US Open betting tips: Jordan Spieth’s wayward drive will be no issue on the wide fairways at Erin Hills


US Open overview and betting market

It's becoming a bit of a trend in recent years and once again, early in US Open week, many pros are taking to social media to express their discontent with the course set up by Mike Davis and the USGA. Erin Hills is a beast of a track that can stretch circa 8,300 yards through hilly terrain and it's going to test all aspects of a player's game. The gripe this week though is the tall, thick fescue grasses that lie in wait for the hugely wayward. I say hugely as these grasses are supposed to be hazards as the fairways here are wider than a wizard's sleeve: if you miss them, prepare to be punished with a lost ball or unplayable lie in the fescue or the unique bunkering, just as you would be with an out of bounds, water hazard or treeline if that wide on a parkland track.

Profiling a winner this week is pretty tough. We are looking for a player that ranks high up in total driving, is wind positive, and has a good short game. Premium though must be on approach play into elevated greens with potentially severely penal sand traps surrounding them. So basically we are looking for an all-rounder. A quick look at the key strokes gained approach metric though and a certain Jordan Spieth - 13.00 - tops that ranking. Spieth is known for his short game brilliance, while his somewhat wayward drive is his weakness, but with the fairways at Erin Hills expanding up to 100 yards wide in places, and the current status of Jordan's iron game, I'm going to make him my US Open favourite.

I would describe the current form of the other leading contenders as "patchy". Rory McIlroy - 13.00 - has been practicing in Portugal whilst trying to get over an injury. Market leader Dustin Johnson - 8.50 - and Rickie Fowler - 21.00 - both missed the cut in their last respective outings. Dustin's wife has apparently just given birth but for those who give credence to the "Nappy Factor" (or new perspective) theory, maybe it will prove more of a distraction given such close proximity to the event. Jason Day - 15.00 - has had off field problems and has lost the putting touch he showed throughout 2016 (54th in SGP). In reality, in the current day, maybe there's no better time for an 'outsider' to get their hands on a major trophy.



 

The course - Erin Hills: par 72, 7,741 yards

Mike Davis recently mentioned Erin Hills has been dried out by strong winds and the track is expected to play firm and "bouncy". The official yardage (above) will be adjusted daily depending on the wind and firmness of the conditions and will play anywhere between 7,500 and 7,900 yards. Unless going into the wind there will be plenty of run on the ball to help the shorter hitters. As mentioned earlier a strong combination of length and accuracy from the tee will be of massive benefit. Fairways are very wide and there's a few yards of rough before entering what may as well be out of bounds off the tee. I'm referring to the tall grasses which must be avoided and they will come into play given the expected windy and bouncy conditions.

It may pay though to be more wary of the fairway bunkers which are basically one shot penalties in spots. In numerous cases, only playing out sideways will be an option. The same can be said about the bunkers guarding severely elevated greens - arguably the main feature defining the Erin Hills test. Players finding these traps will not be able to go for the pin on occasions - it will come down to potluck as to your lie in the bunker. If you miss the green and avoid the sand, mown down run off areas with no rough will leave you with many a shot choice for your up and down.

"Windswept greens" are elevated but are smooth and only gently contoured. Plenty of birdies are expected according to the course designers with good putts "staying on line". Fitness is also mooted to be a potential issue with a long track incorporating steep elevation changes and expected rounds of over five hours on the menu. Emphasis will be on controlling your approaches, especially if it blows and GIR% should prove the key at Erin Hills. Kelly Kraft won the 2011 US Amateur that was held here but a number of players in the field contended that week.

 

They said:

Curtis Strange: "Erin Hills GC. Vast open spaces, widest fairways of any Open, exposed windswept greens, no rough around greens (all runoff ) tall fescue. And did I mention wind "

Ryan Palmer: "Had one shot from the fescue. Fun golf course. Very fair off the tee. Still have to drive it well... and long."



US Open Best Value Bets

Erin Hills screams Branden Grace. "Big-time player from South Africa with one of the most penetrating ball fights in the game" as he's described on the European Tour website. Grace - 46.00 or 10.00 - grew up on the links at Fancourt and indeed that's where he was last week practicing. The links at Fancourt shares similarities with this year's US Open venue in terms of the skill set of shots that will be required. He flew into Erin Hills at the weekend. The confident South African is simmering form wise with three top 11 finishes in his last four – all in events which factored in some windy conditions. In fact, his form and scheduling is very similar to last year where he finished T5 at Oakmont. 

Branden was also fourth the previous season at Chambers Bay and is no stranger to high finishes in the American majors with 3rd and 4th places in the last two PGA Championships under his belt as well. Wind specialist Grace ranked 15th in strokes gained tee to green in 2016 and 13th in strokes gained approach. While this isn't a links course, it's going to play like one, as does the Qatar Masters and Grace has won twice at Doha GC. He's also won the Dimension Data at Fancourt, won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and lost in a playoff to Phil Mickelson in the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart golf links. A win at the windy Harbour Town golf links is also on the resume. Notice there's a buzz word and theme that keeps popping up here.

Adam Scott and Charl Schwartzel are the two players rounding into form that look a bit of EW value. Both prepared with competitive action at the St. Jude Classic. Scott - 31.00 or 7.00 - ranked 1st in strokes gained off the tee, 6th in strokes gained approach (15th for the season) and 2nd in strokes gained tee to green at TPC Southwind, showing off the usual tee to green skills. The Aussie has been working with a new short game coach and he will also have Steve Williams on the bag. Both players are former major winners who are more than competent if it blows. Schwartzel - 67.00 or 14.00 - was 2nd at TPC Southwind last week and while it hasn't been his best year, in 2016 he ranked top 10 in both strokes gained tee to green and approach which tells you all you need to know about his game.

Shane Lowry - 81.00 or 17.00 - was of course the 54 hole US Open leader last season at Oakmont, and by a four-shot margin, before being overtaken by eventual champ Dustin Johnson. The Irishman will be looking to put that right at Erin Hills and again the test should be ideally suited. Lowry ranks 43rd in strokes gained approach. Most notably though, Lowry sits 8th in total driving and is one of the finest wind exponents in the game. He's also one of golf's short game / bunker specialists. He has had a few problems with the flat stick and that will ultimately be the deciding factor in whether he features or not. The big man has been simmering form wise with a T6 at the BMW PGA where a win looked on the cards early Sunday, followed by a T15 at Memorial - a second shot track.