The first round of the US Open takes place on Thursday which means that we get to see the newly designed Shinnecock Hills course for the first time and inevitably comparisons to how it played in 2004 will be made.
The general consensus is that it is a fairer test this year but that remains to be seen. The 156 men teeing it up will be eager for a good start so we should get a decent opening day of action. As ever for the first round we have a number of markets to get stuck into and we shall do just that here.
First Round Leader
Of all the four majors the US Open is probably the best one to get stuck into from a first round leader point of view. That is because there are two waves of players teeing off on two different tees so if there is a weather or course condition advantage we can eliminate half of the field. That is the case here.
There has been rain in the Long Island area on Wednesday so the course is going to be much softer in the morning and the wind is expected to be much calmer in the morning than the afternoon. Throw into the mix that the greens here are Poa Annua which will get real bumpy in the afternoon and we want morning starters and the earlier the better.
With that in mind I’ve dug out a couple of players, both of whom are comfortable in the wind and are no strangers to going low in a major. They are Branden Grace and Charley Hoffman. Grace is extremely comfortable on links layouts as we saw at Chambers Bay a few years ago and he’s in decent form, something he showed in the final round of the Byron Nelson and again at Wentworth.
Hoffman has topped leaderboard on a couple of occasions in majors and other high profile PGA Tour events. Being from around Texas he’ll have played in the wind a lot and he has a very good short game. Both men have good temperaments, both are out in the morning and at 45/1 and 80/1 respectively both are nice prices.
Thursday 3 Balls
As with all major championships every group out onto the golf course has been priced up on the opening day of the tournament. There is no doubt which the standout group is. That is the one featuring Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas which goes out at 18.47 BST while the other marquee group sees Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy on the course at 13.02 BST. There are literally dozens of other good groups though and we have bets in four of them.
As ever in the US Open I’ve picked out the groups where there is an amateur or local qualifier in them who is unlikely to go well in this company on this tough a course. Effectively that reduces the three balls to two enhancing the value greatly.
Trey Mullinax/Jason Scrivener/Matt Parziale
Match tee off at 11.56 BST
The first group onto the course that we can turn into a two ball is the one featuring Trey Mullinax, Jason Scrivener and Matt Parziale with the latter very much easy to knock off the challengers list here.
He is an amateur who I believe is a fireman by trade. He has already teed it up in a major this year and shot 81 and 79 at The Masters and if he’s making those scores there he’ll struggle to break 80 here so this is between the two professionals for me.
I’ve got to think Mullinax will have a big advantage into the greens and while Scrivener has shown that he can handle windy conditions in Perth and the like his form since the Dubai Desert Classic has been pretty patchy. Mullinax is playing some nice golf at the minute. He was sixth last week but more appealingly he was second in the Texas Open not too long ago and wind plays a big part in that event. Even at odds on I’ll take the American in what is effective a two ball.
Chesson Hadley/Brendan Steele/Harry Ellis
Match tees off at 12.07 BST
The second group which interests me in this opening round heads off in the group after my first bet when Chesson Hadley, Brendan Steele and Harry Ellis set off on their merry way. While Harry Ellis is one of the leading amateurs and will be good in the future I think this company and this course could find him out.
With that in mind I’ll take this between the American duo with Hadley as my pick. Brendan Steele always begins the season well on the west coast but when you get him to the eastern parts of the country he goes missing which makes me think Hadley is a good thing here. He has a solid tee to green game and he’s probably the pick of these three on and around the greens. I expect him to outscore his playing partners here.
Ted Potter Jr/Paul Waring/ Theo Humphrey
Match tees off at 17.41 BST
Moving into the afternoon starters and one group I like is quite a mix actually. We have the amateur Theo Humphrey, the Englishman Paul Waring and Ted Potter Jr and it is the latter I have a liking for here.
Humphrey is one of the leading amateurs in the game at the minute but he is on debut as far as major championships go while Waring tees it up in America for the first time and could well be a fish out of water on that score. Potter Jr is nothing special but he has won this year and he has plenty of experience. Just a solid showing should be enough to bring home the bacon here.
Steve Stricker/Jim Furyk/Ernie Els
Match tees off at 18.36 BST
The final group that I like the look of on this opening day is the one featuring three veterans in Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Ernie Els where the Presidents Cup captain of last year looks the fairly obvious choice it must be said.
Furyk is more or less a part time golfer at the top level these days and for a few years has had just select courses to contend on. Beasts like this are not among them while Els is only here on an invite so it has to be Stricker for me. He’s still extremely competitive on both the Seniors Tour and the PGA Tour. Just on his short game alone he stands out here but he probably covers the other two in the long game too. He looks a very solid bet.
Back B.Grace First Round Leader (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 46.00 with Unibet (1/5 1-6)
Back him here:
Back T.Mullinax to beat J.Scrivener & M.Parziale for a 4/10 stake at 1.91 with BetBright
Back him here:
Back C.Hadley to beat B.Steele & H.Ellis for a 3/10 stake at 2.25 with Ladbrokes
PLACED – Back C.Hoffman First Round Leader (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
WON – Back T.Potter Jr to beat P.Waring & T.Humphrey for a 3/10 stake at 2.50 with Betfair
Back them here:
DEAD HEAT – Back S.Stricker to beat J.Furyk & E.Els for a 4/10 stake at 2.00 with Boylesports
Back him here: