Betting on the golf carries a big risk/reward. It is insanely hard to identify a winner, but if one does manage to pick the winner, it will typically come with a big payday.
Consider that six of the last nine winners of the majors have been first-time major winners, and we start to get an idea of how hard it is to identify a winner.
At Bovada, Tiger Woods is the huge favorite at 9/2. If I'm forced to pick one golfer to win, I'm going with Woods. However, at 9/2 odds, that is not a particularly good bet. After all, Woods hasn't won a major in five years.
So, I'm looking at a golfer with far higher odds as the best bet for this tournament, and I'll also point out two of the golfers with lower odds that I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole.
Billy Horschel (80/1)
It's been a remarkable year for Billy Horschel. Setting out just trying to earn his PGA Tour card, he's been one of the tour's best players.
Horschel has played 15 PGA events this year. In his first eight, he was solid if not spectacular. He had two finishes inside the top 11 and didn't miss a cut.
Beginning with his ninth start, he posted four consecutive top 10s. This included a second, third and then ultimately his first win on the PGA when he claimed the Zurich Classic.
Horschel promptly responded by missing his first cut of the year his next time out. That came at the Players. However, it's easy to understand that he would've lost his edge a bit after his first win. It would be natural to relax after such an accomplishment.
He followed that up with a pedestrian 41st at the Memorial and then a 10th this past week at the St. Jude Classic.
Horschel is working his way back into form, and he has the game to succeed at Merion. He is 31st in driving accuracy and 17th in strokes gained-putting. He also has nice touch around the greens. At 80/1, Horschel is the best bet in this tournament.
Hunter Mahan (50/1)
Hunter Mahan burned me heading into the Masters. I was confident he'd make a run at the green jacket. He didn't make the cut.
Still, I'm back for more. With a swing this pure, how can I not be?
Mahan missed the cut in his tournament heading into the Masters, and what I didn't see at the time, was that was the beginning of a slump. Following the Masters, Mahan finished 91st and 73rd.
He's since turned it around. He finished in 19th at the Players, 26th at the Crowne Plaza Invitational and 16th at the Memorial.
The biggest difference for Mahan is improved putting. He's finished his last two tournaments at .853 strokes gained-putting or better. He also hit 71 percent of his fairways last time out.
Mahan is a tremendous ball striker. He has a nice all-around game and he will put that on display at Merion.
Phil Mickelson (16/1)
Phil Mickelson is still looking for his maiden U.S. Open title. He's been close. In fact, he's been runner-up three times (1999, 2002 and 2004).
Mickelson's lack of a U.S. Open title is not all that surprising. The courses rarely play to his strengths. Phil can get erratic with his shots, and the deadly rough that accompanies U.S. Opens does not allow players to miss too many fairways and still succeed.
Lefty is entering the U.S. Open off a nice showing at last week's St. Jude Classic. He wound up finishing second. However, he still hit just 55 percent of his fairways in that tournament.
What does bode well for Mickelson is that he has been putting fantastically. He's finished each of his past three tournaments with a strokes gained-putting mark of at least .856.
Still, the negatives far outweigh the positives here, and considering he has the second-lowest odds of any golfer, he is a terrible bet.
Adam Scott (22/1)
Golfers not named Tiger Woods don't win two majors in a row, and even Tiger can't do that now.
Padraig Harrington pulled off the feat in 2008, but other than Tiger Woods, the last golfer prior to pull it off was Nick Price in 1994.
Scott has been in action just twice since his Masters triumph. He was solid in both showings, as he finished in 19th at the Players and 13th at the Memorial.
It's not like he's been completely inactive, though, and he's been sure to get in practice at Merion. Robertpricegood posted this Instagram pic of a recent practice round at Merion.
Scott can struggle with accuracy off the tee and his putting. This does not bode well for the U.S. Opens. While Scott defied this with a solid 15th showing last year, he succumbed to those weaknesses in the two previous years as he missed the cut in 2010 and 2011.
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