The US Open, desperately unlucky to be caught in the crossfire of the dollar-obsessed sideshow in St Albans that divided the world of golf last week and threatens to run and run, will have to go some to beat the epic showdown between Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Tony Finau in Canada at the weekend.
What with Rory’s stunning first victory of the year and Linn Grant’s nine-shot spanking of the men in the Scandinavian Mixed, a monumental achievement given no other lady finished in the same parish, it was a Sunday to restore faith in this glorious game.
It was noticeable that the word “money”, which dominated the LIV Golf show the previous day when Charl Schwartzel’s $4.75m winning share equated to 80% of Jack Nicklaus’s career earnings and the last man’s 24-over score was rewarded with $120,000, never once entered the conversation in Halmstad or Toronto.
And although there will be a likely $15m to be fought for at The Country Club (prize money to be announced later this week) In the glossy Boston suburb of Brookline this weekend, the spotlight will be on excellence of individuals rather than on whether team Stinger will hammer the Crushers again in the next instalment of the rebel circus or on the obscene $10m-plus the four South Africans trousered for three days of ho-hum endeavour.
Money can’t buy drama and excitement which is what the Canadian Open gave us in spades with McIlroy’s brilliance shooting the man from Holywood to the forefront of the US Open betting. One thing’s for sure: in a city with a huge Irish contingent and history, he won’t go short of support. It helps that he has won a US Open before and the complication of competing a career Slam doesn’t arise as it annually does at Augusta National but it’s a worry how rarely golfers win two in a row, particularly in consecutive weeks.
There’s also the pressure of not having won a Major for eight years (since then he’s posted 15 top-tens) whereas principal rivals Thomas and Scottie Scheffler have done so in 2022 and defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama and Collin Morikawa, three other obvious threats, did so last year.
They have the feel for it, McIlroy the hunger - as do, to an even greater extent, a whole gang who have yet to win one but must come into the discussion, Finau, Cam Smith, Sam Burns, Patrick Cantlay, Will Zalatoris, Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele.
And there’s no way that the venerable Country Club, hosting its fourth US Open, will make it easy for them. It will be set up to test every facet of their game in what the Americans perhaps misguidedly feel is the most important of the four Majors.
Brookline first became famous in 1913 when a 20-year-old unknown amateur Francis Ouimet saw off the great English invaders Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, then infamous in 1999 when a blatantly biased crowd went over the top and some American players forgot sportsmanship and etiquette as the US turned Ryder Cup defeat into victory.
In between, it was where Nick Faldo got closest to adding a US Open to his six-Major portfolio when going down in an 18-hole 1988 playoff to Curtis Strange and Julius Boros won the second of his two US Opens in 1963. All three Opens involved playoffs and the other common factor - confirmed by the 2013 US Amateur victory by our own Matt Fitzpatrick, then a skinny 18-year-old - is that it is precise positional play rather than flashy power that wins there.
Sweet-swinger Boros never tried to thrash the ball but relied on an exceptional short game, fairways-and-greens exponents Strange or Faldo both played within themselves and Fitzpatrick must have been the shortest hitter of his year. So punters know what to look for… or that’s the theory anyway.
Once again using a composite course (Brookline has three nines) that, following renovation, now sets up as a rugged, sometimes deliberately scruffy, 7264-yard par 70, it differs from the last two Brookline Opens with the reintroduction of the old short 11th (not used since 1913) to give players a breather before a series of demanding back-nine challenges.
With Justin Rose, another former US Open winner, now firing again - round in 60 on Sunday (with three bogeys!) for fourth place to follow his 13th at the PGA - I’m seeing a strong European performance in a New England layout that has a British/Irish feel to it. And while Rahm may lack the confidence in his putter to make a successful defence, he shouldn’t be far away, nor should McIlroy, Rose, the ever-consistent Shane Lowry and course winner Fitzpatrick, a top-ten finisher for the seventh time in 11 outings.
I like Lowry but there’s precious little juice in 28/1 for a guy who hasn’t won for a long time and I like Fitzpatrick but his PGA and Canadian efforts were ultimately disappointing after highly promising starts and again 25/1 is giving nothing away. Yet there’s no doubting Thomas - my idea of the most reliable bet to win back-to-back Majors - could spoil the Boston Tee Party by taking his revenge on McIlroy now that Rory is in the hot seat and under even more pressure.
Birdieing the last two holes on Sunday after missing two short putts and losing his lead was sensational by McIlroy but this is a whole different ball game which may not play to his strengths. Thomas is mighty consistent and impressive in every department.
Despite his poor efforts in the first two Majors, Patrick Cantlay impresses as the type of player best suited to the course. The FedEx Cup winner’s third at Memorial last time and general form has been tip-top and he has the right sort of temperament for a championship where pars are good scores.
Finau’s second on Sunday was his third top-four in five outings but this may not be his course and Jordan Spieth who loves working out the puzzles the USGA perennially ask the players to solve could be a bigger danger.
At bigger odds, Canadian Corey Conners is immaculate tee to green and, having shot an electric 62 on Sunday, could be each-way value at 55/1 - and don’t be surprised if forgotten man Brooks Koepka becomes the third triple winner of the US Open following Ben Hogan and Strange. Married to longtime partner, actress Jena Sims, just couple of weeks ago and as fit and fresh as he’s been all year, he’s a big-occasion golfer who could step up to the plate. It’s going to be a slog rather than a breeze and he loves it that way.
The bookmakers are fighting for the pound in your pocket with one firm paying each-way down to 12th place, another to 11 and three to tenth. Work out the best value. If you fancy an outsider sometimes the worst price with the most places is the way to go.
Expect a winning score single figures under par (six was the number last time in 1988) on a firm, fast-running course bathed in summer sunshine (particularly warm on Friday but maybe some weekend showers) and full of old-world charm.
US Open Golf Betting Tips 2022
- 2pts each-way Justin Thomas at 12/1 (William Hill) 9 places
- 1pt each-way Patrick Cantlay at 28/1 (William Hill) 9 places
- 1pt each-way Justin Rose at 60/1 (Bet365) 8 places
- 1pt each-way Rory McIlroy at 11/1 (William Hill) 9 places
- 0.5pt each-way Brooks Koepka at 45/1 (Bet365) 8 places
- 0.5pt each-way Corey Conners at 55/1 (Bet365) 8 places
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Celebrating my 52nd year tipping and writing about golf. Tipped more than 800 winners (and more than 8000 losers!). First big winner Lee Trevino at 8-1, 1972 Open at Muirfield. Biggest win £40 each-way Ernie Els at 80-1 and 50-1, 2012 Open. Most memorable: Giving the 1-2-3 at 33-1, 50-1, 33-1 out of 4 tips from a field of 180 in 2006 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. According to one bookmaker “Undoubtedly one of the greatest tipping performances of all time”. And, of course, putting up a 150/1 winner with Stewart Cink in my very first column for Golf Monthly. Lowest handicap 9 Present handicap 35.6. Publications tipped for: Sporting Life, Racing Post, Racing&Football Outlook, Golf World, Golf Weekly, Golf Monthly, Fitzdares Times. Check our Jeremy's latest tips at our Golf Betting tips home page
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