June in the golfing calendar can mean only one thing: the US Open. It is the second major of the year and, in some respects, the toughest to win. Conditions are deliberately created to ensure this is the toughest possible test, and the new host course – Erin Hills in Wisconsin – looks set to be no exception.
It’s devilishly long for one thing. Set within some four acres of land, yardages will differ each day but something around 7,700 yards is likely to be the average. That requires some powerful hitting – particularly if the rain, which is forecast this week, softens the fairways.
Then there’s the rough. Take a look on social media and you will see a whole bunch of players bemoaning the ‘fescue’, i.e. the long grass. You could literally lose a small child or even an Andy Sullivan in it, and that is perched just five yards or so off the edge of the fairway on most holes. The margin for error at Erin Hills will be minimal.
As if that wasn’t enough, the players will also have to negotiate the greens; many of which are perched on top of mounds and contours; making approach play difficult. The greens themselves will run at around 12 on the stimpmeter, and if the wind gets up – quite possible in Milwaukee – putting will become a treacherous business.
So those in the field and punters alike have their work cut out this week, but there are just enough betting angles in to suggest a profitable four days is possible.
Outright Winner: Jason Day (14/1)
In one of the hardest assignments a professional golf can face, it is no surprise that the rollcall of US Open champions veers from the sublime to the ridiculous. For every Webb Simpson there’s a Tiger Woods, for every Michael Campbell a Dustin Johnson and every Lucas Glover is followed by a Rory McIlroy.
Generally speaking though, we expect the cream to rise to the top in the US Open; especially with USGA CEO Mike Davis claiming that ‘scoring will be lower this year.’
There are factors that are enough to put us off many of those at the head of the market. Dustin Johnson has just become a father for the second time, and world number ones don’t tend to fare well in majors as the history books tell us. So, at 8/1 in a field this strong, he has to be swerved.
Then there is a bracket of ‘maybe’s but probably not’s’. Rory McIlroy has been injured for much of 2017 and has just taken on a new putter – a sure sign of a likely regression. Jordan Spieth simply isn’t playing consistently well, Henrik Stenson appears to be short of his best, Rickie Fowler missed the cut at the St Jude Classic last week and Sergio Garcia hasn’t pulled up any trees since the Masters.
All of which leads us to Jason Day, who is rounding up to some decent form after illness, injury and personal problems. He made a play-off at the Byron Nelson before finishing like a train at the Memorial Tournament, and so the old confidence is likely to be returning.
The Aussie has finished in the top-five of all four majors at one time or another, and his sole victory – 2015’s PGA Championship – was played in the state of Milwaukee at Whistling Straits. It’s funny how these things work out sometimes.
Each Way Bet: Justin Thomas (33/1)
We’ll take 33/1 on a player that has won three times this season no questions asked. The best news is that JT has shown signs of recovery of late with a fourth place finish at the Memorial, and incidentally he putted very well there on fast Bentgrass greens.
A dip in form earlier this term after his monumental start has caused Thomas’ price to slump, but no matter: with green shoots of recovery last time out, we’re happy to get involved with most bookies paying seven or eight places.
Top 10 Finish: Paul Casey (11/1)
Paul Casey has finished in the top five in three of the last five majors he has played; we simply have to get behind that form at this price.
PC is playing well at the minute as well, and while he isn’t somebody we would file away under ‘possible major winner’ – his last title came nearly a decade ago on the PGA Tour – he is certainly good enough to get into contention.
Erin Hills is said to be quite links-style in nature; similar to the courses Casey would have grown up on in the UK.