There are several ways to gamble on golf. Many choose to go the DFS route and compete against tens of thousands in a GPP in hopes their lineup climbs to the top of the leaderboard. Others prefer props to isolate specific situations with the tradeoff of a lower payout but a higher probability of success. And then there are betting on futures to try and win big by correctly picking the winner of an event. It’s one of the hardest bets to make in golf, especially in major championships where it’s tough to whittle down a list of four or five golfers from a pool of the best players in the world.
In order to bet smart on futures, one must develop a deep understanding not only of the form of every golfer coming in, but also how their skills translate to the golf course and how the golf course itself will play. In case you missed my analysis on Pebble Beach and what it should have in store for the field this week, click here.
U.S. Open setups, particularly on a short course like Pebble Beach, opens up the title to a bigger variety of golfers. This is in contrast to the last two majors we’ve seen in 2019. The Masters generally sees the most talented player in the field win, and often times it’s one of the big tournament favorites. The PGA Championship is typically played on big golf courses where only the longest players in the field have a shot to win.
There are certain elements that are out of the players control at the U.S. Open. One is how the USGA sets it up, as if they aren’t careful the golf course can get away from them and create havoc. The golf courses are also set up very difficult with penal rough and hazards, and the element of luck more often comes into play. Considering this particular golf course is one where it takes driver out of the players hands, the bombers and the precise tacticians are on an even playing field this week.
It wouldn’t shock me at all if we see a heavy favorite emerge as a winner, or a longshot comes out of nowhere to steal the trophy. As such, I’m going to break down the list of candidates of who can win the 2019 U.S. Open into tiers based on their odds on the board. That should allow a bettor to cast a wide net to snag a winning ticket.
Here’s who I like this week (with odds courtesy of mybookie.ag).
The Heavy Favorites
- Rory McIlroy – 8/1
- Dustin Johnson – 8/1
- Brooks Koepka – 8.5/1
- Tiger Woods – 12/1
There was a point in time where all four had odds less than 10/1, but the buzz for Tiger has faded a bit following his missed cut at the PGA Championship. However, all four are head and shoulder favorites over the rest of the field and shows just how scared the books are to price them any higher on the board. The books famously took a bath to the public when Tiger won the Masters, and Koepka was also a heavy and popular favorite when he won at Bethpage Black. In response, their odds are very short for Pebble Beach.
All of them deserve their status as heavy favorites in the field. While Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka were not sharp at the Canadian Open, both of them have demonstrated this year that they are on top of their game and are more than equipped to tackle a golf course that takes the biggest weapon in their arsenal out of their hand – the driver.
Tiger Woods missed the cut badly at the PGA Championship, but he bounced back at the Memorial with a very solid weekend to round back into form. Pebble Beach plays to his strengths, and he should show much better at this particular major.
And as for Rory, he’s the darling of everyone’s statistical model and has been the best player on the PGA Tour this season. He’s dominated almost every statistical category and won going away at the Canadian Open last week.
Still, it’s difficult to see any value of betting these players to win the U.S. Open given the nature of the event and how Pebble Beach won’t eliminate certain players from the jump like other majors have. Additionally, their vaulted odds have created values on other players down the card who possess the skills worthy of a U.S. Open champion. Long and short, there’s not really a bet to be made here. It’s likely more prudent to bet these players on Top 5 or Top 10 props and then trying to strike gold on players with longer odds to win the Open.
Another option is to play them in a matchup prop against a guy I see as the most vulnerable in this group – Rory McIlroy. Rory shines on soft golf courses where he can put on a driving show, but when he’s placed on firm and fast conditions where he can’t hit driver all that often he’s become a mere mortal. He also has struggled recently on the tough firm and fast U.S. Open setups, missing the cut in three straight events. Currently you can grab both Koepka and Tiger straight up against him at plus odds, or Dustin Johnson -120 head to head. All are very viable options to explore in the prop market.
If you’re a whale and have the cash to drop a huge bet, my favorite of this group is Dustin Johnson. I’m not at all concerned by his performance last week in Canada, as it mostly was a disastrous first nine holes on Thursday that knocked him out of the tournament. Other than that, all parts of his game tee-to-green and putting are firing on all cylinders. I don’t expect him to recall the demons from his collapse in 2010 and foresee the strongest finish from this group at Pebble Beach.
Those without deep pockets, however, are advised to look elsewhere in the futures market.
There are some very juicy names in this group of players that are more than capable of winning the U.S. Open. Several of them have been discussed at length on both the U.S. Open podcast preview or the DFS Column. Those include players like Xander Schauffle (28/1), Adam Scott (33/1), Tommy Fleetwood (33/1) and Hideki Matsuyama (35/1). Click the links above for more information on why they stand a great chance to win this year’s U.S. Open.
Another player I like in this group is Justin Rose at 25/1, who is someone I haven’t discussed at all during U.S. Open week on Sports Gambling Podcast.com. His form has been very up and down this year, pairing fantastic ball-striking weeks with head scratching ones. He’s a player, however, that has seen his odds become a bit of a value given the overall body of work with his career and how he’s been successful player. At his best, he’s one of the most precise and deadly iron players in the world and a fantastic scrambler, which are skills perfect to win the tournament this week. He’s won a U.S. Open on a short golf course with narrow fairways and difficult rough before, and he should be up for the challenge at Pebble Beach this year.
Lastly, Patrick Cantlay is a golfer who I liked weeks ago and was able to grab him at 40/1 to win the U.S. Open. But after he won at the Memorial a few weeks back, he became the token trendy darkhorse winner that almost ever major seems to have. That’s pushed his odds all the way up to 20/1 on mybookie.ag, and I’ve even seen them as high as 14/1.
Anytime a golfer who doesn’t have a long track record of success suddenly becomes the darling pick, it’s sign to run for the hills. But I won’t fault anyone who hasn’t yet climbed aboard his train from laying down a bet on him at 20/1. All the reasons why I liked him at 40/1 are still there at 20/1 – he’s a deadly and precise player from tee-to-green, he’s a wonderful scrambler, he’s a patient player, he has a cool temperament, and he’s begun to putt well over the last few months.
I don’t love how there’s not as much elbow room on the bandwagon as there was when I hopped on weeks ago, but he’s still someone I have very high hopes for at Pebble Beach.
There’s a few trendy picks in this tier based on their form, their style of play and their track record at Pebble Beach. Those guys are Webb Simpson (45/1), Matt Kuchar (50/1), and Brandt Snedeker (55/1), who are all considered precise tacticians who do the little things well on a golf course. Those skills are ideal for a U.S. Open setup at Pebble Beach. There are certainly enough positive trends for each player to make a solid case of why they can win this weekend, but of these three the guy I like the least is Brandt Snedeker. Much is made about how great of a track record he has at Pebble Beach, but Pebble Beach in February does not play like it does in June. He’s also not playing nearly the caliber of golf that Simpson and Kuchar are, despite a recent upward tick in performance.
Two golfers who aren’t getting as much attention that I like this week are Shane Lowry (60/1) and Marc Leishman (66/1). Lowry should be a popular play in DraftKings given his recent form, but I don’t feel as much buzz on him as a darkhorse winner of the event. Lowry has found his form after winning in Dubai in January, as he’s rattled off three consecutive Top 10’s and posted very solid ball-striking and scrambling statistics over that stretch. Lowry has proven in his career he can hang against strong fields and on tough golf courses, and he could emerge as a surprise winner this weekend.
As for Leishman, he’s both someone I like in DFS and a guy who I can see lifting the trophy on Sunday. Leishman is a tough player who’s proven himself in major venues and should benefit by being able to leave the driver in the bag for most of the tournament. That’s an area where he’s struggled over the past year, and is part of the reason why he hasn’t been relevant at a major championship over that stretch. Pebble Beach should allow him to find more fairways when he hits long irons and fairway metals off the tee, and he’s struck those clubs very well over his career. Despite his struggles off the tee, Leishman has posted very solid stats on approach shots and scrambling this year and that could make him a contender on Sunday. Like anyone who wishes to win the U.S. Open he’ll need to catch some lucky breaks, but I expect him to be in the mix on Sunday and potentially see the chips fall in his favor.
There have been three players with odds 80/1 or worse who have won the U.S. Open since 2000. They are Lucas Glover (2009 – Bethpage Black – 150/1), Angel Cabrera (2007 – Oakmont – 100/1) and Geoff Ogilvy (2006 – Winged Foot – 80/1). In addition, both Michael Campbell (2005 – Pinehurst #2) and Retief Goosen (2001 – Southern Hills) didn’t even have odds and were instead lumped in with the field bet in the years they won. With how unpredictable a U.S. Open can be, it is certainly in the realm of possibility a player can emerge from out of nowhere to claim the title.
Here’s a few players with longer odds who could be a surprise winner at Pebble Beach:
Kevin Na – 110/1: Kevin Na fits the mold of a precise tactician who should fare well on a short, difficult and demanding golf course that Pebble Beach is expected to be. He’s also in very good form, averaging just under a stroke gained per round on the field tee-to-green over his last four tournaments, and he won in his last start out at Colonial Country Club. His normally trusty putter was ice cold at the beginning of the year, but it’s starting to heat up as he heads to Pebble Beach. He may get lucky for the biggest win in his career.
Tyrrell Hatton – 125/1: Hatton is another player who’s starting to peak ahead of the U.S. Open. After a bit of a rough start to his season on the PGA Tour, Hatton has gained 1.1 strokes on the field per round tee-to-green over his last three tournaments and has started to hit his approach shots much better. He also is a good scrambler, which is a key attribute to success at Pebble Beach. Hatton can sometimes run hot under the collar and that is a bit of a concern, but the talent and form is there to win this weekend.
Kevin Kisner – 125/1: Let’s get one thing out of the way – Kevin Kisner has been awful of late. He’s missed the cut in two of three events heading into the U.S. Open and his ball-striking stats have been a mess. Some of that can be attributed to poor play, and some of that can be attributed to golf courses that simply don’t fit his eye. Pebble Beach should be one that plays well to elements of Kisner’s game that’s made him a successful professional. He’s regarded as one of the most accurate, consistent and patient golfers in the field, and all three traits are vitally important this weekend. Considering his odds at 125/1, he’s worth a flier at a place where he won’t be eliminated before he hits a golf ball.