The intelligent punter's guide to the US Open golf 2014
With the world's top golfers set to tee off today in the US Open in North Carolina, who's worth a flutter
The US Open, the second golfing Major of 2014, tees off today. Unlike the Masters, which takes place every year at the same venue, the Open is played on a different course each time. This year it's being held at Pinehurst No 2 in North Carolina, where it was also held in 1999 and 2005.
While form in previous Majors held at the same course is always a positive, it might not be as important this time as Pinehurst No 2 was renovated in 2011, so it will pose a different test to the one which faced golfers nine years ago.
The fairways have been widened by as much as 50 per cent, meaning that being straight off the tee won’t be as important as in the past; but the greens are more difficult. We need to focus on golfers with an excellent short game.
A key statistic about the US Open is that nine of the last 11 winners, including last year’s victor Justin Rose, were first-time Major winners. So don’t be put off backing a golfer who hasn’t won at the very highest level – it's actually a positive in this event.
It’s also a good tournament for rank outsiders: only three of the last nine winners have started the tournament at odds shorter than 80-1. So try and include at least one golfer available at odds of 80-1 or more in your portfolio.
Another interesting fact is that no left-handed golfer has prevailed since the tournament was established in 1895 - though southpaw Phil Mickelson has finished runner-up on six occasions.
European golfers went 40 years - from 1970 to 2010 - without winning the event, yet they’ve now won it in three of the past four years. So given their good recent record it could pay to include at least one European in your portfolio.
Now let’s take a closer look at some of the possible contenders, ranked in order of their odds…
RORY MCILROY. Best odds: 12-1.
The 2011 Open victor got back to winning ways soon after he broke up with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki. He landed the PGA Tournament at Wentworth last month but then followed a 63 with a terrible second round in the Memorial Tournament in Ohio. While it would be no surprise to see him in contention again, his current odds look too short considering the competition he faces.
ADAM SCOTT. Best odds: 14-1.
Second favourite but his record in the event is poor: no top ten finishes in 12 attempts and six missed cuts. A brilliant golfer who looks sure to add to his tally of one Major (the 2013 Masters) soon, but probably not here.
BUBBA WATSON. Best odds: 18-1.
Won the US Masters for the second time in three years earlier this year. He also finished third in the recent Memorial Tournament in Ohio. Should go well again here, but it’s a tall order to win back-to-back Majors - just seven men have achieved it in over half a century - and, in addition, no left–hander has ever won this event.
PHIL MICKELSON. Best odds: 20-1
Six times a US Open runner-up, including at Pinehurst in 1999 behind the ill-fated Payne Stewart. While his record of consistency in this event means he has to go on the shortlist, he has not been in great form in 2014. He’s yet to post a top ten finish and the fact that he is under investigation for insider trading (allegations which he denies) can't help. And, of course, he's a left-hander.
JUSTIN ROSE. Best odds: 28-1.
Last year’s winner, and no golfer has won back-to-back US Opens since Curtis Strange in 1988 and 1989. This will be a very different test to that at Merion 12 months ago and Rose will have to improve his putting if he’s to land his second Major at this course.
MATT KUCHAR. Best odds: 28-1.
Could represent some each-way value. The 35-year-old American has been in excellent form this year, and although he’s still to win a Major, that’s no drawback as far as the US Open is concerned. Pinehurst will suit his game - he’s usually a very good putter - and it’ll be no surprise to see his name on the leader board.
HENRIK STENSON. Best odds: 28-1.
Came 21st last year - the same position Justin Rose filled in 2012 before going on to win in 2013. The Swede has made the cut in the last four US Opens he's contested. He had two top three finishes in Majors last year and, given his consistency and the good recent record of Europeans in the event, he has to go on the each-way shortlist.
JORDAN SPIETH. Best odds: 28-1.
He tied for second in the Masters, having been two shots clear at one point in the final round - a great performance by the 20-year-old. But no man younger than 21 has won the Open since Gene Sarazen in 1922, and while it would be no surprise to see him go well again, other more experienced golfers just might have the edge in the closing stages.
JASON DAY. Best odds: 33-1.
Runner-up in 2011 and 2013, it’s only a matter of time before the talented 26-year-old Aussie wins his first Major. He’s been in fair form this year and given his record in Majors over the past three years - six top-eight finishes in his last 14 tournaments and four top three finishes in his last 13 - he makes some each-way appeal at his current odds.
SERGIO GARCIA. Best odds: 35-1.
Tied for third the last time the US Open was held at Pinehurst and he started 2014 with a win in the Qatar Masters. Ticks quite a few of the right boxes and, with three top 20 finishes in the US Open in the last six years, he should give supporters a good run for their money.
DUSTIN JOHNSON. Best odds: 35-1.
Best performance at a US Open was eighth in 2010 when he blew up in the final round, but he came only 55th last time and missed the cut in the Masters. Otherwise, he's been in good form with six top ten finishes; the concern is whether his putting will be good enough for him to do well here.
MARTIN KAYMER. Best odds: 40-1.
Former world number one, he comes here having won the 2014 Players Tournament in Florida last month. His US Open record isn’t spectacular, but he has made the cut in the last four years, so bearing in mind his current form there’s a good chance that at the very least he’ll still be in contention come the final rounds.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA. Best odds: 45-1
Finished tenth last year in his first attempt at the US Open and also came sixth in the British Open. The 22-year-old Japanese comes into this in excellent form having won the Memorial Tournament in Ohio - his first win on the US tour - and, with his confidence running high, he looks well worth an each–way bet.
WEBB SIMPSON. Best odds: 45-1.
He won in 2012 and his excellent short game will give him an advantage at this course. He comes into it in fair form having finished tied third in last week’s St Jude Classic. In the last ten years we’ve seen two repeat winners of this event and this year’s first Major - the Masters - was won by a golfer who had won it two years earlier (Bubba Watson). Could lightning strike twice?
LEE WESTWOOD. Best odds: 50-1
He's enjoyed top three finishes in this event in 2008 and 2011 so you could say it's time he made the top three again. In the last six US Opens the lowest he’s finished is 26th. The main concern is whether his putting will be good enough for him to land his long-awaited first Major.
LUKE DONALD. Best odds: 50-1.
Three of the last four winners have been Brits winning their first Major: can Donald make it four? He finished eighth last year but he missed the cut in a Major for the third successive time in the Masters in April and that reduces confidence in him emulating Justin Rose.
JIMMY WALKER. Best odds 50-1.
The 35-year old from Oklahoma has been in cracking form this season, winning three of the first eight events on the PGA Tour. He also tied for eighth in the Masters and on current form he has to warrant serious consideration.
JASON DUFNER. Best odds: 50-1.
Has repaid each-way support for the past two years in this event: he finished tied for fourth in both 2012 and 2013. The winner of the 2013 USPGA has made the top ten in four of his 12 events but his putting has not been the strongest part of his game and that dampens enthusiasm for his chances.
HUNTER MAHAN. Best odds: 66-1.
The Californian tied for fourth last year and also came sixth in 2009. He’s usually a solid putter; the course should suit his game and at current odds you could argue he represents some each-way value.
STEVE STRICKER. Best odds: 66-1.
Veteran with a good consistent record of top 20 finishes in this event over the past three years. He also did well in the 1999 US Open held at Pinehurst No 2, finishing fifth. He's yet to win a Major but you’d guess that if he were to put that right, it would be in this tournament.
RICKIE FOWLER. Best odds: 80-1.
Finished tenth last year and tied for fifth in this year’s Masters. That aside, his form in 2014 hasn’t been too inspiring - he’s missed seven cuts on the tour. However, he does look capable of rising to the big occasion and it would be no surprise to see him post another top ten finish here.
BILLY HORSCHEL. Best odds: 90-1.
Tied for fourth last year and was the joint leader at the half-way stage. Made the cut in this year’s Masters and although he has only posted two top ten finishes in 2014 he did finish three shots off the lead in last week’s St Jude Classic and could be hitting form again at just the right time.
BRANDT SNEDEKER. Best odds: 100-1.
He's registered four top 20 finishes in the last five US Opens he has contested - but he did miss the cut at Pinehurst No 2 in 2005. Certainly has the talent to go well at a big price, but his form in 2014 is a concern: he’s only got one top ten finish to his name so far.
MIGUEL ANGEL JIMENEZ. Best odds: 125-1.
The colourful cigar-smoking Spanish veteran has been in great form since recovering from a skiing accident in 2012. He finished an excellent fourth in this year’s Masters and won the Spanish Open last month. He's never won a Major but he's playing better than ever and there’ll be a lot worse outsiders in the field.
ERNIE ELS. Best odds: 150-1.
It’s 17 years since the Big Easy landed his second US Open title, but he’s done well in the event since then with six top ten finishes, including a tied fourth place last year and a third in 2010. He’s missed the cut in his last two Majors and although a victory looks improbable, it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him roll back the years here: he came 15th the last time the event was held at Pinehurst.