I learned two things about Daniel Berger this past weekend: He's clearly a "Horse for the Course" at TPC Southwind in Memphis after repeating at the St. Jude Classic, and he's not going to win this week's U.S. Open because no player has won that tournament after winning an event the previous week.
Berger got his first career win at the St. Jude Classic in 2016 and entered Sunday's final round three shots off the lead. That deficit was wiped out with three birdies over his first 13 holes, and he then took the lead for good with a birdie on No. 15. Berger, who shot a 66, finished at 10 under, one shot ahead of Charl Schwartzel and Whee Kim. The victory probably also wraps up a spot on the U.S. Presidents Cup team later this year for Berger. He became the fourth player to go back-to-back at this tournament after David Toms (2003-04), Lee Trevino (1971-72) and Dave Hill (1969-70).
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Stewart Cink, Ben Crane and Rafa Cabrera Bello started Sunday with a one-shot lead. Cabrera Bello stayed in contention for most of the day, finishing with a 71, but Cink and Crane both shot a 73. Arguably the biggest story in Memphis was amateur Braden Thornberry finishing T4 less than two weeks after winning the NCAA individual title. He was vying to become the first amateur PGA Tour winner since Phil Mickelson at the 1991 Northern Telecom Open. It was the best finish for any amateur since Lee McCoy took fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship.
I thought either Mickelson or Brooks Koepka would win in Memphis. Lefty at one point was tied for the lead Sunday at 9-under after he rolled in a 14-foot birdie putt on 10. Alas, he triple-bogeyed No. 12 and that was that. He finished solo ninth at 7-under so I got him at +150 for that prop. Also hit on Billy Horschel at +250 for a Top 10 as he was T4 in a group with Thornberry. Koepka opened with rounds of 69-66 but then shot 71-73 to finish T37.
So now the PGA Tour/European Tour heads to Erin Hills in Wisconsin for the 117th U.S. Open. I'm going to be honest here in saying I'm not sure what to expect because not even the players know. It's the first time that Erin Hills, a links-style course more like a British Open host, has hosted a PGA Tour event. If you are in the greater Milwaukee area later this year, you can play the public layout for a green fee $280.
When you think of the U.S. Open, you likely think very tight fairways and incredibly deep rough. These fairways are monstrously wide and it's fescue rough. The course's defense is a length of nearly 7,770 yards (second-longest in tournament history), tough greens and potentially windy conditions. I would think that long hitters would have an advantage, but balls are going to run forever on those fairways. If it's not windy, many expect scores to be approaching double-digit under par, which is not something you usually see at a U.S. Open.
In handicapping this tournament, I suppose I will have to rely somewhat on the 2015 U.S. Open, which was also held at a mammoth links first-time course - that was Chambers Bay near Seattle. Dustin Johnson gagged away that tournament but bounced back last year at extremely tough Oakmont (polar opposite of Erin Hills) and won at 4-under 276 for his first major title. His career really took off after that. Johnson is grouped the first two days with 2015 winner Jordan Spieth and 2014 champion Martin Kaymer.
I feel I must mention Mickelson, even though he probably won't be playing. Mickelson did get about as late a first-round tee time as possible (3:20 p.m. ET) but will need about a four-hour weather delay Thursday to have time to fly from his daughter's high school graduation in California and get to the course on time (last year's first round was delayed). Alas, it's not looking good. The forecast for Thursday at Erin Hills calls for partly cloudy and only a 20 percent chance of rain, meaning it's likely Mickelson will miss the tournament for the first time since 1993.It's the only Slam he hasn't won.
Golf Odds: U.S. Open Favorites
Johnson is the +750 favorite. Not even prime Tiger Woods was able to repeat at the U.S. Open. The last to do so was Curtis Strange in 1988-89. Hard to argue with Johnson as the favorite, though as he should have won the Open as mentioned two years ago and was fourth in 2014. He does come off a surprising missed cut at the Memorial.
Spieth and McIlroy are +1200. Spieth was the beneficiary of DJ's choke job two years ago but that's his only Top 10 in a U.S. Open. He comes off a 13 th at the Memorial. I'm not a fan of 2011 U.S. Open winner McIlroy this week. He hasn't competed since the Players Championship because of a recurrence of that rib injury. Even if he's 100 percent now, he's going to be rusty.
Jason Day (+1400), Jon Rahm (+2000) and Rickie Fowler (+2000) round out the favorites. Rahm was 23rd in his first U.S. Open last year. He has missed the cut in two of his past four events but is having a great year. Day has finished Top 10 in each of the past four U.S. Opens. Fowler has missed the cut in the past two and also did so last week.
Golf Odds: U.S. Open Picks
Keep in mind that there's an 18-hole playoff on Monday if there's a tie after 72 holes. The last playoff was in 2008, which was also Tiger's last major win. There are dozens and dozens of props available on this tournament, so I recommend you go check them all out. That there's a playoff is yes-only at +275. A double-eagle (albatross) is +1200. A wire-to-wire winner, and there have only been seven in this tournament, is also +1200. I don't recommend any of those.
That the winner is American is +110 with European +175 and rest of the world +250. You can also bet on the best finish by a former winner, with Johnson the +185 favorite there. There are several options for group betting. I would take Johnson at -165 for a Top 10 as well as Day (-105) and Fowler (+150).
There have been six straight first-time major winners and I'll say that continues with Fowler. He's +700 to be top American - that a U.S. player takes the tournament might be your best bet.
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