As a bevy of red numbers began filling the leaderboard at Erin Hills Golf Club on Thursday morning, Fox Sports analyst Paul Azinger cracked, “The Bob Hope Classic has broken out at the U.S. Open.”
Indeed, golf’s toughest test proved elementary for first-round leader Rickie Fowler, who fired a 7-under 65 in a bogey-free round he described as “stress-free.”
A record 44 players broke par in the first round, but betting favorites Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth weren’t among them.
Spieth shot 73, Johnson 75 and Rahm 76, while McIlroy (78) and Day (79) turned in their worst scores in a U.S. Open. Fowler and Sergio Garcia (2 under 70) were the only two of the world’s top-10 ranked golfers to break par.
“It’s shocking that the big names shot so horribly. But that’s golf,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “I guess Spieth could get back in the mix. But DJ, Rory, Day and Rahm, they’re all toast. I don’t think they’ll be a factor at all.”
Erin Hill’s wide fairways gaveth and its tall, thick fescue tooketh away.
“The scoring opportunities were there as long as they kept it in the fairway. When you got in the fescue, that’s where Day, Johnson and McIlroy were all getting in trouble,” Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman said. “The big thing is staying out of the fescue.”
More tickets were written on Fowler than on any other golfer at the Westgate, where he closed at 15-1 odds after opening at 25-1. He’s the 3-1 favorite after the odds were adjusted following the first round.
“It’s tough for these guys to go wire to wire. It’s just the end of the first quarter right now,” Sherman said. “One bad hole can put you in a bad position. I’d like to see him come through because he’s been so close for so long. But there’s a long way to go.”
Besides Fowler, the leaderboard is full of long shots. Paul Casey, who opened at 50-1, is a shot back at 6 under with Xander Schauffele, who opened at 500-1. Brooks Koepka (40-1), Brian Harman (200-1) and Tommy Fleetwood (125-1) are two shots back at 5 under. Las Vegas resident Kevin Na (200-1), Patrick Reed (60-1), Mark Leishman (100-1) and Adam Hadwin (125-1) are at 4 under.
“A bunch of no names are under par,” said Bogdanovich, who picked Casey as one of his sleepers.
“His game’s tremendous,” he said. “Casey and Leishman are live. Those two and Fowler are the three I think have got a great chance of winning.”
At adjusted odds, Casey is the 8-1 second choice and Leishman is 18-1, along with Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. Koepka is 12-1 and was one of Sherman’s sleeper picks.
“I’m hoping for Koepka. He was one of the guys I liked coming into it,” he said. “He’s a long hitter I thought could play well here.”
Former UNLV golfer Adam Scott is at 25-1 after closing his round with an eagle to get back to even after he was 4 over.
Bogdanovich and Sherman think Scott can make a run at his second major.
“Adam Scott wouldn’t surprise me because he rebounded nicely from plus 4 to get back to even,” Sherman said. “I think he can take some momentum into the second round with that.”
Johnson is at 50-1 after closing as the prohibitive 7-1 favorite.
“If he can shoot 4 under (Friday) and get to minus 1 and some other guys get caught in bad situations with the fescue, he can come back a little bit. He’s not out of it,” Sherman said. “But he’s not in a good position either.”
Fowler cashed the prop for the lowest round under 65½ and is on pace to shatter the winning score of 8½ under par. But Bogdanovich doesn’t expect to see as many red numbers Friday.
“It rained the day before, and there was no wind, so the course was soft,” he said. “It’s a different game when the course isn’t soft. It will dry out and there won’t be any more 3 and 4 unders.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.
U.S. Open adjusted odds
Courtesy of William Hill sports book
Rickie Fowler 7-2
Paul Casey 8-1
Brooks Koepka 12-1
Justin Rose 18-1
Sergio Garcia 18-1
Marc Leishman 18-1
Lee Westwood 20-1
Adam Scott 25-1
Patrick Reed 25-1
Adam Hadwin 25-1
Tommy Fleetwood 30-1
Brian Harman 30-1
Jordan Spieth 40-1
Charl Schwartzel 40-1
Bernd Wiesberger 40-1
Dustin Johnson 50-1
Brandt Snedeker 50-1
Shane Lowry 50-1
JB Holmes 50-1
Kevin Na 50-1
Justin Thomas 60-1
Kevin Chappell 60-1
Charley Hoffman 60-1
William McGirt 60-1
Russell Henley 60-1
Brendan Steele 60-1
Hideki Matsuyama 75-1
Rory McIlroy 100-1
Jon Rahm 125-1
Jason Day 250-1