The 119th US Open, the 450th major championship to be played, will be played at America's most celebrated venue, Pebble Beach Golf Links. CHRIS CUTMORE runs through the betting market and offers some tips on where the smart money might lie among the favourites and those flying under the radar.
has won four out of his last eight majors, has finished second and first in the two played so far this year, is attempting to win his third successive US Open at Pebble Beach this week and sits rightly on top of the world rankings. With prices available up to 10/1, you'd have to be an idiot not to bet on him in any major right now.
This idiot will now suggest a whole bunch of players to bet on instead of Koepka.
Two words will suffice for the first: Tiger Woods
. If that isn't enough for you, then consider this. He's the Masters champion (still surreal, but true), he's bang in form (excluding the USPGA hangover from Augusta), and his 15-shot win at Pebble in 2000 remains the best four rounds that anyone has ever put together at a major, ever. No-one hits more greens in regulation, he's the best iron player in the world - and iron play is the key to winning here. So long as he's been able to practise as much as he would like, it's a no-brainer: Tiger is the man to beat here. At 13/1, the bookies don't think so, but here's another two words that will suffice to answer them: Tiger Woods.
and Rory McIlroy
, both former US Open champions, deserve to be ranked just behind Woods and Kopeka. Johnson has two wins at Pebble and led after 54 holes the last time the US Open was held here in 2010, while McIlroy blitzed the field to win in Canada last week. But each-way golf betting is all about value, and with both priced at 9/1 there's better options out there, especially as Pebble's requirement for placed rather than power tee shots on many holes will neutralise the biggest weapon in their bags, the driver. Probably.
Instead, look to a bunch of other major winners to emerge on this storied course that allows class to prevail, such as Jack Nicklaus in 1972, Tom Watson 10 years later, Woods in 2000 and most recently Graeme McDowell in 2010.
For starters, there's Jordan Spieth
(20/1) and Justin Rose
(28/1). It's fair to say that neither make cast-iron cases for any punter, but that explains why two top-class players are available at such good prices.
Spieth is battling back from an extreme slump but three straight top-10s, including at the USPGA, a hot putter and three majors under his belt makes the American one to watch.
Rose, meanwhile, is also a US Open champion, and was until recently the world No 1 before an unexpected dip in form. Still, he won down the road in California earlier this year and has the methodical and resolute brain to plot his way to another win in the most mentally-demanding major.
Open champion Francesco Molinari
(40/1) is hugely tempting too, with his precision iron game a good fit for Pebble, although his post-Masters slump is alarming.
Former Masters winner Adam Scott
(35/1) also presents a compelling case. He has notched a couple of second places this season, including behind Rose at Torrey Pines and in his last start at the Memorial, and his vastly improved putting puts this classiest of ballstrikers near the top of the pile, with the added bonus of a big price.
Finally, there's Webb Simpson
. He may have won the 2012 US Open but his is a name that doesn't often leap off the page as a potential winner at the majors, mainly due to his lack of driving distance. Here though, that is not a problem, and his demon putter is a huge weapon. Second to McIlroy in Canada, fifth at the Masters and quietly grinding out top-20s in five of his last six majors suggest a big win is due. The former Players champion is available at a mouthwatering 50/1.
There are also a bunch of classy major-winners-in-waiting ready to break their ducks in the big four.
Top of this list is Patrick Cantlay
(18/1). No tipster in the world is likely to ignore the American this week given his form. He went close at the Masters and the USPGA, won the Memorial on his last start, and has five top-10s in his last seven tournaments. Jack Nicklaus told him to cheer up and one look at his stats should be all he needs: take tour pick from iron play to putting to scrambling to par-4 scoring, there are no weaknesses. Nuff said.
(35/1) has the game but no form to speak of. Still, he's mighty tempting given his brilliantly accurate, sawn-off short irons.
(28/1) is going under the radar for once given his relatively quiet recent form, but he has all the tools in his all-round game, has some of the pressure taken off his sometimes errant driver this week, chalks up top-10s in majors for fun and can really flourish with less pressure on his shoulders.
(28/1) is banging on the door louder than any of the other young guns, with four top-10s in just nine majors played, an incredible start to his hunt for a big one. With plenty of other notable wins under his belt and no real weaknesses, again expect him to contend.
No-one can accuse Matt Kuchar
(45/1) of being classy given his behaviour this year – just ask his Mexican caddie, Sergio Garcia and the rules officials in Ohio - but all that would be forgotten (sort of) with a win this week – and it looks like his best opportunity to land a major yet. Fourth last week, fourth at Bethpage, 12th at the Masters and two wins to his name this season ticks all the form boxes. His iron play is dialled in and his putter is more than solid. Bite down on any ill feelings towards him and pile on this week.
US OPEN TOP PICKS
Tiger Woods (13-1)
Patrick Cantlay (18/1)
Rickie Fowler (28/1)
Matt Kuchar (45/1)
Webb Simpson (50/1)
Shane Lowry (75/1)
(55/1) also lost a fair few fans with his antics in this tournament two years ago when hitting a moving ball at Shinnecock Hills, but he'll still have plenty cheering him on in his home state this week. He only needs this one to complete the career Grand Slam and with six runner-up finishes in the US Open and five previous wins at Pebble, what's not to like? Well, his age for starters. He'll be 49 on Sunday, which means he'd potentially be the oldest major winner in history. Then there's some abysmal form. And the numbers are ugly in all the key stats this week: putting, proximity to the hole from the fairway and strokes gained on approach. Still, it's Phil, so don't rule anything out.
Given the quality of the course, the strength of the field and the mental demands of a US Open, it's hard to see an outsider nicking a win here. But Gregory Havret very nearly did that in 2010 so it's worth taking a look at a few long shots, given that we're always going for each-way bets and there is huge value to be had with many bookies paying out to 10 places these days.
tops the iron-play charts, but his putting has gone haywire, giving the former Open champion a whopping 70/1 price.
has three straight top-10s, including at the USPGA and grew up playing seaside golf. He also won in Abu Dhabi earlier this year. What price men from Ireland winning back to back US Opens at Pebble Beach? 75/1 since you ask. McDowell, meanwhile, has no pressure on his shoulders but looks in prime form - 110/1 is very appealing.
OTHER BEST BETS
Matt Wallace first-round leader (80/1)
Phil Mickelson top-20 finish (2/1)
Adam Scott top 'rest of the world' (5/1)
made his major breakthrough at Bethpage, finishing third, and just looks to have 'it', whatever that is. A birdie machine, grinding out pars might not be his style, but the 125/1 price is great for a serial winner with the necessary fire in his belly. Former champion Jim Furyk
is available at the same price, and even though he's 49, few are better than him from the short grass, which he'll be playing from a lot this week. A sneaky top-10 is not out of the question.
*All odds, from oddschecker, are best price at time of publication. This year Sky Bet, Betfair, Paddy Power, Boyle Sports and Coral are paying up to 10 places at the USPGA. All odds and bookmakers' terms available here