US Open Preview – Stars face brutal test

The second golf Major of the week takes place this week, as the sport’s top stars head to New York for the US Open.

Shinnecock Hills is hosting the tournament for the fifth time, with the links-style course posing an exacting test, measuring 7,445 yards (6,808 m) – in the top 10 longest courses on the PGA Tour.

More than just being long, you need to be straight off the tee and stay out of the demanding long rough to stand a chance of lifting the trophy on June 17.

Winning American Run

American golfers have won the last three US Opens and the 2016 champion Dustin Johnson heads into the tournament as the 9.00 favourite, after his impressive victory at the St Jude Classic last week.

The last nine years has seen players that have never previously won the US Open lift the trophy, with five of those being home players – Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Webb Simpson and Lucas Glover.

The last player to win multiple US Opens is Tiger Woods, who won his third title in 2008 and is 17.00 to claim a fourth this week, after showing some much improved form in recent weeks.

One man who is desperate to collect his first US Open title is Phil Mickelson, who would complete the career Grand Slam with victory at Shinnecock Hills.

‘Lefty’ has never won the US Open but has finished second on no fewer than six occasions, including the last time Shinnecock hosted the event, in 2004. Mickelson also finished T4 at the New York course back in 1995 and is 34.00 to top the leaderboard this time around.

Justin Thomas is currently 15.00 to win and claim a second Major, following his PGA Championship success in 2017.

The 25-year-old was T9 at Erin Hills last year and he features high in many of the stats tables – Thomas heads the FedEx standings, is third in Scoring Average, second in the Tee-To-Green rankings and has two wins and six top 10s this season.

Longer priced US betting options include Kyle Stanley (101.00 Outright betting), who is ranked fourth in the Driving Accuracy stats.

Meanwhile, Brian Harman can be backed at 101.00– the 31-year-old from Georgia finished tied-2nd at the US Open last year and has seven top-10 finishes in 16 events.

European challenge led by Swedish duo

Henrik Stenson currently leads the way in Driving Accuracy on the PGA Tour and the 42-year-old will fancy his chances of making a strong bid this week, as he looks to secure his second Major title.

The Swede, who has been paired with Adam Scott and 2014 champion Martin Kaymer in the first two rounds, can be backed at 29.00 to lift the trophy. Bethard also have Stenson at 1.77 to beat Tiger Woods over the four days.

Stenson’s fellow countryman Alex Noren is another European likely to challenge at the top of the leaderboard, after an excellent season to date.

Noren (51.00 Outright Betting) is currently fifth in the Race to Dubai standings and his good form on both sides of the Atlantic has seen him move into the top-20 in the world rankings.

Noren is in an all-European group for the first two rounds, alongside Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari.

The Italian is in inspired form of late, with Molinari finishing first and second in his last two tournaments – off the back of his top-20 finish at the Masters. The Ryder Cup star is 60.00 to win at Shinnecock and is 1.87 v Patrick Cantlay in the Game Odds.

The British challenge is likely to be led by the 2013 champion Justin Rose, who has also been in impressive form leading up to the year’s second Major.

Rose has not finished outside the top-25 in his last five tournaments and was a winner last month, when claiming the title at the Fort Worth Invitational.

Rory McIlroy holds the US Open record for the lowest 72-hole score, a 16-under-par 268, during his emphatic win at Congressional in 2011. The Northern Irishman has missed the cut though in the last two US Opens and is 12.00 to win this week.

Grace could end RoW title wait

It’s been 11 years since a player from outside America and Europe last lifted the US Open trophy, with Angel Cabrera crowned champion in 2007.

Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen have finished second in recent years, could 2018 be the year when the Rest of the World enjoy success?

South Africa’s Branden Grace is in the top-20 in the pre-tournament betting and recent performances suggest he could be there or thereabouts come Sunday.

Grace (36.00) finished T3 at the AT&T Byron Nelson last month, before heading to the European Tour to claim a tied-5th spot at the BMW PGA Championship. He also has a good record at the US Open, finished T4 and T5 in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

The Japanese challenge is likely to be headed by Hideki Matsuyama, who can be backed at 26.00 to win his first Major this week. The 26-year-old finished tied-2nd at Erin Hills last year and also has another top-10 US Open finish under his belt in 2013.

Matsuyama is seventh in the ‘Around The Green’ stats on the US Tour and appears to be getting closer to collecting one of the big four titles.

At 51.00, Marc Leishman is another RoW player to consider, especially when you look at his recent form in the Majors.

The Aussie has finished in the top-50 of the last three Major Championships, including finishing ninth at the Masters earlier this year. Leishman is 13th in Birdie Average stats on the PGA Tour and if his putter is hot, could have a big role to play at Shinnecock Hills.

Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat could be a good each-way bet, after enjoying an impressive season to date. He may have missed the cut at the St Jude Classic, but he has one title and three top-five finishes to his name on both the US and European Tours.