting.
But, who has the best chance of doing that over four tough days on a course that has been set up to specifically test the world’s best players?
We’re about to find out.
Odds To Win The U.S. Open (BetMGM)
Rory McIlroy +1100
Justin Thomas +1400
Jon Rahm +1400
Scottie Scheffler +1400
Cameron Smith +2000
Patrick Cantlay +2200
Will Zalatoris +2200
Xander Schauffele +2000
Jordan Spieth +2500
As always, shop around the sports betting industry for the best odds on your plays.
The Elephant In The Room
The one big question on everyone’s mind: Will players like Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and others who have signed up for the Greg Norman-led LIV golf series show up?
As we found out last week, the answer is yes. With the USGA having control over the field, they have been ruled eligible to play by the powers-that-be at the USGA so that’s one hurdle that has been cleared.
The second hurdle is how will they handle the press, their peers and the golf fans on site?
For some of them it’s a no-brainer. Simply accept the criticism or even the accolades (after all, most are receiving bundles and bundles of cash to play in the new golf league) and move on to the tournament at hand.
After all, it’s the U.S. Open. It’s a major and every one of them wants majors on their resume. But there will be a lot of outside noise they will be facing especially due to the fact some of them have already resigned from the PGA Tour.
Will they decide it’s not a good idea and change their mind and stay away? Will they be competitive? Can any of them win?
The answer to all of those questions will be answered very shortly.
Odds Show It’s A Wide-Open Tournament
Three of the tournament favorites– Rory McIlroy (+1100), Justin Thomas (+1400) and Scottie Scheffler (+2000) played last week in preparation for this week’s event.
While all three played well (with McIlroy picking up the win), is playing the week before a major a good thing or a bad thing?
Only time will tell.
Without having a clear-cut favorite it’s going to come down to who handles the pressure the best, limits his mistakes and keeps cool under pressure. And with the scoring we showed earlier, there’s going to be plenty of pressure.
One more point: Every player should have his share of birdie putts. They have to make those chances pay off. A hot putter, especially on these quick greens, will put players in position to win come Sunday.
It may sound simple but remember, this is the U.S. Open.
Coming Into This As The Defending Champ
It’s time for everyone to jump back on the Jon Rahm bandwagon. Granted, he’s not coming into this major in top form but he’s getting closer. Having last week off may be a blessing in giving him an extra week to fine-tune his game.
Oh, and did we forget to remind everyone that he’s the defending champion after he posted a final-round 67 to pick up the first major of his career? But that was then and this is now.
In recent play, he won in Mexico as the heavy favorite the first week of May but that was sandwiched between poor (for him) showings at the Masters, where he was T-27 and at the PGA Championship where he finished T-48.
Now it’s time to turn it around. His most recent outing was a T-10 two weeks ago at the Memorial where he closed with a 69 to move 25 spots up the leaderboard and get that top-10 finish.
Under The Radar
Here’s one for the bettors who are searching for that longshot.
And we mean real longshot.
Louie Oosthuizen at +6600 needs to be on bettors’ radar for the simple reason he has top-10 finishes in the last three U.S. Opens.
He’s not coming into the tournament in good form, but all it takes is familiar surroundings (the course conditions, not the course itself) to help a player get back in top form. But that form does include a T-10 in last week’s inaugural LIV event which earned him a cool $560,000, so he is coming in with more in his bank account.
He was T-7 in the 2019 U.S. Open and followed that up with a solo third in 2020. He finished runnerup last year to Rahm. Let’s see…from seventh to third to second to…well, you get the picture.
Surprisingly he only has one PGA Tour win but it’s a major, the 2010 Open Championship. Here’s his chance to double his PGA Tour wins and at the same time double his major victories. The only caveat we have: Will he be focused after having jumped ship to the LIV tour?
Stay tuned to find out.