The 117th U.S. Open looked great on television at the links-style Erin Hills course in the middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin this past weekend, but I don't think the USGA is going to allow its crown jewel tournament to go back there unless it can be toughened up. I don't know about you, but I like watching guys brought to their knees by the toughest possible conditions in the U.S. Open, and that's essentially what the USGA wants. Alas, a lack of wind at Erin Hills made the course quite tame - the fairways are frankly too wide -- and American Brooks Koepka won his first-ever major championship by finishing at 16-under. The under-par mark tied a U.S. open record set by Rory McIlroy six years ago at Congressional.
Koepka fired a final-round 67 to finish four shots ahead of 54-hole leader Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama. Former U.S. Open champion Johnny Miller joked that the tournament was more like a Greater Milwaukee Open after Justin Thomas tied his U.S. Open record of 63 in the third round. Koepka's score of 272 was tied with four others for the third-lowest in modern U.S. Open history.Tied for the lead with six holes to play, Koepka made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole and took off from there. He became the seventh straight first-time winner of a major championship, and it was the first time since 1998-2000 that Americans have won the U.S. Open three straight years.
With those massive fairways, Koepka and most others could go for broke off the tee. He led the field in greens hit in regulation with a stunning 62 of 72. He was T4 in the field in fairways hit with 49 of 56. Koepka entered the tournament No. 151 on the PGA Tour in fairways hit and No. 98 in greens in regulation. Harman shot even-par 72 Sunday after starting the final round with a one-shot lead. He struggled from the tee, though, hitting just eight of 14 fairways.
Only six players had ever reached double digits under par in the previous 116 U.S. Opens. McIlroy and Tiger Woods (12 under at Pebble Beach in 2000) had been the only players to finish there. There were nine players at least 10 under at Erin Hills. A total of 31 players finished under par, breaking the U.S. Open record of 28 players at Medinah in 1990.
With the course playing so easy, it was shocking that world No. 1 Dustin Johnson missed the cut. Ditto Jon Rahm, Jason Day, McIlroy, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott. My main recommendation was to bet an American to win at +110, and Rickie Fowler was my main guy. He led after the first round with a 65 but finished T5 at 10 under. It's his sixth Top 5 in a major as he looks for his first victory in one.
This week the Tour heads to the TPC River Highlands outside Hartford for the Travelers Championship. I'm a bit surprised big names like McIlroy, Day and Spieth are playing the week after the Open. Perhaps McIlroy and Day wouldn't be if not for missing the cut. There are seven former winners of this tournament in the field. The defending champion is Scotland's Russell Knox. He saved par with a 12-foot putt on the final hole to beat hometown favorite Jerry Kelly by a stroke. Knox finished at 14 under. The big news, though, was Jim Furyk setting a Tour record with a 58 in the final round. He finished T5 at 11 under. Both Knox and Furyk are playing.
Golf Odds: Travelers Championship Favorites
Spieth is the +800 favorite as he plays here for the first time. He was one of the few big names to make the cut last week at 35th. He closed with a solid 69 and praised the course afterward Sunday. McIlroy is +900. I wasn't high on him last week as he was returning from reaggravating his rib injury. He shot 78-71. McIlroy also plays here for the first time.
Day (+1000), Thomas (+1000) and Paul Casey (+2000) round out the favorites. Day simply isn't having a very good season by his standards and still might be distracted by his mother's illness. He was 10 over in his two rounds at Erin Hill. Day was 18th here in 2014. Thomas was T9 last week and third here in 2016. Casey was a runner-up in this event in 2015 and 17 th last year. He finished 26th at the Open.
Golf Odds: Travelers Championship Picks
Only a few times has a non-American won this event, although it has happened in three of the past five years. For a Top 10, I like Thomas (+135), Brandt Snedeker (+250), Marc Leishman (+275) and Bubba Watson (+300). For top Australasian, I like Leishman at +300 and Casey at the same price as top European.
Head-to-head, go Charley Hoffman (-130) over Bud Cauley (even), Patrick Reed (-125) over Harman (-105), Snedeker (even) over Casey (-130), Thomas (-105) over Day (-125), and Spieth (-110) over McIlroy.
You can get Spieth and McIlroy at +425 vs. the field (-700). I'm not high on them. Also Day and Thomas (+550) vs. the field (-1000). That's actually a little more tempting but no.
I'm a bit torn between two-time winner Watson (+3000), 2012 winner Leishman (+2800) and Snedeker (+2500). Watson also has two other Top 5s here this decade but he's just not playing well this year. Let's go Leishman. He was a solid 27th last week and ninth here a year ago; he has never missed a cut in Hartford and has two other Top 11 results.
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