More than two months have passed since Dustin Johnson slipped on stairs and suffered a freak back injury that forced him to withdraw from the Masters. The year’s first golf major was as bizarre as it gets.
The hottest player in the world was unable to tee it up, and Sergio Garcia, a lifetime loser in majors, finally broke through to win his first.
Expect fewer surprises in this week’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, where only the strongest players figure to survive. Johnson is the favorite on a course tailored to his strengths. The game’s biggest names and longest hitters probably will dominate the leaderboard on the weekend.
Johnson, posted at 7-1 odds, is the leader in money wagered at the Westgate sports book. Rising star Jon Rahm (15-1) has attracted the second-most action.
“I would start with DJ and Rahm, long hitters who are playing well recently,” Westgate golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said.
The 7,741-yard layout is not long enough to contain Johnson, who ranks No. 1 in average driving distance on the PGA Tour. Rahm ranks in the top 15.
Erin Hills features elevation changes and deep brown fescue framing the fairways. But it’s not an unfair test. The fairways are wide, and the greens are soft with rain pelting the region this week.
After Johnson, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth are each posted at 12-1 on the odds board. Day and McIlroy fire cannon shots off the tee. Spieth might have an advantage at this first-time major venue because he has some course history at Erin Hills, playing there in the 2011 U.S. Amateur.
There’s more to handicapping than strictly looking at driving distance, but it might be the most important factor this week. Brooks Koepka (30-1) ranks fifth on Tour off the tee, and Justin Thomas (30-1) is tied for 11th. Thomas won both Hawaii tournaments in January and should be a threat.
Some other long drivers to watch and consider wagering on include Rickie Fowler (15-1), Adam Scott (25-1), Kevin Chappell (60-1), J.B. Holmes (100-1) and Gary Woodland (125-1). Fowler is the ticket count leader at the Westgate.
Brian Blessing, a Las Vegas radio host (Sportsbookradio.com) and handicapper, is playing futures on Fowler, Thomas, Woodland and Louis Oosthuizen.
“Fowler and Oosthuizen have had success on links-style courses,” Blessing said. “Louis is in good form, and he was a near miss in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay a couple years ago on a links-style course. Fowler is longer, and he’s close to breaking through in a major.
“The rain has kind of changed the course. There’s no roll in the fairways and the greens are soft. It really does bring the bombers more into play. The course is playing remarkably long. Thomas is as long as anybody out there, and the price is right. Call it a hunch, and Woodland’s form is awful, but he does hit it a mile and every blue moon he can show up and be a contender.”
Sherman (@golfodds) said he projects the winning score to be 5 to 10 strokes under par.
“It’s going to be easier than other U.S. Open courses,” Sherman said. “These fairways are wider than normal. The length is nothing to these guys anymore. It’s not that big of a deal. It might hurt the shorter hitters more.”
Johnson, the U.S. Open defending champion, practiced at Erin Hills for the first time last week and gave his instructor, Butch Harmon, an optimistic view of his chances. https://www.vsin.com/harmon-handicaps-us-open-offers-a-long-shot/
Sharp golf bettors typically try to beat the favorite and pick a winner at longer odds. But barring another freak accident, Johnson will be tough to beat.
Best bets: Spieth (12-1), Rahm (15-1), Fowler (15-1), Thomas (30-1).
U.S. Open propositions
(Posted at Westgate sports book)
Winning 72-hole score: 279.5 (over/under -110)
What will the 36-hole cut be? 148.5 (over/under -110)
Lowest completed round shot by any golfer: 65.5 (under -120)
Highest completed round shot by any golfer: 86.5 (over/under -110)
Will there be a hole in one? Yes -130; No plus-110
Will there be a playoff? No -400; Yes plus-330
Will Dustin Johnson win the tournament? No -1,100; Yes plus-700
Will Steve Stricker make the cut? Yes -175; No plus-155
First-round score by Johnson: 71.5 (over/under -110)
First-round score by Jon Rahm: 72.5 (over/under -110)
Jason Day -110
Jordan Spieth -110
Jon Rahm -120
Rickie Fowler plus-100
Justin Rose -110
Sergio Garcia -110
Brooks Koepka -120
Justin Thomas plus-100
Dustin Johnson -145
Jordan Spieth plus-125
Rory McIlroy -135
Jordan Spieth plus-115
Jon Rahm -120
Sergio Garcia plus-100