The strength in depth of the modern game means that it’s now all to play for.
The recent history of the U.S Open tells us as much.
Erik Compton was ranked 182nd in the world when he teed off at Pinehurst last year. It was just his second US Open appearance, having finished 142nd in the 2010 iteration by shooting a +16 total. The two-time heart transplant recipient finished second at Pinehurst in what was a heartwarming and emotional moment.
“You realize when you play in majors it’s not about your swing; it’s about what you’ve got inside, your guts,” – Erik Compton
Compton was available at 500/1 for the event, and an each-way stake would have reaped serious dividends.
In that same 2010 competition, Gregory Havret was languishing all the way down in 386th in the Official World Golf Rankings prior to arriving at Pebble Beach. The Frenchman finished just one shot behind eventual winner Graeme McDowell, and again, his odds were well into the hundreds. Swede Jonas Blixt placed in last year’s Masters, as Bernd Weisberger went out in the final group with Rory in the PGA Championship in 2014 also. Tiger Woods won his most recent major in the 2008 US Open via a playoff. . . .against Rocco Mediate.
Three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington is renowned for his eccentricity, and claims regarding his favourite tournament set-up surprised many, with his mantra being: the harder the set-up the better.
“I much prefer that kind of tournament compared to the usual PGA Tour set-up, where if you’re not seven under par after nine holes you’re out of contention”.
That sentiment helps the cause of the longshot no end, as the bruising set-up becomes the great leveller. Aside from the outliers of McIlroy and Kaymer, the winning score in the last ten US Opens has reflected the difficulty of the venue. Four of them have been over par totals, and if the storm surrounding Chambers Bay is anything to go by, this year will make it five.
What really makes finding the underdog difficult is that combing for stats and form among the outsiders, in comparison to doing so for the contenders, is often really applying the same criteria to a vastly different set of circumstances. Gut instinct comes into play.
Before we make our picks, let’s take a look at some other outsiders to consider:
Tony Finau (250/1) – Four top tens in 2015 and a whopping second in driving distance – a 307 yard average!
Ernie Els (200/1) – Three top tens in the last five US Opens, 7th in 2014 PGA Championship.
Alex Noren (250/1) – Won last week’s Nordea Masters, four other top 12s this year, ninth in the 2012 Open.
Miguel Angel Jimenez (300/1) – Two runner up finishes in May, fourth in last year’s Masters.
Ryo Ishikawa (500/1) – Eighth at the recent Players Championship, two top 35s at the US Open, eleven wins in Japan.
Yong Eun Yang (1500/1) – Fourth in April’s Shenzhen International, T16 in 2011 US Open.
Regarding longshot picks, they are often priced at three or four figures for a reason. Often, first round leader and top 20/10 finish markets can offer better value than outright ones. There’s more than one way to skin a Major Championship.
Lucas Bjerregaard (1500/1 Coral)
The Dane ranked 7th in driving distance in Europe last year, and is 17th in 2015. That length helped him finish a fine 18th at Royal County Down, which followed three other top twenty finishes since March. This stage shouldn’t faze him – in his US Open debut last year, Bjerregaard made the top 40, with a first round 70 indicating that he can hit the ground running. First round leader is a tempting option.
Darren Clarke (750/1 PaddyPower)
Having visited Chambers Bay, Frank Nobilo of CBS was asked what he thought of the course. His response?
It reminded me a lot of Royal St. Georges, with it’s elevation changes and necessity to create different ball flights, especially low ones.
Of course, Royal St. Georges hosted the 2011 Open Championship, which Clarke duly won. His form since then has been dreadful for the most part, with twelve missed cuts in 2014. This year has been more encouraging though, with Darren making the cut at the Masters and the BMW PGA, finishing 15th at the Tshwane Open, and 28th at the Irish Open – a tournament which Ernie Els called the “ideal preparation” for Chambers Bay. Also, Clarke’s links nous has remained intact, finishing tied 21st and T26th in the last two Opens.
Anirban Lahiri (500/1 SkyBet)
You wouldn’t know it from his odds, but Lahiri is ranked 45th in the world.
He went on a tear in February, winning two European Tour events in three weeks. The Indian’s 24th in greens in regulation on that tour, finished 31st in the 2012 Open, and made the top fifty in the Masters back in April. We’ll certainly spot a quid on him at this price.