Take a look at Sportsbet’s preview, tips and odds of the 2016 US Open which tees off on Thursday.
The Open organisers can’t relax until they’ve hit double digits for players visiting the PGA Tour psychologist, snapping a putter over their knee or walking off the course after six holes.
It’s a tournament renowned (and feared) for its nasty streak. Consider, for a moment, that it took Tiger Woods, at the absolute peak of his powers at the 2000 event, to become the first player to crack 10-under at the Open. Now you’ve got some idea just how hard it is.
When Rory McIlroy took Congressional Country Club apart in 2011, shooting 16-under to beat Jason Day by eight strokes, the powers that be said “never again”, and now routinely serve up layouts where if you manage to finish at even par after four days, you’re every chance of walking away with some silverware.
If you’ve seen some of the videos making their way out of Oakmont during players’ practice rounds this week, you’ll be aware that little has changed. Watching the world’s best players barely breathe on a putt and then stand by helplessly as their ball rolls 20m past the cup is something to behold, and you’ll be seeing plenty more of it if Pennsylvania doesn’t get a couple of decent downpours between now and the first round. The Oakmont greens are playing like they haven’t seen a drop of water since Angel Cabrera finished at 5-over to win there in 2007.
Whatever money the greenkeepers saved by skimping on watering the putting surfaces, they might have quite literally poured into the rough. Stray but a few metres off the green and players will find themselves in grass so thick and deep that it’s all but impossible to see a ball in it, let alone hit one.
How do you find a winner amongst the carnage we’re about to witness?
Players will have no trouble scoring, provided they one-putt every green and don’t miss a single fairway. So short game prowess might be a good place to start.
Odds – $7.50
Players who aren’t at least above average with the short stick stand little chance this week, and this season our man Day is statistically the best putter in the game. The world number one ranks first on tour for stroked gained: putting, which is the statistic that measures how each player putts on each hole in comparison to the rest of the field. Also in his favour: he’s finished outside the US Open top 10 just once in five attempts, including two runner-up results in 2013 and 2011. And lastly, he’s having a relatively handy season. Three wins, six top 10s, $5.6 million in prizemoney. Yeah, kind of handy.
Odds – $8.50
It had been a lean season for McIlroy until he beat nobody to win the Irish Open. Highlights of the Northern Irishman’s putting in recent years have more often featured him four-putting from five feet than draining bombs, so Oakmont might not be his favourite track. But when he’s ‘on’, he’s still probably the best in the world, and can’t be discounted.
Odds – $10
If there’s one bloke who can just about match Day around the greens, it’s Spieth. The 22-year-old ranks as the ninth best putter on tour, and after winning the Dean & Deluca Invitational a couple of weeks ago, he can finally put his Masters meltdown behind him. This time last year he was the only player to hold his nerve in a dramatic US Open conclusion at Chambers Bay, netting him his second major, and he’s more than a good chance of going back to back this week.
Odds – $17
We should be discussing Johnson’s chances as the defending champion. But it’s Dustin Johnson, so we’re not. If there’s a way to blow a chance at a major, he’ll sniff it out and grab it with both hands. A year ago they were just about ready to inscribe his name on the trophy after he reached the green at the par-5 18th hole in two superb shots, giving him a putt to win it. Instead he blasted the first one four feet by the hole, then missed the return trip and his chance to force a playoff with Spieth. Every year Johnson proves he has the game to win a big one, yet every year he walks away empty-handed.
Odds – $26
Flip a coin as to which version of Rose we’ll get this week. Will we get the 2013 winner and the player who finished tied for fifth on debut in 2003? Or will we get the guy who’s missed the cut four times? Rose has no trouble scoring at the US Open. What he struggles to do is limit the damage when things don’t go according to plan. He made 15 birdies at last year’s tournament, but also added 13 bogeys and two double bogeys, including one at the 16th hole on Sunday that saw him slip to 27th. His week in, week out consistency means he’ll always be thereabouts, but his putting remains a weakness, so there are probably better options getting around.
THE DARK HORSE – BRANDEN GRACE
Odds – $51
South African Grace was poised for glory this time last year, having taken a share of the lead at Chambers Bay with one round to play. And after 15 holes on the Sunday he looked to be coasting to victory. Then the 16th happened – a double-bogey that barbecued his chances and left him two strokes behind winner Jordan Spieth. Grace bounced back from a disappointing missed cut at the Masters this year with a win the following week at the RBC Heritage, and he’ll be fresh off a four-week break.
US Open betting markets and odds available here.