Golf handicapping isn’t exactly rocket science – not to say it’s easy. In individual sports like boxing or tennis, you must consider the caliber of a player’s opponent when wagering. That’s not so much the case in golf as the PGA Tour pros are competing more against the course.
Your No. 1 handicapping statistic in golf should be how a player has fared in the past at a certain layout. There’s a term for guys who do well historically at certain places: “Horse for the Course.”
Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to this week’s 117th U.S. Open because it’s the first time Erin Hills in Wisconsin is hosting a PGA Tour event. The USGA aims to make the U.S. Open the toughest test in golf annually, and Erin Hills is a monster at 7,693 yards (par 72), making it the second-longest host of the tournament ever.
The previous longest was Chambers Bay in 2015, the last time a course hosted a U.S. Open for the first time. Like that location, Erin Hills is a links-style course with plenty of fescue rough. If you hit it into that rough, the ball basically disappears, so it’s similar to a British Open layout. You can play it, too, as it’s a public course about 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee.
Daniel Berger played terrific golf over the weekend in winning the St. Jude Classic in Memphis for the second straight year. However, no winner of the PGA Tour event the week before the U.S. Open has gone on to then win the Open. In fact, only 11 players have won a major the week after winning on the PGA Tour. It was last done by Rory McIlroy at the 2014 PGA Championship.
A lot of guys choose not to play the week before a major, instead practicing on their own or at the site of the major.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is the +750 betting favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. He likely should have won the 2015 U.S. Open but gagged it away with two missed putts on the 72nd hole. Johnson rebounded in 2016 by taking the U.S. Open at Oakmont, which is about as different a course as possible from Erin Hills.
Five players have won back-to-back U.S. Opens but not since Curtis Strange in 1988-89. Johnson’s length off the tee would seem to be a huge advantage this year. He was favored to win the Masters back in April but slipped on some stairs the day before the first round and was forced to withdraw.
The only other players under +2000 on the golf odds for the U.S. Open are Jordan Spieth (+1200), McIlroy (+1200) and Jason Day (+1400). Spieth won the tournament in 2015 and McIlroy did in 2011. Day has finished in the Top 10 of the U.S. Open five times since 2011, including two second-place finishes.
If there’s a tie after 72 holes, the U.S. Open is the only major championship with an 18-hole Monday playoff. The most recent was in 2008 – Tiger Woods’ last major title.