The most controversial event in golf, the U.S. Open, is upon us. Traditionally scheduled as the 2nd major championship of the year, the 119th edition of the tournament has been moved for 2019 and now follows hot on the heels of the U.S. PGA Championship.
Fans and players alike will be hoping that a change of date will not be the only thing different about this year’s contest. Over recent years the event, run by the USGA (United States Golf Association), has been a constant course of consternation for players. With complaints about course setup, prize purse and rules enforcement continuously at the fore, there have even been talks in recent years of boycotts from leading players.
So, this year’s tournament is perhaps of more importance than ever before. Get it wrong again – repeating the mistakes of the past and bringing disrepute onto the hallowed grounds of Pebble Beach – and next year’s tournament could see a very different field.
For the U.S. Open, Pebble Beach Links has been set up as a par 71 course over 7,040 yards. While the AT&T setup at the course normally results in a score of double figures under-par for the winner, this is the U.S. Open! So, it’s highly unlikely anybody will match Tiger Woods U.S. Open record at Pebble Beach of -12 back in 2000, when the Tiger finished 15 strokes ahead of second place in arguably the greatest performance in the tournament’s history. Last time the course hosted the tournament, in 2010, Graeme McDowell would prove victorious at level par.
As for the course itself, it’s an icon and widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world. Designed by a pair of locals, the course was opened in 1919 and is located on the Monterey Peninsula, with the course hugging the California coastline and offering panoramic views of Carmel Bay and the Pacific Ocean beyond. Nine holes are located adjacent to the coastline, with hole 8 undoubtedly one of the most recognisable in all of golf.
If you somehow missed Tiger Woods winning the Masters – we can only assume you must have been living under a rock somewhere – you missed one of the greatest sporting redemption stories of all time. Following injuries, surgeries, trials, tribulations and no small amount of controversy, Woods won his first major for 11 years in epic fashion, coming from behind to secure his first win at Augusta since 2005.
The PGA Championship went a little more to form, with Brooks Koepka winning the tournament – held at Bethpage Black – for the second year in a row. Since winning his first major, the 2017 U.S. Open, Koepka has been the dominant force in major championships and finished tied 2nd behind Woods in the Masters. While he hasn’t won either of this year’s majors, Dustin Johnson has finished 2nd in both tournaments.
Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson lead the field as favourites, both at 8/1 (9.00) to win the tournament. Brooks Koepka is just behind at 9/1 (10.00), while Masters winner Tiger Woods is best of the rest 12/1 (13.00).
Rory McIlroy – The Northern Irishman enters the U.S. Open fresh from victory at the most recent tournament, the Canadian Open, where he shot a nine-under 61 to win by seven shots and secured his 16th PGA Tour title in the process. McIlroy may be the man in form, but he hasn’t won a major for 5 years. While he’ll no doubt be in contention, a winner is likely to come from the American contingent, so why not back Rory McIlroy to finish as Top European at 3/1 (4.00).
Brooks Koepka – Since winning his maiden major championship, the 2017 U.S. Open, Koepka has been the dominant force in golf’s major championships, winning half of the majors since (four of the last eight) and three of the last five. Win the U.S. Open and the World No.1 will become the first player to win the tournament three times in a row since Willie Anderson in 1905.
Dustin Johnson – Having secured his first major win with victory at the 2016 U.S. Open, Johnson seemed in prime position to go on and dominate the sport. Unfortunately for the big-hitting American, things haven’t quite panned out that way. The phrase “always the bridesmaid never the bride” could well have been coined for Johnson, who has seven top-five finishes in majors, finishing runner-up on no less than four occasions, two of which have come in this year’s majors alone.
Tiger Woods – Was Tiger’s Masters win the icing on the cake of a legendary career? Or the start of a new era of dominance for an icon of the sport? The U.S. Open could hold the answer to that question. It was no surprise that Woods followed up his Masters victory with a poor showing at the PGA Championship where he failed to make the cut, entering the tournament undercooked having basked in the glory of his comeback win. Tiger’s current game is well suited to Pebble Beach though and he’s been here before, winning his first U.S. Open in 2000 on this very course.
*Odds subject to change. Odds correct at time of publishing.