By Tony George In a true test of golf, and an unconventional one, on a monster links style course of over 7600+ yards, surround by fescue rough that would make a hacker just 6 yards off the fairway take at least a 9 on a Par 4, the US Open kicks off this Thursday in Erin Hills Wisconsin. Last time we saw a course like this ironically it was Whistling Straights in Kohler Wisconsin with Jason Day winning the PGA Championship 2 years ago, a tourney I was personally at. Then there was Chambers Bay in Washington, where Jordan Spieth won by default after Dustin Johnson missed a 2-foot putt on 18 to force a playoff on a links style course. This US Open winds up on Father’s Day so many a couch potato will be enjoying their day off of mowing the yard, trimming the bushes and cleaning the garage to watch the finale on Sunday in what should be a thrilling, last minute, down to the wire type of tourney with the course conditions at Erin Hills subject to massive leaderboard changes all day.
Not a traditional United States golf course which has many players not happy with the venue, driving accuracy and length are going to be huge elements. In my opinion being an avid golfer, the length of this course will be an equalizer not only off the tee, but you will have Pro golfers using 4 and 5 irons as approach shots versus a 7 iron or higher as an approach iron, which makes accuracy with long irons also a huge factor. The fescue rough here will make the best of Pro’s look like a weekend hacker trying to get out of it, and seeing double or triple bogeys on Par 4’s will not be uncommon, even by the best in the world.
Fox Sports will be carrying the broadcast which makes my stomach turn as NBC or CBS are far better broadcasters of Golf. There are numerous side stories coming here, one is that crowd favorite Phil Mickelson is out and not playing after a good showing in Memphis last week where at one point he had the lead early in the day and finished high. His daughter’s graduation is a conflict and he chose, at least as of now, to attend that versus playing, and no one can blame him. The best in the word are here, and many European and Non- US Players have a strong chance on a course like this, and there are numerous Euro players that will appear on the first page of the leaderboard this weekend.
One bad hole here can cost you the cut for the weekend, the tourney itself, and one can fall quickly from a Top 5 leaderboard placement to 20th or higher in a New York Minute. I always tell people who love to bet golf, the big names are human too, and a course like this, if you get wild or even just slightly off your T-Ball Game will bring these Pro’s to their knees. This year I am leaving some usual suspects out of the Top 5 with Jordan Spieth and Ricky Fowler because neither of them has their A game headed into this tourney, Fowler missed the cut badly last week and simply cannot close a tourney out right now and he failed badly at the Memorial down the stretch.
This is tough one to predict as so many players who are big favorites and on top of the Fed Ex Cup standings are not accustomed to this style of course, and it very well may bring a non-brand name out of the pack and someone way down the list at very high odds just in fact may win it, and a non US player winning would not surprise me in the least guys.
MY TOP 5 OVERALL PICKS
Justin Rose 20/1 (BEST BET)
An Accomplished player who was neck and neck with Sergio Garcia in the Masters before losing in the last few holes on Sunday, and also a former US Open Champion, who frankly lives for the Majors (Not to mention at Gold Medal in Rio last year). He has a good long game, and great iron game, good temperament and experience not only in pressure situations, but this style of course. He is 9th in scoring average on the PGA Tour and 16th in Greens in Regulation. Good payoff odds at 20/1 for a guy who should be lurking all week and weekend.
Dustin Johnson 29/4
How can you not have this guy on your Top 5 list? Driving distance leader, scoring leader, defending US Open champion, and number one ranked player in the world (Fed Ex Points) who has had some time off to dial it in, and remember he missed the only other Major of the year at Augusta because he fell down some stairs at his rental home and could not play. He is long off the Tee Box, has a long and accurate iron game, does not get rattled, but his putting in the past has hurt him, but he simply is one of the best golfers on the planet and is the overall favorite to win this.
Justin Thomas 38/1
This guy is pesky and always around the conversation on Sunday’s. He just missed at the Memorial in Ohio, the guy is long and accurate and leads the PGA Tour in Top 10 finishes and has all the tools to get it done here. While we all talk about another Texas player in Jordan Spieth, trust me Justin Thomas is every bit as good, but he does struggle with the flat stick from time to time and has one bad hole at some point to blow him out of the tourneys late. If he puts it all together, his game is as consistent as anyone on Tour, which is why he is ranked fourth on the PGA Tour in scoring.
Kevin Kisner 63/1 (Best Longshot on the Board)
You see this South Carolina product a lot on the leader board this year and he has an excellent all-around game. He is tied for 3rd in most Top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year, is in the Top 25 in putting, and he is a grinder much in the mold of a Patrick Reed type. He is 26th in scoring average, averages 286 yards off the tee box (average length) but is 12th on the PGA in Driving accuracy which is key on this course. The guy is poised for a Major and playing well and I have little doubt he will make the cut and perform well this weekend.
John Rahm 18/1
This young kid out of Spain (Played at Arizona St in college) is going to win Majors, and more than one, the question is when? He may rank above Sergio Garcia at the end of his career as the best golfer out of Spain, and Seve would have loved this guy. He has Top 20 stats in every category that counts, scoring, greens in regulation, huge off the tee box and an all-around game that on any given day could beat any of the Top 5 players in the world in match play. His temperament needs to be channeled, and he needs to establish some poise, but with his length and long iron play he is a serious contender this week to make some noise. He is ranked #1 with Justin Thomas with Top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year including a win.
4 that Could Surprise (Call them Runners up on the Top 5 List
Broks Koepka 40/1 – Talented as they come, focus is an issue but has the game for this course. 5th in driving length but 173rd in accuracy.
Thomas Pieters 40/1– Good Euro Player with a lot of fanfare headed into this tourney, and has some serious chops.
Alex Noren 60/1 – Sweden Product with massive game and a Top 10 or better here would not surprise me.
Jordan Speith 9/1 – The second overall favorite right now in this tourney. You simply have to pout him in here because he has mad skills and when he has it going with his iron game he is deadly. Second in scoring average on the PGA Tour and can long putt as good as anyone, won a US open on a similar Links style course at Chambers Bay a few years back, and always in the narrative on Sunday’s in big tourneys but not playing his best golf right now but always worth the stretch.
Longshots worth a small wager
Patrick Reed 60/1 – This kid is going to win a major and a major grinder with game and Ryder Cup hero.
Branden Grace 150/1 – Contended at Chambers Bay, and is playing well as of late including his last few tourneys in Europe.
Francesco Molinari 125/1 – Great all player and is a great Driver of the ball. This guy can play and is a sleeper.