The Review-Journal has provided golf handicapper Wes Reynolds (@WesReynolds1) with a mythical $200 bankroll to play the futures board at the Westgate sports book for the U.S. Open, which starts Thursday at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York.
$40 on Brooks Koepka at 25-1
It’s a rare occurrence for me to back a golfer to repeat as U.S. Open champion, considering this event has been won in back-to-back years only seven times in 117 tournaments (Curtis Strange was the last to do so in 1988 and 1989). The defending champion Koepka missed four months this year because of a wrist injury, but he seems to be coming back to form and will be under the radar due to the players at much shorter odds above him. Koepka posted a second-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational three weeks ago in his third start back from injury. He’s a rare player in that he is an American who competed on the European Tour before joining the PGA Tour full time, so he has plenty of experience playing on links courses under windy conditions.
An interesting nugget is that the past two U.S. Opens at Shinnecock Hills were won by the ninth-ranked player in the world at the time: Corey Pavin in 1995 and Retief Goosen in 2004. So who is the ninth-ranked player in the world? Brooks Koepka.
$30 each on Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood and Branden Grace at 30-1
Stenson’s best finish at a U.S. Open was fourth in 2014 at Pinehurst No. 2, which is also a Crenshaw and Coore-renovated course. The Swede never has been a consistent contender in this major because he often lacks confidence in his driver. I don’t foresee that being the case this week. The course has some of the more hospitable fairways that you will see in a U.S. Open, and I expect Stenson to be more aggressive than usual. This event won’t be won off the tee, but it might be won on approach shots, and Stenson ranks No. 1 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained, approach the green and in greens in regulation. Not known as an elite putter, he’s an excellent scrambler around the green (sixth in scrambling) and bunker player (ninth in sand saves), which could bode well on a course with more than 100 bunkers.
Fleetwood posted his best finish in a major at the 2017 U.S. Open, placing fourth at Erin Hills. The Englishman is a fairly consistent ball striker and has risen to No. 12 in the world from No. 118 to start 2017. He rates first on the PGA Tour in total driving, so he should be able to at least get it done tee to green to provide a solid chance.
Grace has five top-six finishes in the past 12 majors. This course will suit him well, especially with the expected wind over the weekend. Grace’s lower ball flight should pay dividends, and he has two top-five finishes in his past three events.
$20 on Paul Casey at 40-1
When playing the golf futures market, you bet different guys for different reasons. Sometimes you go on recent form, course form, course designer correlations or raw stats. Casey doesn’t necessarily fit into any of those categories for me. This is more of a market play. At the Masters, people were tripping over each other to bet him at 20-1, and now he’s at least double the price. Sometimes you just have to take a price.
$15 on Adam Scott at 50-1
Other times, you have to bet a hunch. Scott has played in 67 consecutive majors but was in jeopardy of having that streak broken before earning a spot through sectional qualifying. He was ranked No. 1 in the world about three years ago, but has had to adjust to the putting anchor ban. The former UNLV golfer will largely go ignored this week, but the Westgate oddsmakers have him at a lower price than the majority of the market, which might be a telling sign.
$10 on Jimmy Walker at 80-1
The 2016 PGA Champion is back from fighting Lyme disease for most of the 2017 season. Walker has three top-six finishes in his past four starts, including a sixth place at the Byron Nelson at River Forest, another Crenshaw and Coore design. “I’ve not played a Coore-Crenshaw I didn’t like,” Walker said.
$7.50 each on Brandt Snedeker and Byeong Hun An at 100-1
$5 each on Trey Mullinax and Patrick Rodgers at 250-1
Finally, a couple of longer shots.