U.S. Open Puts Erin Hills in Spotlight

By Charles Jay

The U.S. Open this week is unusual in a couple of ways. One of them is that the site – Erin Hills in Wisconsin, has yet to play host to a PGA Tour event, which means that we really can’t call upon a history of how these players have performed on this course. However, this is an American links course, with almost no trees and heavy rough (you’re always going to be penalized for inaccuracy), so you can take a look at results from a few things, including the British Open, to get a possible barometer as to how they might adapt to the surroundings.

Another thing that is quite unusual is that neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson are on the premises. Woods, of course, is still in the recovery phase after his fourth back operation, and Mickelson is going to be attending his daughter’s high school graduation. Those nasty people at the school (LOL) were not going to move that schedule for the sake of “Lefty,” so he can’t be in two places at once. However, he has not officially withdrawn from the tournament, on the off-chance that there could be some weather delay in Wisconsin that would allow him the chance to somehow play. That chance is remote.

There are a lot of U.S. Open or major championships you can play in, and Mickelson has won five majors, although the U.S. Open is the one he would need to win to complete the “career Grand Slam.” But your daughter only graduates from high school once, and she is the commencement speaker to boot.

The favorites are some of the usual suspects – Dustin Johnson (priced at +650 at America’s Bookie), Jason Day (+900 in the golf betting odds), Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy (both at +1000). Another guy at relatively short odds is Rickie Fowler, priced at +1750 and one of the guys on that list of “best players never to have won a major.” He leads the tour in “Total Driving,” and that is the kind of thing that is certainly going to be important, because you’re going to need to drive it long AND straight. He had a terrific year in 2014, when he tried for the runner-up spot in the U.S. Open and British Open, tied for third in the PGA Championship and fifth in the Masters. Clearly he has the game to compete. But he has not had a top ten finish in a major since, and has been outside of the Top 25 – including three missed cuts – in seven of his last nine majors appearances.

One player who should be of some interest to U.S. Open bettors is Louis Oosthuizen. There is no question that the South African shows up on the biggest stages – he was the British Open champion in 2010 and has been a runner-up (or tied for it) in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open since. And it may be worth focusing on this very tournament when it was played at Chambers Bay, a links-style course like this, just two years ago. Oosthuizen shot a disastrous 77 in the opening round, then came storming back with 66 in both the second and third rounds, with the low score of the day each time, then a 67 on Sunday to finish second with Dustin Johnson, just a stroke behind Spieth.

Oosthuizen is priced at +5000, and when you look at some of the other people here who are at similar or shorter odds, he can, by comparison, be seen as someone who presents value. Other numbers that could be considered are the +800 for him to finish in the top five, and, if you prefer something more geographical in nature, he is +200 to be the highest South African finisher, sharing that with Charl Schwartzel – someone else who could find his groove on this course. But neither of those guys – who have both won majors – is the favorite in that category. That distinction goes to Brandon Grace (+195), who tied for fourth place at Chambers Bay a couple of years ago.

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