With the 2014 U.S. Open Championship set to tee off Thursday at Pinehurst, Tiger Woods is not walking through that door. Even if he were, he almost certainly would not win. Though oddsmakers list a handful of favorites, bettors should take the field, just as they should have done for the 2014 Belmont Stakes.
The course at Pinehurst presents a host of new challenges, and no golfer has displayed sufficient steadiness to make any of the top three favorites a solid bet. Instead, a few other players usurp those with top odds, as their games are uniquely suited to cope with this year's challenges at the U.S. Open.
(Odds taken from Odds Shark on June 10 at 4 p.m. ET.)
Best Suited to the Course
Notable changes have occurred at Pinehurst for the 2014 U.S. Open, and the elimination of the tournament's signature rough stands chief among them.
No rough. Wider fairways. 7,500 yards long. Pinehurst will play like no U.S. Open course in history. http://t.co/CQrUKmU4XM— Golfpreserves (@Golfpreserves) June 10, 2014
As noted by Golf.com's Joe Passov:
For the first time in modern history, [course architect] Bill Coore says, the U.S. Open will be played without its traditional rough. Coore/[Ben] Crenshaw yanked out 35 acres of primary Bermuda rough that had flanked the fairways, replacing it with hardpan, sandy scrub, pine straw and wispy wiregrass. [...] True, the fairways are wider, but they'll play firmer and faster, especially on the edges where irrigation heads were eliminated. With less resistance from thicker grass, more balls will race into the sandy scrub.
Get ready for a ton of bad lies on otherwise serviceable shots. That means accuracy on drives will be key, but so will length, as there is no rough to get mired in.
Despite all the focus on the elimination of the U.S. Open's traditionally thick rough, ESPN.com's Farrell Evans and Kevin Maguire both noted that the turtleback greens will be the real bone of contention for players.
According to Maguire, "If your short game isn't sharp, you aren't making pars, which are always crucial at the year's second major."
The course also plays very long, with five par-fours longer than 500 yards. Look for big hitters with sharp short games to flourish on the unusual course design at Pinehurst.
Bubba Watson (18-1), Dustin Johnson (33-1) and Sergio Garcia (33-1) will be helped by their ability to hit greens in regulation with regularity.
Justin Rose won the 2013 U.S. Open and hits Pinehurst with 25-1 odds. His victory was preceded by Webb Simpson in 2012, a 50-1 shot this year. However, the 2011 champion stands above all as the favorite to win in 2014.
Rory McIlroy won that year at 16 under par, and while his results have been erratic of late, he's still the favorite to win at 10-1. Considering his shaky results this season, those are rotten odds for bettors.
Though McIlroy has five top-10 finishes over his last seven tournaments, his showing at the Memorial spoke volumes. McIlroy posted a blistering first-round 63 to claim a three-stroke lead. Then, he coughed up a second-round 78 to all but sink his chances.
Adam Scott, who has 12-1 odds to win at Pinehurst, won the Crowne Plaza in late May and followed up by taking fourth place at the Memorial Tournament. While he's striking the ball very well over his last two outings, he hiccuped at The Players Championship by finishing 38th.
Adam Scott at majors: Masters Top-10s: 4 U.S. Open Top-10s: 0 Open Championship Top-10s: 3 PGA Championship Top-10s: 4 Just sayin’.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) June 10, 2014
Moreover, Scott has not found success at the U.S. Open, failing to crack the top 10 there in his career. It's historically his worst major. Scott is not poised to change his habits at the tournament.
Will one of the three favorites—McIlroy, Scott or Mickelson—win the 2014 U.S. Open?
Phil Mickelson missed the cut at both the Masters and The Players Championship, and he finished 49th at the Memorial. As if that wasn't enough, the FBI has been sniffing around "Lefty" for suspicion of insider trading.
Mickelson has looked shaky this year from tournament to tournament. While McIlroy has been better than Phil, he has shown inconsistency from round to round.
He shut down q's about FBI probe weeks ago. But he did say, about off-course distractions, `You have to control your thoughts'— Mark Herrmann (@markpherrmann) June 10, 2014
Patience and consistency form the recipe for success at every U.S. Open, and Pinehurst is no different, despite the changes to the traditional course.
Instead of the golfers with top odds, expect the likes of Watson, Johnson and Garcia to find greater success in the tournament.