Golf bettors have hit the second major of the season as the 112th edition of the U.S. Open tees off this week from the Lake Course at Olympic Club in San Francisco, California.
This is the first trip for the Open to Olympic Club since 1998, when Lee Janzen won by a shot over Payne Stewart. A lot has changed since then, with the course playing much longer. It is now 7,170 yards - 373 yards longer than the last time it hosted the national championship.
Not only is the Lake Course longer but it features the longest hole ever in U.S. Open history. The Par 5 No. 16 is a massive 670 yards in length. Getting on the green in two shots will be next to impossible and any player missing the fairway will be hard pressed to get on in three. As is the case with the U.S. Open setup, the rough is long and thick so accurate driving is the key to taming the layout. Solid scramblers usually have a lot of success in this event and that should be the case again this week.
Narrow fairways will put a lot of players in the rough, so getting onto the green is tough enough but hitting Olympic greens will be even more challenging. They are extremely small, averaging roughly 4,400 square feet and, of course, they will be extremely quick which is the case in every U.S. Open. The greens should be more consistent though than in 1998, as they were all resurfaced five years ago. The 18th green was completely redone to makes it a much more fair finishing hole.
While the thought is that the majors are dominated by the world's best players, that’s hardly been the case. Of the last 14 majors, there have been 14 different winners and the last eight has seen a first-time winner in a major. As far as the U.S. Open, six of the last seven winners hoisted the trophy for the first time, with Tiger Woods in 2008 being the only exception as he won his third U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. American players used to dominate but only two of the last eight winners have been from the United States.
Last year at Congressional, Rory McIlroy ran away from the field, finishing 16 under par which was the lowest score and the lowest score in relation to par in U.S. Open history. He also became just the third player in the history of the national championship to post all four rounds in the 60s. You can guarantee that the setup this year is to avoid a similar outcome as McIlroy made a mockery of the supposed "greatest test in golf". In total, 20 players finished under par.
The favorite this week is Tiger Woods (+600), which would have been a surprise a few weeks ago but his win at the Memorial may have cemented his comeback. That was his second win this year and he comes into the U.S. Open with the most confidence he has had in quite some time. Since his win in 2008, his last two finishes in this event have been a T6 in 2009 and a T4 in 2010.
The defending champion, McIlroy (+1,000), dominated at Congressional a year ago. It was one of the greatest performances in U.S. Open history but repeating will be difficult. We have not seen a back-to-back champion since Curtis Strange won in 1988 at the Country Club and 1989 at Oak Hill. McIlroy has been struggling but played well last week with a T7 in Memphis.
Luke Donald (+1,200) is arguably the best player in the world without a major but this could finally be his time. Last year, he brought eight straight Top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour into the U.S. Open only to finish T45. He has been playing just a good this year. He has two wins worldwide and this layout should set up very well as he is eighth in driving accuracy and first in scrambling.
Matt Kuchar (+2,500) is on the short list of best players without a major title and he came close at the Masters, where he ended up finishing T3. He won THE PLAYERS last month, so he can definitely tame a field of this quality. His U.S. Open history is inconsistent but he has finishes of T6 and T14 the last two years. Even though Olympic has changed, he played very well here in 1998 with a T14 as an amateur.
Justin Rose (+3,000) has five Top 10s in 10 starts this year, including a win at the Cadillac Championship back in March. He finished T8 at the Masters and, even though he has missed the cut at the U.S. Open in his last three starts, he wasn’t playing nearly as well entering those years. He finished T10 in 2007 at Oakmont and with this setup being similar, he should be in contention again.
Charl Schwartzel (+5,000) is still an under-the-radar player despite being a major winner. He won the Masters last year and followed that up with a T9 at the U.S. Open, a T16 at the Open Championship and a T12 at the PGA Championship. He finished T50 at this year's Masters but has four straight Top 20s across the globe coming in and is 25th in driving accuracy.
We will go with Tim Clark (+12,500) as a long shot and he is a massive one at that. He has struggled this year and does not possess a Top-10 showing but a lot of that has been due to injury. He is healthy and his game sets up perfectly for a test like this. He missed most of last season, including the U.S. Open, but finished T12 in 2010 and has made four straight cuts. His accuracy off the tee will be a huge edge.
Recommended tournament win five pack at the U.S. Open (all for one unit)
Luke Donald (+1,200)
Matt Kuchar (+2,500)
Justin Rose (+3,000)
Charl Schwartzel (+5,000)
Tim Clark (+12,500)
Record to date after 21 events: +44.1 Units
Sony Open -5 Units
Humana Challenge -6 Units
Farmers Insurance Open +22 Units
Waste Management Phoenix Open -5 Units
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am -5 Units
Northern Trust Open -5 Units
Accenture Match Play +7.1 Units
Honda Classic -5 Units
WGC-Cadillac Championship -5 Units
Transitions Championship +6 Units
Arnold Palmer Invitational -4 Units
Shell Houston Open +16 Units
The Masters -6 Units
RBC Heritage -5 Units
Valero Texas Open -4 Units
Zurich Classic of New Orleans +21 Units
Wells Fargo Championship +36 Units
THE PLAYERS Championship -5 Units
HP Byron Nelson Championship -5 Units
Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial +11 Units
The Memorial -5 Units
FedEx St. Jude Classic -5 Units