In the Tour Championship, Dustin Johnson was the clear favorite with odds of +170, mainly because he teed off with a two-shot advantage on the field due to the staggered start based on the FedEx Cup standings. The former U.S. Open champion never trailed on his way to winning the tournament by three shots and the season-long FedEx Cup title, along with the $15 million bonus.
Since withdrawing from the 3M Open in July after an opening-round 78, Johnson has shot in the 60s in 18 of his past 20 rounds. The withdrawal was preceded the week before by two rounds of 80 at the Memorial after taking off for a couple of tournaments after his win at the Travelers Championship.
The U.S. Open is up next for most of the top players, including Johnson. He’s currently the favorite at odds of +800 and for good reason.
In addition to being a former champion, he has two wins and two second-place finishes in his last four starts, including an 11 stroke victory in the Northern Trust, where he shot a second-round 60 on his way to a 30 under par finish. Those odds are improved from +1000 prior to his playoff loss to Jon Rahm at the BMW Championship, and his recent Tour Championship win.
The U.S. Open
This year’s event at Winged Foot Country Club in Mamaroneck, New York, was postponed from its usual June date due to COVID-19 and will begin on September 17. The field has been reduced to 144 players, and no qualifying events were held. Instead, the field is made up entirely of exempt players by virtue of their performance throughout the season.
Last year’s winner was Gary Woodland, who defeated the 2017 and 2018 champion by three shots. Koepka was attempting to become the first player to win three consecutive U.S. Open titles in over a century, when Willie Anderson won three of his four titles in 1903 through 1905, but came up just short at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Winged Foot has hosted five previous U.S. Opens, most recently in 2006 when Geoff Ogilvy won with a score of five over par. Phil Mickelson, who still needs a U.S. Open title to complete the career grand slam, famously double-bogeyed the final hole after hitting his tee shot into the hospitality area when a par would have given him the victory.
The Betting Lines
Other than Dustin Johnson, several other players have played well and are near the top of the odds list. Xander Shauffele shot a 15-under at the Tour Championship, the best score at East Lake. Because he started in 14th place in FedEx Cup points, he couldn’t make up the seven-shot deficit to Johnson and ended up finishing in a tie for second, three shots out of the lead. His odds for the U.S. Open improved to +1600 following that performance.
Justin Thomas, a one-time major championship winner, overcame a poor second round to finish in a tie with Schauffele, shooting 269 for the tournament, the same as Johnson. Thomas’ odds for the U.S. Open also improved slightly to +1400. In second place in the odds at +1100, up from +1400 is Jon Rahm, who struggled to a second-round 74 and couldn’t make up enough shots on the weekend despite a pair of 66’s that left him in fourth place.
How the USGA chooses to set up Winged Foot for the tournament will be critical to who can emerge the winner. In 2006, the rough was very high, and the fairways were narrow.
However, the USGA has taken a different approach in recent years, using graduated rough, resulting in lower scores and less of a penalty for missing the fairway. Today’s players tend to hit it as far as they can, ignoring the impact of the rough. Dustin Johnson hits the fairway less than 60% of the time, yet still won the FedEx Cup.
If the USGA decides to penalize the players for wayward tee shots, then driving accuracy will be at a premium, perhaps even changing the outlook for some of the top players. In the Tour Championship, Johnson was only able to find the fairway less than half the time. That’s not the way to win U.S. Opens, no matter the setup.