U.S. Open Betting Preview

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It’s already time for the second major championship of the year, as the USGA and historic Merion Golf Club play host to the 113th U.S. Open.
 
2013 U.S. Open Fact Sheet

  • Course: Merion Golf Club – East Course
  • Location: Ardmore, Pennsylvania
  • Yardage: 6,996 yards, par 70
  • Defending Champion: Webb Simpson
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson

TV Schedule:

  • Thursday – 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM ET (ESPN) 3:00 to 5:00 PM ET (NBC) & 5:00 to 7:00 PM ET (ESPN)
  • Friday – 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM ET (ESPN) 3:00 to 5:00 PM ET (NBC) & 5:00 to 7:00 PM ET (ESPN)
  • Saturday – 1:30 to 7:30 PM ET (NBC)
  • Sunday –  1:30 to 7:30 PM ET (NBC)

Key Storyline This Week
 
There are a number of different things to pay attention to here, with the obvious focus on Tiger Woods and his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ 18 career major championships. Despite the fact that he’s having a crazy good season, people won’t be satisfied until he wins another major, and realistically, he won’t be satisfied either. Other things to look out for include the idea that so many of the world’s best players are still looking for their first major win. Four of the top ten ranked golfers in the world, and thirty-five of the top fifty are trying to grab that first one, including some guys who have been trying for quite a while. Lastly, how will Merion hold up with the monsoon-like weather that has hit the Philly area? The talk a few weeks ago was that if it was going to play hard and fast, the winning score would likely be right around even par, but if the rain made the course soft, it would likely get into double digits under par. That’s something the USGA wants to avoid at all costs, so it’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out.
 
Merion Golf Club
 
I can honestly say that it’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited for a U.S. Open, just because of the course it’s being played on. I have heard so much about Merion over the years, but since the last professional event played here was back in 1981, I have never actually seen it played on live. Even though it’s really short by today’s standards, Merion should provide a stiff challenge with tight fairways and fast greens. It’s very strong architecturally, with a classic design that is rarely seen on the more modern courses and considering that only a few of the players in the field have ever played the course, and none of them have professionally, it should lead to a very exciting four days in Pennsylvania. And yes, the photo above is of a pin at Merion, with their signature wicker basket flags, which will be used all week.
 
In terms of what we’re looking for with players this week, driving distance won’t be of massive importance with the shorter than usual layout, but accuracy will be needed. The USGA will make sure that the rough is as thick as ever, making it very difficult to attack greens and pins from anywhere but the fairway. The greens, even with all of the rain, are expected to run as high as 12.5 or 13 on the Stimpmeter, so the guys who can deal with fast greens will have a big edge as well. The embedded playlist below shows off every hole on Merion’s layout, and I strongly suggest watching it.
 

 
Thoughts On The Favourites

  • Tiger Wooods: The last time we saw Tiger Woods was at the Memorial a few weeks ago, and people were freaking out over his third round 79, with some even suggesting that it meant he had no chance to win at Merion. You should probably stop reading and talking to those people. Truth be told, I’m not sure what to expect from him this week, but don’t forget that this is a guy who has won four of his nine starts worldwide this year. Still though, the odds are too short with him for me to suggest a play this week.
  • Rory McIlroy: McIlroy has officially taken control of the “most confusing player in the world” title, as I don’t think anyone, himself included, knows what to expect on a weekly basis these days. I won’t be surprised if he wins it this week, and I won’t be surprised if he misses the cut badly. We might have to start getting used to that from him going forward.
  • Matt Kuchar: The human ATM machine just keeps on rolling. Kuchar was the runner-up at Colonial a few weeks ago before winning his last start at the Memorial, and there are many people pegging him as the champion this week. He’s won everything that he can to this point except for a major and the course should set up well based on his skill set.
  • Adam Scott: The reigning Masters champ has never fared well at the U.S. Open, missing six cuts in eleven events and posting his best finish last year with a T-15. He also plays a very limited schedule these days, and even though you shouldn’t count him out, I just don’t see it with him this week.
  • Phil Mickelson: Mickelson’s five runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open is the most in the 113-year history of the event, and he would tell you that he wants this one more than anything at this point in his career.

Suggested Plays
 
Phil Mickelson (Best Odds 22-1 at Betfred)
A few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have been in on Mickelson, but I’ve had a change of heart after his runner-up at the St. Jude. Lefty is at his best when he doesn’t have to take driver out because he usually has no bloody idea where the ball’s going, and his performance last week was done mostly with the driver in the bag. The short game will be needed more than usual this week, and nobody does that better than Mickelson.
 
Luke Donald (Best Odds 40-1 at Paddy Power)
Donald is still looking for that first major championship, and along with Kuchar, I really don’t think there’s a player in the field this week who’s more suited to win at Merion than him. It’s been a weirdly inconsistent season for Donald, who says that he will probably only hit driver five or six times this week due to the short course, but his overall game is so good that it really shouldn’t affect him. Even though he’s never won a major, 40-1 seems like a steal.
 
Sergio Garcia (Best Odds 40-1 at bwin)
I’m probably the only person in the world who thinks he has a chance to win this week, but there’s an argument to be made that Garcia has never played better golf. Eighteen consecutive top-25 finishes for him, and I don’t think that the nonsense he got into with Tiger Woods recently is going to affect him that much. What might get into his head is the Philly crowd, depending on how rough they are with him. If it gets to the point of Bethpage Black in 2002, Garcia might flame right out of here, but on a course where ball striking is paramount, Garcia always has a shot.
 
Matteo Manassero (Best Odds 70-1 at Paddy Power)
Manassero is coming off of his biggest professional win a few weeks ago at the BMW PGA, and the 20-year old’s next step should be to start contending regularly in major championships. His best finish in a major is still his T-13 at the Open Championship in 2009 when he was the low amateur, and the lack of length at Merion should be more conducive to his talents. I don’t think he wins this week, but an each-way bet on a T4 or T5 finish is a good play.
 
Louis Oosthuizen (Best Odds 71-1 at BETDAQ)
The most underrated player in the world should not be available at 71-1, but here we are. Oosthuizen is a superb driver of the golf ball, and he tends to show up in majors. Realistically, this is all about his availability at this kind of a price, which seems way too high for the ninth ranked player in the world.
 
Rickie Fowler (Best Odds 77-1 at BETDAQ)
Fowler’s one of the few players in the field this week who has played the course in a real event, doing so at the 2009 Walker Cup. Playing for Team USA against Great Britain & Ireland, Fowler actually went undefeated in both team and single play matches with a 4-0 record. His game matches up well too, with tons of fairways hit and an improved putting stroke that he looks more comfortable with each week. If he can avoid the big number in one round, he’ll be near the top of the board on Sunday.

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