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Harman, Thomas lead motley crew of Open contenders

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

June 18, 2017 01:10 AM
Justin Thomas capped a memorable third round by sinking an eagle putt for a 9-under 63, the lowest score in relation to par in U.S. Open history.
© USA Today Sports Images

According to legend, the U.S. Open is supposed to bring the world’s best players to their knees and pose the toughest test in golf. So what’s going on here? Justin Thomas and others are making this look way too easy.


Thomas capped a memorable third round Saturday by sinking an eagle putt for a 9-under 63, the lowest score in relation to par in U.S. Open history.


And he’s not even the leader going into Sunday.

Brian Harman is aiming to make history, too. The 5-foot-7 left-hander with two career PGA Tour wins has a one-stroke lead, and get this — this is the 117th U.S. Open, and no lefty has ever won. Not even Phil Mickelson, a six-time runner-up who opted not to show up this week.


“There are about 25 guys who can win this thing,” said Vinny Magliulo, VSiN oddsmaker and Gaughan Gaming sports book director.


Harman sits atop the field at 12 under, holding the narrowest of leads over Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Brooks Koepka. There are 16 players within six shots of the lead, a group that includes zero major champions.


The extra-long Erin Hills layout in Wisconsin did bring a few of the world’s top players — Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day — to their knees and sent them home early. Rain softened the greens at Erin Hills, where the fairways are wide and the fescue was cut back by the suddenly forgiving USGA. After three rounds, 42 players were under par, the most in U.S. Open history.


“It’s a birdie-fest,” said Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill sports book director. “I want to see carnage. Every week someone is winning at 18 or 20 under, and we don’t need to see that in the U.S. Open.


“Anybody can win it. It’s wide open.”


Thomas and Rickie Fowler are 7-2 co-favorites on the Westgate adjusted odds board. Fowler, the first-round leader, is two strokes back and alone in fifth. The Wisconsin winds will be howling at times Sunday, and Fowler is known as a good wind player.


Koepka is the third choice at 4-1 odds, followed by Harman (11-2) and Fleetwood (15-2). Harman will be trying to beat a 116-0 trend of right-handed winners. Fleetwood missed the cut in his previous four major appearances.


The motley crew of contenders also includes Si Woo Kim, who teed off Thursday at 125-1. Several bookmakers, including Chris Andrews at the South Point, will be sweating out Si Woo on Sunday in fear of paying out some fat futures tickets.


“To make any serious money, we need either Fleetwood or Harman to win,” Bogdanovich said.


At the Westgate, Harman was a 200-1 shot, and Fleetwood was 125-1. Thomas teed off Thursday at 30-1, and he was 40-1 following the second round.


Bogdanovich will post live wagering lines at William Hill books during Sunday’s round, and oddsmaker Jeff Sherman will do the same at the Westgate. It promises to be an action-packed day with volatility on the scoreboard. If an 18-hole playoff is needed on Monday, no bookmakers will be complaining.


“The fact that some of the shorter favorites got knocked out will not impact betting negatively,” Magliulo said. “Most of the players involved were anywhere from 25-1 to 300-1. Even if you backed Dustin Johnson and he’s out of it, you can still find opportunities and value in in-tournament wagering.”


U.S. Open adjusted odds (after third round)

Posted at Westgate sports book

Justin Thomas (7-2), Rickie Fowler (7-2), Brooks Koepka (4-1), Brian Harman (11-2), Tommy Fleetwood (15-2), Si Woo Kim (15-1), Patrick Reed (25-1), Charley Hoffman (40-1), Russell Henley (40-1), Brandt Snedeker (60-1), Hideki Matsuyama (60-1), Bill Haas (80-1), Brendan Steele (80-1), J.B. Holmes (125-1), Bernd Wiesberger (150-1), Xander Schauffele (150-1), Field-all others (25-1).


Fourth-round matchups

Tommy Fleetwood -130

Brian Harman plus-110


Rickie Fowler -125

Justin Thomas plus-105


Hideki Matsuyama -125

Louis Oosthuizen plus-105


Brooks Koepka -155

Si Woo Kim plus-135

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