With game returning to form, Tiger Woods could contend at US Open

Updated June 12, 2018 - 4:01 pm

It was 10 years ago this week that Tiger Woods won his 14th and last major golf title, outlasting Rocco Mediate in a playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines on a torn ACL and broken leg.

Woods has shown flashes of his former self this year, with four top-12 finishes in nine starts, and enters the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills on Thursday as one of the top 10 favorites at 20-1 odds.

“He’s exceeded everybody’s expectations,” Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman said. “Three out of four aspects of his game are really good every week. He’s just rotating one deficiency that he needs to correct. Last time out, it was his putting, and earlier this season, he was putting great.

“It’s tough to put it together for four days, but he’s really not that far off from being in the winner’s circle. I’m not saying a major, but any tournament. He looks like he’s really close.”

Woods is one of a multitude of players with odds up to 100-1 or greater who are capable of winning what’s considered golf’s ultimate test. The U.S. Open also might be the ultimate test in golf handicapping.

Johnson 9-1 favorite

Dustin Johnson, the 2016 U.S. Open champion, is the 9-1 favorite and the only golfer with single-digit odds.

“Based on the odds, outside of (Johnson) being so short, there are really attractive prices on a lot of guys,” Sherman said. “It shows you the test it is and how difficult it is to pick a winner.”

Fowler tickets, money leader

Rickie Fowler is the clubhouse leader in tickets and money wagered at the Westgate and CG Technology sports books. Jordan Spieth is second in tickets and money at the Westgate.

Fowler, 29, is widely considered the best player never to have won a major. The 14-1 third choice alongside Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, Fowler was runner-up to Patrick Reed at the 2018 Masters and finished in the top five at all four majors in 2014.

“People are going to keep supporting (Fowler) until he wins a major, because he’s been close so many times,” Sherman said. “Most of the money on Spieth was at 12-1 and 14-1, but his poor form recently bumped his odds up to 18-1.”

Fowler and Phil Mickelson, at 25-1, are the Westgate’s two largest liabilities.

“We don’t have too many (liabilities),” Sherman said. “The action is really getting spread out. There are a lot of tickets on a lot of guys at 150-1 or less.”

DJ ‘dialed in’

Johnson, coming off a six-stroke win at the St. Jude Classic, missed the cut at the 2017 U.S. Open, but finished first, second and fourth in the previous three years.

“He’s really dialed in, and his U.S. Open history is pretty strong,” Sherman said. “He’s obviously an extremely long hitter, so a course playing at par 70 and (7,445) yards is right up his alley.”

This is the 118th U.S. Open and fifth at Shinnecock Hills, which has lengthened the links-style course by 500 yards since it last hosted the major in 2004.

“Total driving and scrambling are going to be key,” Sherman said.

Justin Rose (12-1)

Rose is tied for fifth in total driving on the PGA Tour, and the 2013 U.S. Open champion is Sherman’s top choice among the favorites.

“The course fits his game well, and he’s won recently in Texas and won the U.S. Open before, too,” Sherman said. “He has a solid game coming into this week. Looking at the top 10 guys, he’s my starting point.”

Branden Grace (30-1)

Among longer shots, Sherman and handicapper Wes Reynolds (@WesReynolds1) like Branden Grace at 30-1 odds.

“He’s played well in the U.S. Open, and it’s a links-style course,” Sherman said. “He’s a guy who can do well.”

Francesco Molinari (50-1)

For a sleeper, Sherman recommends Francesco Molinari at 50-1.

“He’s just a solid tee-to-green player,” Sherman said. “He’s coming in in great form right now from the European Tour.”

Tiger vs. Phil

There are a plethora of Woods-related props, including a head-to-head matchup with Mickelson, who will turn 48 on Saturday and is still searching for his first U.S. Open title.

Woods, 42, is a minus 120 favorite over Mickelson, who is even money.

More betting: Follow all of our sports betting coverage online at reviewjournal.com/betting and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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