Ahead of the 118th U.S. Open this week, we power rank the top twenty players in contention per the bookmakers’ odds.
While conflicting thoughts abound on how difficult the set-up at Shinnecock Hills will be, we will focus on form, statistics, and event/course suitability in determining who is best-placed to claim victory in the year’s second Major.
Although they don’t occupy the top four spots in our rankings, these are our picks for the U.S. Open, taking into account odds and gut feeling:
Justin Rose @ 16/1
Jon Rahm @ 20/1
Branden Grace @ 33/1
Webb Simpson @ 50/1
The rankings from 11-20 can be seen above, and below is our top ten.
1) Dustin Johnson
Best U.S. Open Finish: 1st (2016), Wins This Year: 2, Recent Form: 1-4-32-MC-6, Odds: 8/1
The bookies’ favourite, and a worthy one at that. DJ reclaimed the world number one spot at the St. Jude Classic, holing out for eagle on the 18th in sensational fashion.
Johnson is imperious from tee-to-green, is an underrated putter (Chambers Bay aside), and has a good touch around the greens, particularly in scrambling, which could prove crucial at Shinnecock. Solid form over the years at The Open Championship show that he won’t shy away from a wind-hit links course.
He should have won on the Chamber Bay links set-up in 2015 amid questions about his mentality under pressure, but nine wins later, including the 2016 iteration under immense pressure courtesy of a bad ruling, should put that to bed. Was 10th at The Masters, scuppered by a slow start, so ultimately a judgement call at 8/1 against the field has to be made.
2) Justin Rose
Best U.S Open Finish: 1st (2013), Wins This Year: 1, Recent Form: 6-1-23-12-52, Odds: 16/1
One golfing cliche rings true for Justin here – whoever finishes ahead of Rose will win the whole thing.
The 2013 champion in difficult conditions at Merion has peaked at the right time. Brilliant form since last September culminated in him claiming the Fort Worth Invitational, and Rose was competitive in 6th immediately after at Muirfield. The Englishman is immensely consistent across the board in statistics, and he’s not undersized in driving – a big talking point this week.
Concerns have been raised about his links record, with the Open Championship not being a happy hunting ground. A 2014 Scottish Open win, and 27th at Chambers Bay in 2015 indicate that he isn’t completely out of his depth in this setting.
Mentally, there is zero concern if Rose gets into contention, only ever truly being beaten by the better man, as seen at the 2017 Masters against Sergio Garcia.
3) Justin Thomas
Best U.S Open Finish: 9th (2017), Wins This Year: 1, Recent Form: 8-11-21-17-4, Odds: 16/1
After a sensational five wins in 2017, Thomas, who has maintained some great form, is a perennial contender. A run of Honda Classic: 1st, WGC Mexico Championship: 2nd, WGC Match Play: 4th in the run-up to The Masters only yielded 17th place. His record at Augusta isn’t remarkable though, and a 9th last year (including a third round 63) suggests this event is more suitable for the big-hitting Kentuckian.
Thomas ranks superbly from tee-to-green, though some middling stats around the green may work against him at Shinnecock, who’s best defence may come in the green complexes and the scrambling needed to avoid dropped shots.
4) Rory McIlroy
Best U.S Open Finish: 1st (2011), Wins This Year: 1, Recent Form: 8-2-MC-16-5, Odds: 14/1
Prior to every Major, it is said that Rory on his A-game is unbeatable. The question therefore becomes the obvious – which McIlroy will show up this week?
While the fawning over his A-game is justified, some feel that the Ulsterman is something of a flat-track bully – unable to grind out a victory where level par is the winning score (his 2011 U.S Open winning total was -16). The winning totals of his 23 professional successes do bear this out, but McIlroy has substantially positive links and major experience.
Recently, his first win in 18 months came at Bay Hill with a wonderful final round 64. However, he limped to 5th at Augusta after missing a short putt on the 2nd hole to take the lead on Sunday. Also, a commanding 36 hole lead at the BMW PGA Championship only yielded 2nd, with the Holywood man failing to break 70 over the weekend.
If anything gets in his way this week, it will be wayward driving and/or putting.
5) Jon Rahm
Best Finish: 23rd (2016), Wins This Year: 2, Recent Form: 5-63-1-4-64, Odds: 20/1
It’s only a matter of time before the fiery Spaniard claims a major.
With the course likely to favour in-form big hitters, Rahm is well placed to contend. A winner of his home Open de Espana, and the CareerBuilder Challenge in the U.S. this year, Rahm ranks very highly in driving distance, GIR, and general scoring on both Tours. Two forgettable appearances in this event are offset by a 4th in this year’s Masters, and a win at Portstewart links in the Irish Open last year is encouraging.
6) Jason Day
Best Finish: 2nd (2011, 2013), Wins This Year: 2, Recent Form: 44-5-1-20-64, Odds: 16/1
When a sportsman is called his own worst enemy, it’s always in reference to their mental state or penchant for acting out. In Day’s case, the affable Aussie is prone to all manner of injuries. At this very event in 2015, Day collapsed on-course after a bout of vertigo.
Now, a shoulder problem threatens to stall some serious momentum. Day claimed the Farmers Insurance Open in January, and a series of strong finishes culminated in an impressive win at Quail Hollow. He finished fifth at The Players the week after, but could be seen wincing during the final round.
“I feel like it pops out but it’s more of a sting,” Day said via Golf Magic. “I don’t know if it’s gone from my back to my shoulder now, I think it snowballs.”
The 30-year-old then finished 44th at The Memorial, his worst result since the Travelers almost a year ago. All things considered, his stats match up very well with this layout, with some exemplary form around the greens (3rd on Tour), only bettered by his form on them (1st on Tour). Has the game and form, but will his day be scuppered by injury again?
7) Rickie Fowler
Best Finish: 2nd (2014), Wins This Year: 0, Recent Form: 8-14-MC-21-2, Odds: 20/1
Rickie’s seminal win at The Players in 2015 was sealed with an infamous kiss. Now, less than a week before the US Open, the popular star has gotten engaged. The nappy factor is well established in golf betting, but can this news finally see Fowler break down the door?
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) June 9, 2018
He’s certainly overdue. Following an extraordinary 2014 which saw him finish top five in all four majors, Fowler struggled in those same events until 2017, where he came 5th in last year’s US Open, and likewise at the PGA Championship. His closest call yet came at The Masters in April, where he shot a significant final round 67 only to be pipped by Patrick Reed by only one shot.
Since then, an MC at The Players is concerning, but he has been exemplary elsewhere. His 8th at The Memorial last time out was enabled by driving accuracy of 75% and GIR of 72%. That form has been consistent – 18th on Tour in GIR and 14th in sand saves bode very well for the challenge presented by Shinnecock Hills. Some fine finishes at The Open, coupled with winning the 2015 Scottish Open, indicate that Fowler can cope if the wind kicks up around this links track.
8) Webb Simpson
Best Finish: 1st (2012), Wins This Year: 1, Recent Form: MC-1-21-5-20, Odds: 50/1
We’ve flouted our own rules here for the dark horse. While Simpson is widely available at 50s, he is an absurd 70/1 with one or two outlets. His chances here are too good to ignore, though.
The 2012 champion emerged from the doldrums in emphatic style, winning The Players Championship last month at a canter. A win in 2013 was followed by a four and a half year dry spell, as he finally regained form with the putter this year, culminating in a dominant victory at TPC Sawgrass. Martin Kaymer pulled off the Players/U.S. Open double as recently as 2014.
Never prolific off the tee, Simpson is nonetheless well-rounded elsewhere, ranked no lower than 30th in every other SG department. Just one missed cut in five U.S. Opens since the win and despite his troubles show how he relishes the fiendish set-up.
9) Branden Grace
Best Finish: 4th (2015), Wins This Year: 1, Recent Form: 52-5-3-46-24, Odds: 33/1
Grace is as highly fancied as ever come Major time. His links pedigree includes an Alfred Dunhill Links Championship win in 2012, and notably 4th at Chambers Bay in 2015. The South African was 5th the year after at Oakmont, and his suitability is backed up with some fine current form on both sides of the Atlantic.
3rd at the AT&T Byron Nelson in Texas was followed by 5th at the BMW PGA in England, Grace strikes us as the best option from the South African contingent, despite the temptation of Louis Oosthuizen.
10) Brooks Koepka
Best U.S Open Finish: 1st (2017), Wins This Year: 0, Recent Form: 30-2-11-42-34, Odds: 25/1
The defending champion missed the first four months of 2018 with an injury, but has since returned with finishes of 42nd (Wells Fargo), 11th (The Players) and runner up at the Fort Worth Invitational.
His weekend at The St. Jude Classic was disappointing, however. A +3 round with no birdies stalled his momentum, as he went from second after round one to finishing 30th. The conditions won’t be as generous this week as they were at Erin Hills, so if Koepka gets off to an OK start that displays sharpness but increases his odds, perhaps an in-running bet is in order.