Is Spieth, Johnson, or McIlroy Better Value at Erin Hills?

Jordan Spieth (Photo: Erik Charlton [http://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by/2.0])
For the first time, the U.S. Open ventures to Erin Hills, a public track in Erin, Wisconsin, which likely will be the longest course in Open history. Does that mean you should wager on the big hitters, the guys who hit the fairway, or simply stick with the players who get it done on the big stage?

Let’s look at some key contenders and a couple value plays for the 2017 U.S. Open.


2017 U.S. Open Contenders

Dustin Johnson: 6/1

The world’s number one player was cut at the Memorial, but that allowed him to go to Wisconsin early and start preparing for the U.S. Open. Outside of his injury troubles this year, Johnson has a lot going for him entering the U.S. Open: he has played decently since returning to action; he is the longest driver on tour; and he has a great track record in this tournament. After finishing fourth in 2014, he was the runner up in 2015, and then finally claimed his first major title at Oakmont Country Club last year.

He missed the Masters this year after sustaining an injury less than 48 hours prior to the tournament starting, but bounced back with three top-15 performances before a sub-par couple of days at the Memorial.

Rory McIlroy: 9/1

Though he’s the number two player in the world, and seems to always finish in the top 10, it is hard to bet on McIlroy because of the time he has missed due to injury. He has played just one competitive round since the Masters because of a rib injury. That said, he finished seventh at Augusta and long conditions in possibly mixed weather play right into his hands. He won the U. S. Open in 2011, but has hit the top 10 just once since.

Jordan Spieth: 10/1

Two years ago, had a season for the ages, winning the Masters and U.S. Open before finishing fourth at the British and second at the PGA. He should have won last year’s Masters, but suffered an epic collapse in the final round to finish second, and it’s been nothing but disappointment at the four majors since. While he made the cut at all four, he’s finished no better than 11th.

His non-major results this year haven’t been great. He was able to muster a second-place finish at the Dean & Deluca, but he was cut at the Players Championship and Byron Nelson, and wound up 13th at the Memorial. His long game has been better thus far this year, but he’s primarily known for his putting.

Jason Day: 11/1

Day began this year ranked number one, but does not have a victory, and has dealt with a lot off the course with his mom battling lung cancer. While he’s never won the U.S. Open, he’s finished second twice and top 10 five times (in six tries). He’s also been top 10 in six of the last eight majors including his win in the 2015 PGA Championship. His best finish this year was a playoff-loss to Billy Horschel at the Byron Nelson. He went on to finish 15th at the Memorial.

Justin Thomas: 33/1

Six times of the last eight U.S. Open’s have been claimed by first-time major champs. Thomas is ranked 13th in the world, hits the ball far, and is playing well after a fourth-place finish at the Memorial. The 24-year-old has never hit the top 10 in a major, but finished 22nd at the Masters, and shot 69 in the second round at Oakmont last year.

Kevin Kisner: 66/1

Like Thomas, Kisner has never won, or really even been competitive, in a major. However, he is playing great heading to Erin Hills. The late bloomer from South Carolina won the Dean & Deluca, and followed it up with a sixth-place performance at the Memorial. He’s now ranked in the top 20 in the world. The downside is that he is not a huge hitter.

The Bet

The course is set up well for Johnson, but 6/1 in any golf tournament is awfully short, especially for a guy who missed significant time due to injury so recently. McIlroy is a big question mark because of his injury, as well, and I need to see Day win again before backing him at 11/1.

Though his odds are slightly shorter than Day, Spieth is the better value. He is consistently good and sometimes unbeatable (though not for a while). He is hitting the ball really far, and if his putting gets back to where it was in 2015, he will be difficult to beat. For my longshot, I like Justin Thomas. He has all the tools and enters with momentum and confidence.