GOLF analyst Lewis Blain (@LewisBlainSport) shares his betting thoughts ahead of the US Open from Pebble Beach in California.
US Open | 13th-16th June | Sky Sports
June. The US Open.
Rory cruises in Canada. Brooks’ 3-peat. DJ’s hunt to double his tally. Tiger… Woods. Spieth’s tide turning. The Wonder Boy Cantlay. Rickie and Rahm’s maiden chase. Xander too. Don’t forget major winners Day, Scott and Phil. The narratives are endless. What a tournament we have in store this week.
Typically, this major is the hardest to win – only twice in 18 editions has the winning score been double digits under par. Last time it was hosted here at Pebble Beach, Graeme McDowell was victorious with a score of even-par. The USGA makes it tough and this will be no exception.
- Pebble Beach, California
- Par 71 – 7,075 yards
- Regular jaunt on the PGA Tour circuit (AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am)
- Has hosted the US Open on five occasions; the USPGA once.
- Coastal links known for its postage stamp par-3 7th hole.
- Smallest POA greens on Tour.
- Sharp iron play, distance control and precision to play beneath the hole on these tiny POA greens.
- Driving distance doesn’t matter too much but placement off the tee puts accuracy at a premium.
- Dustin Johnson performs really well here, albeit on a different set-up, so distance can’t be completely discounted. A lot of players will club-down off the tee too.
- Minimising mistakes and avoiding the elements. Wind can blow here with it being a coastal track and the rough is thick. Across the 2000 and 2010 US Open here, only Tiger Woods scored under par (by some margin!)
- Correlating course form – Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance); PGA National (Honda); Doral (WGC Cadillac); Kapalua (Tournament of Champions); TPC Sawgrass (The Players); Sherwood (Hero Challenge); Links courses (ie. St Andrews); Valderama (Spanish Open), Le Golf National (Open de France).
- US Open course form on similar tracks – Pinehurst No.2 (2014 & 2005); Oakmont (2016 & 2007).
- Key stats: Greens in Regulation, Proximity 100-125 & 200+; Bogey Avoidance; SG: Approach; POA Putting; SG: Around-the-green; Par-5 scoring.
I think it would be fair to write off a lot of the field in a US Open. The majority of winners have been sub-50/1 over the last decade or so. A front-heavy approach will be preferred this week, so much so that DJ and Tiger only just narrowly miss out.
Xander Schauffele (25/1 SkyBet)
Xander Schauffele is a big game hunter with wins at the Tour Championship, the WGC-HSBC and the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He’s played in the US Open twice and gone T5-T6. He continues to peak at these sorts of events as emphasised with his most recent Masters outing, finishing in second behind Tiger Woods. He too finished T2 in the Open at Carnoustie last year.
The 25-year-old is a West Coast boy, residing not too far away in San Diego but has only recorded one round around Pebble, which was a 3-under-par. That doesn’t really matter as the course will be set-up totally different this time round. He has the all-round game to contend here ranking inside the top-50 in pretty much everything we’re looking at. His SG: T2G numbers always reflect that. Xander is very reliable with his putter and is 20th in the field for these POA green conditions. A generous price this week.
Justin Thomas (28/1 Bet365)
There are question marks over the health of Thomas having pulled out of the USPGA Championship less than a month ago. However, his last outing at the Canadian Open (T20) puts those doubts to bed, for me. He’s healthy therefore this price is utterly absurd. All four rounds he recorded a score under-par and his missed cut at the Memorial in the week before was merely the shaking off of rust.
This is a player who has won seven PGA Tour titles since the start of 2017, including a major! For the season he ranks out fourth in Greens in Regulation, seventh in SG: Approach, ninth in SG: Around-the-green and 14th in Bogey Avoidance. He hit a personal best T12 at the Masters earlier in the year, won a WGC, won the USPGA… He ranked second in the field for Approach last week at the Canadian Open and is too solid with the flatstick on POA greens.
Thomas is the same price in some places as darling Tommy Fleetwood despite the Englishman not recording a PGA Tour win or a major win as of yet. (Not a stab at Tommy, he’s great) … 28/1 is an oversight.
Adam Scott (33/1 Bet365)
I may be guilty of going to the well with the Aussie but you can’t ignore one of, if not the best, ball-strikers in the world who is in mighty form.
The former world number-one is playing his best stuff in years as he looks to double his major tally. He would have won the Memorial where we backed him at 35s but for an outstanding final-day display from Patrick Cantlay. Other finishes this season include a T8 at the USPGA, T18 at the Masters, T12 at the Players, T7 at Riviera and another second behind Justin Rose at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Putting is no longer an issue either having gained strokes in that department in 11 straight events. As an Aussie he will be used to the sort of challenge this will offer and that’s reflected when looking at his form on Links courses across the pond – His open finishes include a 2nd (2012), T3 (2013), T5 (2014) and T10 (2015) all around his rise to #1 in the world. Those experiences will help round here.
Scott has also won at Doral and at the PGA National – both courses where Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell have performed well at, both have won the US Open here at Pebble Beach. Don’t forget that Scott is a major winner too so he knows exactly what it takes to win one.
His world-class iron play (15th on Tour for SG:App) will give him every chance this week and he’s certainly overdue a win based on his form in 2019.
Marc Leishman (66/1 Betfair)
I’ll double up on the Aussies this week and add Marc Leishman to the mix. His best performances in majors have come in the UK – three top-6s in between 2014 and 2017 – during which he nearly won the Open Championship but lost to Zach Johnson in a playoff. He has 11 wins spanning most of the globe: America; Malaysia; South Africa; Australia; Korea.
It’s his form in England, South Africa and Australia which should help him around this week’s test – firm, fast, windy conditions being the recurring theme.
His form hasn’t been the best but he bounced back from a missed cut at the USPGA with an impressive fifth at the Memorial. Leishman is the streaky sort so I expect him to continue on from here. Following his win at the CIMB Classic at the back end of last season his form went T18-2-T4-T3-T43-T4 which only emphasises the run’s he is capable of going on. Hopefully that Memorial performance will be the catalyst for another.
Leishman's approach game has been solid regardless of his recent finishes – ranking 18th on Tour this season in SG: Approach. His off-the-tee game has been slightly errant but Pebble will allow the Aussie to club down and pinpoint the right areas to approach the green. This sort of patient test will suit him, ranking 24th in Bogey Avoidance on Tour emphasises that. He can get hot around the greens and is usually pretty decent with the putter.
Danny Willett (150/1 Betfair)
I’ll continue the trend in the staking plan of backing former major winners finding their feet once again. Danny Willet has had to overcome quite a downfall since winning the Masters in 2016 but since his victory at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, things have been on the up for the 31-year-old.
Following his eighth place finish at the Canadian Open last weekend he said his game is feeling ‘really good’. I’m entitled to believe him – 41-27-8 in his last three events shows he is trending upwards. He has gained strokes on approach and around-the-green in each of the last two events played. Over the last 50 rounds he rates out 21st in the field for GIR.
His wins on the European Tour have come in South Africa, in Switzerland and in Dubai where wind is often the course’s main defence. In terms of links-form he finished T6 at St Andrews in 2015 when Zach Johnson won the Open Championship and has shown form in the Alfred Dunhill Links in the past.