I predicted my fifth winner of the season at last week's U.S. Open at storied Oakmont outside Pittsburgh, but I'm not sure I've ever been so irritated watching a golf event.
OK, I had to hedge a bit last week as I believed that either American Dustin Johnson or Aussie Jason Day was going to win the tournament. So I took a prop of those two, Rory McIlroy and Justin Spieth at +130 against the field (-170). And Johnson got that major championship monkey off his back, a year after blowing the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, by shooting 4-under 276 to win by three shots. I didn't expect anyone to finish under par at the incredibly-tough Oakmont, and only four guys did. Heavy rains on Thursday, which also created a huge backlog, helped make the course play a bit easier.
The irritation came from the USGA on Sunday. Johnson was standing over a 6-foot par putt on the fifth green and the ball suddenly moved a tiny bit backward when DJ went to address the ball. Johnson quickly stepped away and informed a rules official that the ball had moved. But Johnson was told by officials that there would be no penalty, and he made the putt. Then, inexplicably, a USGA official told Johnson on the 12th tee that the matter was in fact still under review. The rest of the field was told as well. Can you imagine trying to win your first major title not knowing if you were going to have a penalty assessed on you afterward?
The USGA looked utterly foolish and was ripped heavily on social media by other players in the field. The USGA did penalize Johnson a stroke -- he was penalized under Rule 18-2 (Ball Moving after Address); a one-stroke penalty is applied if a player's actions are deemed to be the likely cause of his ball's movement -- and said its ruling was correct on Monday but apologized for its ambiguity. Thankfully it didn't end up mattering -- how wild would it have been if Johnson then had to go to an 18-hole playoff? Remember, at the 2010 PGA Championship it looked like Johnson might win on Sunday but was assessed a controversial two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in what was deemed a bunker. That knocked him out of a playoff won by Martin Kaymer over Bubba Watson.
I also hit on Johnson at +600 as the top American, at +125 for a Top 10 and +110 over Spieth (-140). I didn't like Spieth at all last week and he was T37. Also hit on Day at -140 for a Top 10 and at -125 over McIlroy (-105). Rory missed the cut. So did Phil Mickelson, who I had for a Top 10.
This week the Tour heads to Congressional Country Club -- host of the 1964, 2007 and 2011 U.S. Opens -- for the Quicken Loans National. Because it's the week after a grueling major, the field is watered down. I really thought Tiger Woods would play here as he's the host of his tournament, but he's still not ready and I no longer expect to see him the rest of this season. Woods played pretty well here last year, finishing T18 at 8-under 276. This is the fourth time since the event's start in 2007 that injuries have kept him from playing it. Rickie Fowler is the biggest name in this year's field.
The defending champion is Troy Merritt, but at a different course due to renovations at Congressional (Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia). He shot a 4-under 67 on Sunday to close at 18-under 266 and his first career victory in 96 starts. Merritt really took control with a tournament-record 61 in the third round. Merritt had missed five straight cuts entering the tournament. Merritt hasn't won since and has missed 10 cuts in 18 events this season. He last played the St. Jude Classic two weeks ago and was T68. Merritt is thus a +15000 Bovada long shot to repeat. No one has done so yet at this tournament.
Golf Odds: Quicken Loans National Favorites
Fowler is the +1400 betting favorite. He was one shot out of the lead here last year entering the final round and finished three shots back for a solo second. Fowler looks a bit lost right now as he missed the cut in a third straight tournament last week.
Patrick Reed and Jim Furyk are each +1800. Reed last played this tournament in 2014 and was 11th. He also missed the cut last week. Furyk was a co-runner-up at Oakmont. He last played this event in 2013 and was 44th.
Gary Woodland, Justin Thomas and Marc Leishman (all +2800) round out the favorites. Thomas was fourth last year. Woodland was 46th at Congressional in 2014. Leishman has Top 10s at this event in 2010 & '14.
PGA Tour Picks: Quicken Loans National Expert Betting Predictions
For a Top 10, I like Reed (+175), Woodland (+275) because this is a monster long track and he didn't play last week and get worn down by Oakmont, and Charley Hoffman (+275). Go Martin Laird at +450 as top European and John Senden (+500) as top Aussie.
You can get Fowler, Reed and Furyk at +500 against the field (-900), but I'd lean the field there. I'll take Reed (even) over Fowler (-130), Furyk (-140) over Leishman (+110), Hoffman (-115) over Justin Thomas (-115), Woodland (-115) over Kevin Chappell (-115), and Bill Haas (-120) over Russell Henley (-110).
Hoffman is my winner pick at +3000. He won in Texas a couple of months ago and was third at Congressional two years ago.
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