It feels odd to write in mid-September that we are having just the second Major golf tournament of the year with the US Open being played at Winged Foot this week. But that's precisely what we've got this week as another Major title in 2020 is up for grabs after Collin Morikawa took down the PGA Championship last month.
Whomever comes out on top this week will have definitely earned it though, as Winged Foot is a beast of a course, and there has already been a flooding of pictures of the foot-long rough this course has throughout.
Rough that is also theoretically worse than other US Opens simply because there are no spectators to trample it down. There won't be any breaks like that for the winner this year, and with the winning score for the 2006 US Open held at Winged Foot being +5, the course is already known as a beast to begin with.
Golf Betting Resources
2020 U.S. Open
Date: Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020 to Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020
The nastiness of this course is what you'll hear a lot about during the first couple days of this event. From the length of the rough, to the narrow fairways, to the likely ice-like green speeds that the USGA always makes sure they get, optics be damned, a score of par on any hole this week is always going to be a good score.
With all the challenges that Winged Foot brings, guys who have the most well-rounded game are going to be the ones who do thrive, and getting a quality winner for the US Open has become the norm.
Last year's champion – Gary Woodland – was ranked 25th in the world going into the event, and he was the 9th straight US Open winner to enter the week ranked 28th or better in the official world golf rankings. Even Graeme McDowell's win in 2010 had him ranked at 37th in the world entering that week, so chances are we will get another one of the world's best in the winner's circle this week.
In more recent times, the US Open has also served as a Major Championship that is the spot for guys to break through and get that first Major victory in their careers.
US Open Betting Results 2015-2019 (Odds)
2019 - Gary Woodland (70/1)
2018 - Brooks Koepka (25/1)
2017 - Brooks Koepka (30/1)
2016 - Dustin Johnson (12/1)
2015 - Jordan Spieth (8/1)
Three of the past four winners (Woodland, Koepka, DJ) all claimed their first Major title at this event, with the only outlier being that Koepka repeated in 2018. Taking it back even further to McDowell's win in 2010, seven of the past 10 US Open winners have won their first career Major at this tournament, again with one of those outliers being Koepka's repeat in 2018.
So it's safe to say that working within those two parameters (guys ranked in Top 30ish in the world, and also looking for 1st career Major title) to start your handicapping process (outside of statistical evidence) is a good place to start.
Fresh off his Fed Ex Cup title, Dustin Johnson (+850) comes in as the favorite to win this event, with only he and Jon Rahm (+900) as guys below the +1400 threshold at Draft Kings.
Beyond them you get names such as Justin Thomas (+1400), Xander Schauffele (+1500), Collin Morikawa (+1700), and Rory McIlroy (+1800) as the next group of guys below the +2000 mark.
Rahm and Schauffele are the only guys on that list without a Major title in their careers, so seeing support for both of those guys shouldn't be a surprise. Both have won tournaments (from the outset of Round 1) in the past three weeks, so clearly the current form is there, but oddly enough, five of the past seven US Open Champions hadn't won yet in that particular season, including the last four victors.
Personally, with how tough this course is expected to be, I really want no part of DJ or Rahm pre-tournament at those sub-+1000 prices because too much could simply go wrong for them in the early rounds. Chances are nobody's going to run away with this thing, so if either of them are contenders going into the weekend, I'll strongly consider taking a shorter price on them already knowing they are in contention. But until that happens, I'll sit on the sidelines.
Beyond that entire group of names is a whole list of great golfers listed at +2500 or greater, but you really don't want to stray too far from that group, as Woodland's win last year was the first time in seven years that a guy over +4000 won this tournament. That's not to say you can't grab a couple of longer shots, but those names in the 100-1 or greater range might better be saved for things like first round leader or individual matchup plays.
But it's time to get to the list of names that did make the card this week.
Golfers to Watch - U.S. Open
Top Picks and Predictions
Contender to Back
Webb Simpson +2500
Simpson does have a Major victory already on his resume (2012 US Open), so this selection is spitting in the face of that 1st Major win history I mentioned earlier, but he does sit 6th in the World Golf Rankings currently so he does have that working for him. And on a course where ball-striking and specifically accuracy is key, there is plenty to like about Simpson's game.
Simpson's not the longest guy out there so that is the knock that may come up, but he's 18th on Tour in Driving Accuracy this year (67.3%), 11th in GIR % (70.8%), and 1st in both birdie average (4.67) and scoring average (68.978) this year.
He's 4th in Strokes Gained: Total this year, and after years of having the putter be his bugaboo after the anchoring ban was put into effect, Simpson has really figured things out with the flatstick in recent years, culminating in ranking 13th in Strokes Gained: Putting coming into this event.
Having already won this specific Major in his career, the typical US Open setup of thick rough and icy greens is something Simpson understands how to deal with, and as long as the length of this course doesn't become a huge issue, I do expect him to be one of the contenders come the weekend.
Simpson's finished 16th, 10th, and 35th in this event the past three years, and with a recent form of 17th, 6th, and 3rd, in his last three starts entering the week, I've got no problem hitching my wagon to one of the better ball strikers in the game right now.
Tommy Fleetwood (+3500) Tony Finau (+4000)
Ranked 15th and 16th in the world ranking respectively entering the week, both Fleetwood and Finau are two guys that are looking for that first career Major win as well. They've both got plenty of length in the bag for this long track to not be too much of an issue in that regard, although driving accuracy can be a concern for both of them – Fleetwood ranks 82nd and Finau 184th.
In Fleetwood's case, the US Open has been a Major in recent years where he's had his best opportunities overall to grab that first Major win, finishing 2nd and 4th to Koepka in both of his victories in 2017 and 2018. He's another pure striker of the golf ball in every sense of the word, and if he can figure out the issues he's had in the approach game recently, he should be fine.
But given how nasty this course is going to be for everyone, approach numbers can kind of get tossed aside somewhat given that the majority of the field will spend at least some time trying to hack it through the thick stuff.
Finau is another guy who's come close at this event in recent years with finishes of 5th (2018) and 14th in 2015. He was in the final group on Sunday with Daniel Berger at this event in 2018 after he got the great weather draw early on Saturday, so it's not like typical US Open conditions will deter him.
IN fact, having that experience of playing in a final group could actually be viewed as a positive this week simply because he has a better understanding of the pressure that comes with that position in a Major and has hopefully spent the time since then in working on improving.
Finally, if there ever were two names that are arguably long overdue for that “breakout” victory at a Major tournament, you know the one that has come for guys at recent US Opens (7 of last 10 winners were first time Major winners), these two would be it. I've got no problem having some stake in both of them.
Long Shot Pick
Matthew Fitzpatrick (+6000) Sungjae Im (+8000)
Two of the “younger” guns in this field with Fitzpatrick at 26 and 22 years old respectively, Fitzpatrick and Im are two names that have been ultra-consistent on Tour for weeks and do fit the idea of being someone to break through and win their first Major at a US Open.
These two guys also come in ranked 17th and 24th in the world rankings respectively so they've got that historical angle covered and the recent form for both of them is there as well. Fitzpatrick has three Top 6 finishes in his last five starts (missed cuts in the other two), while Im has three Top 35 finishes in his last six starts which includes a 9th and a 12th.
Fitzpatrick is a guy that's working with a similar playbook as Webb Simpson in that he's one of the shorter guys off the tee so length could be an issue, but with a driving accuracy percentage of 64.5% (38th on Tour) coming into the week, and a scoring average (70.07) that ranks 23rd on Tour this season, it's not like he hasn't dealt with longer courses before.
Fitzpatrick also comes into the event ranked 2nd on Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting, and while putting is a highly fickle thing, having guys who are consistently solid with that club is never a bad thing for US Open green speeds. Considering his recent US Open finishes clock in with a 12th, 12th, and 35th the past three years, having success at this event will be nothing new for the Englishman.
Success at a US Open will be a new experience for Im given that he missed the cut in his only US Open start back in 2018, but he's proven to be a complete workhorse on Tour since then, teeing it up nearly every week and improving his game ten-fold since that 2018 start. Im has positive numbers in every single Strokes Gained category there is coming into this event.
The lack of US Open experience is always a little concerning, but it's impossible to get experience in any field without at least getting an opportunity, and 2020 is just his second kick at the can for a US Open title. He's a guy that scores well (19th in scoring average) and can scramble well enough to take the disastrous numbers out of play this week as well.
At 80/1, his price isn't the best option from that historical perspective of past winners typically being around 50-1 to win, but in an event where you want guys who are just all-around solid players, Im is worth a small investment.
Props & Matchups - U.S. Open
72 Hole Matchup to Take: Patrick Cantlay (-106) over Patrick Reed
Cantlay was one of the final cuts I made in terms of outright potential as I'm just not sure you can trust his putting enough to best an entire field with the depth of this one. Cantlay has made great strides in improving things with the putter – ranks 58th in SG: Putting – though, and it's those improvements that have me trusting him enough to win this head-to-head matchup.
Cantlay's one of those guys like Im in the sense that he's got positive numbers across the entire Strokes Gained board, and if he's able to put it all together for four rounds, seeing him in contention is likely the end result.
Trusting him to beat the field may be tough, but beating a guy like Reed who's gas tank might be a little thin with only two weekends off in the last 10 (fewest by anyone at his price or better) is something I've got no problem trusting Cantlay to do.
Top Past Champion: Webb Simpson +500
Simpson comes in as the third betting choice in this market behind DJ (+175) and McIlroy (+400), and ahead of Rose (+750), Tiger (+750), Woodland (+1200), Kaymer (+1600), Spieth (+1600), Glover (+5000) and McDowell (+5000), and I'm really not all that concerned about those names behind him. If I've got Simpson to win, how can I be right?
I view this as something like a three-ball wager between Simpson, McIlroy and DJ, and I'm getting 5/1 on my money too back the shortest hitter of the three in a course that's long. That's always going to be the knock with Simpson in a grouping like this, that and nobody is interested in stepping in front of Dustin Johnson right now.
It's because of that latter notion that I do believe this price is a little too skewed to Johnson's side of things, and when carnage is the only thing you can definitely expect at US Opens, nobody is really exempt from it (DJ to miss the cut at +500 is still something I'm thinking long and hard about adding). But the entire market is treating DJ as if he's a lock to be in the Top 20 by Saturday and I'm just not sure that's going to be the case.
I mean, it's got to be human nature to be a little “fat and sassy” after winning nearly $20 million in a three-week stretch right? Especially when DJ made no bones about the idea of him desperately wanting the title of Fed Ex Cup champion on his career resume.
McIlroy's game has been trending upwards in recent weeks, but I'm still not sure he's fully back to where he wants to be, and his driving accuracy percentage (56.34% for 155th ranking) does leave quite a bit to be desired for Winged Foot.
Rose, Tiger, and the rest of them have not had their best stuff in a long time now, so it's Simpson all the time for me this week, and at least if he doesn't hoist the trophy on Sunday evening, as long as he beats these other nine guys we can still cash a nice 5/1 payday.
How to Bet on Golf
Golf betting has gained much more exposure and interest in the past few years, and with plenty of plus-money prices littered throughout the various forms of golf wagers, the chance for bigger scores is part of the reason behind that increased popularity.
Sportsbooks ensure that there are no shortage of wagering options on golf tournaments every week, and it isn't all about picking the winner. Grabbing the outright winner of a golf tournament is the best way to get that 'big score' but it's also the hardest wager to cash. After all, a typical professional golf tournament has a field of 140+ different players to consider.
Understanding Golf Odds and Bets
Most golf odds are listed in the fractional format – 10/1 on Dustin Johnson for example – and in that particular case you would multiply the amount bet by that first number to project your winnings. So a $100 bet on DJ to win that particular event would win you $1000.
If you are more comfortable with the American version of odds listings that you typically see across the other major North American sports – ie +1000 – these numbers are easily convertible. Online and app based books may already have that option built in, but the easiest way to do it yourself is to add two zeros to the first number in the fraction. So a 10/1 price on DJ converts to +1000 in that format.
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