10 Prop Bets to Target for the 2018 U.S. Open
For the fifth time, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club will play host to the PGA Tour's second major of the season this week in Southampton, New York.
The U.S. Open evokes a number of things with history, tradition and competition chief among them. However, for golf fans, it's another chance for them to see the best players in the world duke it out for 72 holes at the highest level of the sport. It's also an opportunity for many to get in on the fun of the action in the daily fantasy sports and betting arenas.
If you're putting together lineups this week, we have you covered with our course primer, DFS helper and The Heat Check Podcast. And if you're down to throw some dollars on your favorite golfer, or maybe a longshot and ride him the entire way, our betting guide should be able to help you there, as well.
This is a major championship, though, and with it comes more intrigue and, ultimately, more things to bet on. Over at Paddy Power, they have quite the collection of prop bets to choose from. So, we're here to sift through those and decide which ones -- both favorites and longshots -- to bet on and why.
Let's get to it.
1) Hole in One? - Yes (10/11)
At an implied probability of 52.4%, this isn't exactly a longshot, but it's a nice start to get some dough back in your pocket. Since the very first U.S. Open, there have been only 44 aces in 117 years. If you're doing the math, that comes to one every 2.66 years and one in 37.6% of these championships. The most recent one occurred in 2014 at Pinehurst.
However, since 2000, there have been 13 hole-in-ones with 5 of those coming in 2001 (2) and 2002 (3). In other words, 10 of 18 (55.6%) U.S. Opens have had an ace.
In the four years at Shinnecock Hills, there have been two aces -- one at the 179-yard 17th hole in 2004 and the other at the 182-yard 7th in 1995. According to the U.S. Open website, 3 of the 4 par-3s measure no greater than 189 yards for this year's installment. The 7th is listed at exactly 189 with the 11th at just 159 and the 17th at 175. It sets up well for the players to take advantage and card a one at some point or another.
2) First-Round Leader - Tony Finau (60/1)
There are a bunch of hot starters worth considering down the list of potential first-round leaders, but Finau is nearly impossible to pass up. Not only is Finau 18th in strokes gained: tee to green and 17th in overall scoring average (70.05), but he is tied for 5th on the tour with an average first round of 68.94. Three of the four players in front of him possess 45/1 odds or better for the same bet, and the average scoring margin between them is less than half a stroke per round.
When he's right, Finau's A-game is as good as almost anyone's on tour. He's tied for 21st with 25 rounds in the 60s, and in first rounds alone, he has shot in the 60s in 11 of 18 events with 6 scores at or below 67, including a low 62 at the Zurich Classic in April.
3) First Round, Top Australian - Marc Leishman (10/3)
For reference, there are nine options to choose from on this bet. Jason Day (15/8) leads the way, followed by Leishman, Adam Scott (9/2) and Cameron Smith (7/1) to round out the top four notables. There's no denying that Day is in an entirely different tier than the other three; however, Leishman's a guy to target in first rounds.
On the year, 6 of Leishman's 24 rounds in the 60s have come in the very first round. Furthermore, the big Aussie is 16th in first-round scoring average at 69.50. Day, Scott and Smith are 47th, 185th and 141st, respectively, and not one of them sports a first-round average below 70.33. While Day should have the better tournament, go with Leishman for the better start.
4) Top Irishman - Rory McIlroy (1/3)
At 1/3 odds, going with McIlroy isn't exactly a shot in the dark. He has a 75% implied probability to finish first among his fellow countrymen, and he is the overwhelming favorite over Shane Lowry (4/1) and Graeme McDowell (5/1).
One look at McIlroy tells you this is money in the bank. He's 13th on the Tour in scoring average (69.95), 15th in strokes gained and 21st in strokes gained: tee-to-green. He has three top-10 finishes on the year and won the U.S. Open in 2011. Our models project him to finish 5th, 67 spots ahead of McDowell.
5) Top 5 - Chez Reavie (33/1)
Reavie doesn't really fit the bill of a top-5 golfer. Ranked 50th in the official world rankings, he's 32nd in strokes gained, 44th in strokes gained: tee to green and 31st in scoring average in 2018. And contrary to the usual targets at a U.S. Open, Reavie is the opposite of a bomber. He's 167th in driving distance and 169th in par 5 scoring.
But Reavie makes up for his lack of power with precision. Among all golfers, he's fifth in driving accuracy and, at 20'3", ranks seventh in average distance from the edge of the fairway. It's that keep-it-straight mentality that's allowed Reavie to tally two top-5s as well as a T6 at the St. Jude Classic a week ago. He's coming in hot and will be looking to build off a T16 at least year's championship.
Reavie's odds amount to an implied probability of just 2.94% while our models give him a 10.17% chance of turning this into a winning ticket.
6) Group B - Tiger Woods (12/5)
People want to bet on Tiger. After all, it's a perfect combination of fun and nostalgia. Golf fans want him to get back to winning form, but with all the hype, it's hard to find value laying money in his favor. In most areas, he's overvalued, and this is about the only smart way to get exposure.
Tiger joins Jason Day (11/5), Jon Rahm (13/5) and Brooks Koepka (11/4) in the second tier of betting favorites, so he finds himself in a tough spot to have the best finish of the four. Given the presence of the eighth-, fifth- and ninth-ranked players in the world, not to mention the defending champion in Koepka, Woods' odds are tight.
Nonetheless, we project him to have an almost identical showing as Day, with just 0.12 strokes between the two. It's worth bypassing Day to get the extra $20 return on a $100 bet -- oh, and the fun that comes with rooting for Sunday Tiger.
7) Group C - Jordan Spieth (21/10)
Like Group B, Group C is packed. Spieth and Rickie Fowler share the same odds, followed by Hideki Matsuyama and Henrik Stenson, who have identical 3/1 odds for the best finish. The craziest part about it is that Spieth's current form is the worst of the four. While Fowler, Matsuyama and Stenson have all rounded into great form in their own ways, Spieth's last five read as follows: CUT-T41-T21-T32-CUT.
Fresh off that missed cut at the Memorial, this Spieth is nearly unrecognizable, but he's still a top-five player and is merely two months clear of two straight third-place showings. What gives? Unlike recent years, it's the putter that's giving Spieth trouble. While ranking in the top 20 in strokes gained everywhere else, the 2015 U.S. Open champion is 190th in strokes gained: putting. In the last three years, he's ranked 42nd, 2nd and 9th, respectively.
It appears it's just a matter of time before Spieth's flatstick magic returns. We project him to finish second among all golfers, 0.80 strokes better than Stenson, 0.89 ahead of Fowler and a whole 1.92 strokes clear of Matsuyama.
8) Top Finish Outside of Johnson, McIlroy, Rose & Thomas - Webb Simpson (35/1)
On Paddy Power, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Justin Thomas make up four of the top five bets to win it all. But, in a unique format, they allow you to take a shot at the best of the rest, whether they win or not.
Woods and Day sit atop the list at 13/1 followed by Spieth, Fowler, Rahm and Koepka at 14/1. You probably can't go wrong with any one of those studs, however, the value lies in Simpson. His 35/1 odds place him in a tie for 15th on this list despite 9 top-25s, 5 top-10s, 3 top-5s and a win at THE PLAYERS a month ago.
On the season, Simpson is seventh in strokes gained, fifth in strokes gained: putting and fourth in scoring average. With the fourth-best odds (2.57%) of winning and seventh-best odds of a top-10 finish, according to our models, it's hard to go wrong betting Simpson here and just about everywhere else this week.
9) Big Guns vs. The Field - The Field (4/9)
Speaking of the Big Guns (D. Johnson, McIlroy, Rose, Thomas, Day and Woods), should we take our chances with one of them or with the field this weekend?
At 13/8 odds, the top six guys carry a 38.1% implied probability that one of them will take the win at Shinnecock. On the other side, the field -- consisting of 150 players -- has a 69.2% probability. According to our numbers, there is absolutely no value in betting the Big Guns. Combined, we give them a 19.55% probability with the field coming in at 80.45%.
It's not hard to see why the field is the wise choice. While you don't get the top-of-the-line firepower, you get a lot of the next best thing in Spieth, Rahm, Fowler, and Koepka, all of whom are at 18/1 odds or better to win on their own. And that's not counting the experience of guys like Stenson, Simpson and Phil Mickelson. Take the field with confidence.
10) Winning Margin - Two Strokes (7/2)
Since 2000, the year of Tiger's first U.S. Open victory at Pebble Beach, winning margins have ranged from 15 strokes (see: Tiger, Pebble Beach) to 0. There have been two playoffs -- 2001 and 2008 -- with no other double-digit victory over the last 18 years. Eight strokes has been the margin twice, but it has been four or fewer in each of the remaining 13 installments.
With competition at the top as tight as ever, going with a low margin is an easy decision. The question is: how low?
If we take out the outlying numbers from 2000, 2011 and 2014, the average comes out to 1.73 strokes over a 15-year sample. And if we just look at Shinnecock, the margin has been two three times and three once, bringing the average to 2.25 per championship. Our models have this year's winner doing so by 1.85 strokes, which -- taking everything into account -- points to a two-stroke margin as the most likely outcome.
BONUS) DeChambeau, Day & Matsuyama Finish in Top 10 (50/1)
As part of a #WhatOddsPaddy special, this calls for all three players to finish in the top 10 -- or at least in a tie for one of the top 10 positions -- by the end of the tournament. At 50/1 odds, that's an implied probability of 1.96%. Using our models to calculate the joint probability of this event, it's just 0.37%. However, our models aren't accounting for the possibility of ties for the top 10, so there is less of a difference between the two figures.
Ties or not, though, this is an interesting play. Day has an amazing track record at the U.S. Open (CUT-T8-T9-T4-T2 in his last five), and comes in with 4 top-10s in 11 events and 19.2% odds of cracking the top 10. Bryson DeChambeau (ranked fifth in the FedEx Cup) is two weeks removed from winning the Memorial and sits 20th in our top-10 odds. Hideki Matsuyama ranks 23rd at 13.38% odds, and he could ultimately make or break this one. He hasn't played like himself for most of the year, and he has only 2 top-10s to show for it, but he's coming off 2 top-16 finishes and tied for 2nd at Erin Hills in 2017.
If you want to take this one on, it will be a convenient one to monitor. Day will go off at 7:40 am Eastern while DeChambeau (on tee #1) and Matsuyama (tee #10) both tee it up at 8:13 on Thursday morning.