The U.S. Open has arrived, a few months late but still welcome. One of 2020’s three majors provides a challenging opportunity for bettors, since it’s historically the toughest tournament of the year. The USGA, American golf’s organizing body, takes a particularly sadistic delight in trying to “preserve par” — that is, crank up the degree of difficulty so high that pros look like the rest of us hacking away out there.
Over at BetMGM, you’ll find a complete slate of U.S. Open lines, including favorites and special bets. Let’s walk through a few notables.
How to bet the U.S. Open
Golf is most definitely not the sport to bet for newcomers — at least, not if you’re just trying to pick the winner. Even the best players heading into a tournament are rarely better odds than 10-1. As Jason Scott, MGM vice president of trading, says, “Don’t try to pick a needle out of a haystack.”
Where your odds get much better is if you start angling for those players to finish Top 5, Top 10, or even just make the cut. You’re giving them, and your wallet, a bit of cushion to allow for the strangeness that always seems to crop up at every single major. (Who, outside of his family, would have straight-up picked Collin Morikawa to win this year’s PGA Championship? Exactly.)
To add a little life to the proceedings, Scott recommends head-to-head betting, where you pick two players and choose a winner. Watching them in a featured group provides a uniquely exhilarating and wrenching experience. Check the groupings for possible matchups; a Dustin Johnson-Bryson DeChambeau head-to-head match on Thursday or Friday is the golf equivalent of a heavyweight fight.
Who are the favorites?
The two best players in the world are coming in hot, with Dustin Johnson at +800 (bet $100 to win $800) and Jon Rahm at +900. DJ is coming into yet another major as the betting favorite, but he has only one victory to show for it. Will this week be any different? Will Rahm’s famed temper hold up under a sustained four-day assault from the USGA and its brand of devilish course setup? With two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka out of the mix with an injury, the door is open wide.
A little further down the line, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele are both +1400, while Morikawa and perpetual threat Rory McIlroy are just behind them at +1600. No one else comes in at better than 20-1 odds, not even Golf Hulk Bryson DeChambeau. Length off the tee impresses when you’re at a regular-season tournament, but at the U.S. Open, it can just plunge you deeper into trouble.
Who are the sleepers?
Scott’s tip: look for players who can stripe the ball while staying roughly within the fairway; the more you have to play from the ankle-deep rough, the more strokes you can tack onto your score. Which brings us to the deeper bets. Scott recommends players like Tyrell Hatton (+4000) and Kevin Kisner (+9000), among others.
“Rahm is good on hard courses, but he’s a bit wayward for me,” Scott says. “I like to see a consistent ball striker like Hideki Matsuyama (+3300), Viktor Hovland (+5000) and Sungjae Im (+7000), guys who can whack it up the middle.”
How about Tiger Woods?
Ah, Tiger. Woods has played in 21 previous U.S. Opens and won three of them, and if he wins another it will qualify as the most miraculous major of his career. His game is just not at U.S. Open level any longer, and the odds — he’s +4500 to win — are evidence of that. There’s an automatic Woods liability baked into every Tiger line; he’s always a favorite for casual bettors who want to throw a few bucks Tiger’s way, so casinos have to account for that on the off chance that he comes out of nowhere to win, the way he did in 2019 at Augusta. But that’s not happening here.
Should you be inclined to throw some money Tiger’s way with at least a faint expectation of recovering it, consider some of the Thursday specials: a birdie on the first hole (+1400), an eagle at any point (+1400), or a par-or-better round (+130). You won’t bank as much money as you might with a Tiger victory, but it’s a more reasonable allocation.
If you’re looking to pair Tiger with a fellow legend, consider a bet on Woods and Phil Mickelson to make the cut at +160. Considering the brutality of the Winged Foot layout, those aren’t great odds, but who knows … the old guys might surprise us.
By himself, Woods is -200 to make the cut and +140 to miss, so if you’ve got some special love — or hate — in your heart for Woods, there you go.
What are some special bets?
If you’re angling to play the field rather than tie your fortunes to a specific player, consider some special bets. For instance, you can bet on the winning margin — a single-stroke win is +225, while a blowout four-or-more-stroke victory is +350. Looking for a playoff? “Yes” is +350, while “No” is -500.
If you decide to go with a Ryder Cup-style betting play, American players are an aggregate -143 to win, while European players are +190 and the rest of the world +600. You could even tease two separate nationalities; a DJ-as-top-American and Rahm-as-top-European parlay lists at +2800.
There is, however, no line for whether players will complain about the course setup, likely because it would pay about a nickel on a $100 bet.
What impact will the lack of fans have on the action?
The U.S. Open will be the second major without fans in attendance, after last month’s PGA Championship. The impact will be as much mental as physical; some players need the crowd to get them fired up, while others are happy just playing what will feel like a practice round. Anyone teeing it up with Tiger Woods will enjoy unexpected calm, that’s for certain.
From a logistical impact, the lack of fans means that the rough will be absolutely punishing the deeper you drift off the fairway — without fans to trample down the rough, players will be in a world of trouble if they can’t keep their shots on line.
The lack of fans and grandstands also robs players of one crucial asset: the ability to backstop a long shot into the green. It’s not exactly graceful golf, but virtually every player has aimed for the grandstands with the knowledge that if their shot flies far, it will kick back toward the green. Not anymore.
From a betting perspective, BetMGM hasn’t observed any significant alterations in playing patterns without fans on the course. It’s not a home-field situation, where fans could influence referees. Out at Winged Foot, every player’s on his own … which is exactly how the USGA likes it.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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