US Open 2013 Favorites: Championship Odds for World's Top Players
Trying to pick a favorite in a golf tournament is an interesting, if not futile exercise.
Somebody unexpected gets hot, a strong player suddenly finds that his putter is in a non-cooperative funk, and all of a sudden there’s chaos on the leaderboard.
The 113th U.S. Open this week at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., has the potential for plenty of roller-coaster moments. What odds do the world's top 10 players have of winning the U.S. Open title?
All odds via Bovada.
10. Phil Mickelson (16-1)
Greatest Strength: His creativity, his short game and a wealth of talent.
Phil Mickelson is a four-time major champion and has weathered the storm of pressure in a major before.
He hasn’t been on much lately, but when he is on, he’s an elite ball-striker.
Biggest Weakness: His creativity and a healthy dose of stubbornness sometimes get in the way of an extremely talented golfer.
His short game was not up to par in the St. Jude Classic, and if that continues, he could be in big trouble because of the unpredictability of the rest of his game.
He’ll Win If: He looks away from his driver and goes with anything else off the tee.
He needs to find fairways to cut down on the occasions where he might go for a crazy shot from that U.S. Open rough. He’s been successful before in majors, and that’s a plus for him.
9. Louis Oosthuizen (50-1)
Greatest Strength: Perhaps the best swing on the PGA Tour, one that has put him into a position to win a lot.
Louis Oosthuizen hasn’t had much success this year, but with that kind of swing and the experience of winning the Open Championship in 2010, he has a shot this year.
Biggest Weakness: He hasn’t driven the ball particularly well, and his putting is very erratic.
That’s a bad combination on a course that requires exceptional performance in both areas.
He’ll Win If: He’ll be able to play on a course that has lost its fire due to the weather.
Sticky fairways and soft greens lacking the kind of speed the USGA would have hoped for will work in Oosthuizen’s favor.
8. Graeme McDowell (20-1)
Greatest Strength: Graeme McDowell won a U.S. Open just three years ago, heading off a challenge from Tiger Woods, among others.
Since that victory, he’s posted five top-15s in 11 major starts.
How has he done it? With a silky-smooth swing that has made him the straightest driver on the PGA Tour. In conjunction with that, he’s become one of the best putters on the circuit as well.
Biggest Weakness: He’s woefully short off the tee, averaging 277.6 yards, ranking 155th on the PGA Tour.
Because of that, he’ll probably use his driver more than a lot of other players. Hitting longer clubs from the fairway has been problematic for him this year.
He’ll Win If: Merion stays soft, including the greens.
In those conditions, McDowell’s target golf approach could work very well.
If he’s able to throw darts into those greens, he’ll definitely be a factor.
7. Brandt Snedeker (28-1)
Greatest Strength: The majority of Brandt Snedeker’s season has been spectacular.
However, his lingering issues with problematic ribs have halted his march to a really special season.
This is a guy who can putt lights out and had a great ball-striking start to his season.
He’s the kind of player who should excel on a course like Merion.
Biggest Weakness: He’s very short off the tee (279.8 yards of average driving distance, ranking him 139th).
While driving distance will not be of paramount importance this week, he’s not the strongest player in the field and will need to get his three-wood, hybrid or long irons in the fairway and hit laser-like irons.
His ribs may be his biggest weakness at Merion.
He’ll Win If: The fairways and greens are soft and his putter gets red-hot again.
This is a man who is as good as there is when he’s healthy. Now, is he healthy?
That’s what we’ll find out starting Thursday.
6. Luke Donald (33-1)
Greatest Strength: Luke Donald has long been considered one of the most accurate drivers on the PGA Tour, hitting about 60 percent of fairways over the last 10 years.
He’s 34th on that list this year at 65 percent.
He’s been at his best on the greens this year, ranking sixth by gaining .717 strokes on the field.
His lack of distance shouldn’t hurt him, especially if he keeps hitting fairways and putting well.
Biggest Weakness: In addition to his lack of power, the 35-year-old native of England has never acquired that mental toughness required to win a major championship.
He’s finished third twice in majors but hasn’t been able to put the hammer down when necessary.
He’ll Win If: The planets align correctly and Donald finds a heart as well as a steady hand when he gets to crunch time.
He’s had seven top-25s this year, and that level of play will have to continue. Another guy who would benefit from a soft golf course.
5. Justin Rose (22-1)
Greatest Strength: The man drives the ball better than anyone else on the PGA Tour based on the total driving statistic, which combines driving accuracy and distance.
At 32 years old, he’s developed a toughness from competing in 36 majors, even though he has yet to win one.
Biggest Weakness: His putting. Period.
He ranks 156th in the strokes gained (putting) category, because he’s actually losing .388 strokes to the field.
The rest of his game is in fairly good form coming into Merion, but he’s getting killed on the greens.
He’ll Win If: The putting fairy makes a visit to his residence for the week?
Seriously, Rose is the fifth-ranked player in the world, but putting the way he’s putted the last two years, I’m not sure how he'll win. He’ll get eaten alive if a very quick remedy doesn’t take up residence in his flat stick.
4. Matt Kuchar (20-1)
Greatest Strength: He’s the only multiple winner this year on the PGA Tour other than Tiger Woods.
Two wins and nine top-25s in 14 starts speak to his greatest strength: consistency.
You won’t find his name among the leaders in any of the important statistical categories except scoring.
He’s fourth in scoring average at 69.739. Matt Kuchar finds a way to post a score.
Biggest Weakness: As the second-leading money-winner at $4.3 million and second in the FedExCup points list, you wouldn’t think there would be many weaknesses.
But he’s going to have to find the fairways at Merion, not to mention the sweet spots on those tricky greens.
Improved accuracy is a must to cut down stress while scrambling to make a score.
He’ll Win If: The gutsy play he’s shown through the first five months continues.
He’s one of the few in the field who wouldn’t be intimidated getting into a shootout with Tiger Woods.
He’ll need to keep smiling if things start going sideways at some point.
3. Adam Scott (22-1)
Greatest Strength: The courage and confidence he showed in coming back from what could have been a career-damaging meltdown at the 2012 Open Championship.
He had a predictable hangover from blowing that major but finished 2012 with four top-20s and then won the Masters in April.
It was at Augusta National that he put his powerful, graceful swing on display and withstood all of the back-nine Sunday pressure to win his first major.
Biggest Weakness: He’s plenty long, but not very accurate off the tee (90th, hitting 60.24 percent of fairways). That’s not a great stat coming to a place where fairways are U.S. Open narrow.
Despite his length off the tee, he’s only made two eagles this year in 432 holes played.
He’s obviously not hitting the ball close enough to the cup.
He’ll Win If: The fairways at Merion stay soft, allowing a player who isn’t getting the ball on the fairway to keep some drives on the short stuff.
The U.S. Open isn’t generally a great place to go flag-hunting, and this week isn’t any different. Finding the magic in that long putter will be key.
2. Rory McIlroy (20-1)
Greatest Strength: The 2012 Rory McIlroy had it all: power, accuracy and a deft putting touch.
He could dominate a course off the tee, hit spectacular iron shots and made a bundle of putts from everywhere.
There was no doubt as to why McIlroy topped the money leaders list on both the PGA and European Tours.
Biggest Weakness: Driving accuracy has been awful this year (106th, 58.87 percent), while hitting greens in regulation is fourth (70.31 percent). Under the category of strokes gained (putting), McIlroy is giving away strokes to the tune of .158, ranking 123rd on the PGA Tour.
Yes, he’s the same guy from a year ago, but he’s definitely not the same player.
He’ll Win If: All of his stars somehow magically align this week, which seems highly unlikely considering the difficulty and how punitive Merion can be at various places around the course.
He is the second-ranked player in the world only because Adam Scott, the No. 3 player in the world, hasn’t played enough to pass him.
1. Tiger Woods (9-2)
Greatest Strength: His ability to manage his game, especially around a course with Merion’s uniqueness.
Tiger Woods showed he can play small ball (having his driver make only cameo appearances) in May at the Players Championship.
His ball-striking has been exceptional in 2013, and that’s why he’s won four times already.
Biggest Weakness: If he gets in trouble this week, it will be because his distance control on his approach shots to the greens is off, leaving him with tricky and difficult up-and-downs.
His putting seemed to return to elite status early in the year, but he didn’t deal with the fast greens at Muirfield Village very well.
The shortest clubs could be his downfall.
He’ll Win If: He continues to strike the ball as well as he has, he doesn’t deviate from the small-ball game plan and he gets comfortable quickly on Merion’s greens.
He’s one guy who won’t be affected in any big way by the weather.
Getting the ball on the fairways can set him up to record a runaway victory.
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