The practice rounds are finished. Short-game preparation has concluded. The wait is over and it’s time to perform.
The 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 has finally arrived, where the world’s best golfers compete in arguably the most challenging tournament of the year. For the favorites, a win in the second major of the season can help cement their legacies. For the less accomplished, but often equally talented, a victory can give them the confidence that can redefine their careers.
Unlike other professional sports, the favorites don’t often win in golf. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the field and odds and make some predictions for the game’s top sleepers.
Field and Final Odds
All odds are according to Odds Shark.
For a complete list of U.S. Open groups, visit the tournament's official site.
Graeme McDowell (40-1)
Graeme McDowell comes into the weekend as the world No. 22 with 40-1 odds to win the U.S. Open. Vegas has McDowell as the 14th-most likely golfer to win the tournament, which seems a bit low considering his history with the major.
The Irishman won the U.S. Open in 2010, and followed up that performance with a tie for 14th in 2011 and a tie for second in 2012. Although he missed the cut in 2013, he has proved time and again that he can handle the challenges that this tournament presents.
“I feel my game is built for the test and, like I say, I really crave the experience winning a second major,” he told BBC golf correspondent Iain Carter.
McDowell has notched four top-10 finishes in 2014, although he hasn’t been as sharp since he missed the cut at the Masters. But don’t count him out just yet, as he ranks second on the tour in strokes gained putting, per PGATour.com, which may be especially useful this weekend.
Charl Schwartzel (50-1)
At 50-1 odds, Charl Schwartzel is listed behind 18 golfers. Schwartzel has finished in the top 15 at the U.S. Open two of the last three years, with his best finish coming in 2011, where he tied for ninth.
The 2011 Masters champion has three top-10 performances this season, all coming in his last four PGA Tour events.
He finished tied for eighth at the Memorial, and shots like this could certainly help him this weekend:
The South African isn’t a sexy pick, but he could be a dangerous one. He ranks in the top 20 in scoring average (70.11), total driving (112), birdie average (3.97) and all-around ranking (434), according to PGATour.com.
Hideki Matsuyama (40-1)
Matsuyama is the world No. 13 and enters the U.S. Open at 40-1 odds. He has three top-10 finishes in 2014, including a victory at the Memorial earlier this month where he finished 13-under par and outlasted Kevin Na in a playoff to earn his first win on the PGA Tour.
The 22-year-old finished in a tie for 10th at last year's U.S. Open and followed up that result with an equally impressive sixth-place performance at the British Open. Although he has yet to win a major, he has shown he has the skills to do so and seems to play his best on golf’s largest stage.
Look for Matsuyama—who ranks fifth on the tour in birdie average (4.22) and sixth in par breakers (23.91 percent), per PGATour.com—to seriously challenge for his first major this weekend.
Steve Stricker (50-1)
Like Schwartzel, Steve Stricker enters the tournament with 50-1 odds. He has only played in six events in 2014, but his best outings were his latest ones, where he finished tied for sixth at the Memorial and tied for 13th at the Players Championship.
The American is 47 years old and has yet to win a major, despite numerous close calls. He finished runner-up at the PGA Championship in 1998, placed fifth at the U.S. Open in 1998 and 1999, was sixth at the Masters in 2009 and tied for seventh at the British Open in 2008.
According to Gary D’Amato of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Stricker isn’t short on major experience:
When Stricker tees it up for the first round Thursday, it will mark his 19th start in the U.S. Open. Only three players in the field have made more: Phil Mickelson (24), Ernie Els (22) and Jim Furyk (20).
Stricker also has the dubious distinction of being fourth on the list of active players who have made the most major championship starts without a victory. Lee Westwood is 0 for 64 and is followed by Miguel Angel Jimenez (63), Sergio Garcia (62) and Stricker (61).
Because the 2014 U.S. Open features a wider fairway, a longer golf course and tricky turtle-back greens, Stricker knows he has to alter his strategy from years past.
It's a lot different. The greens are all the same but from tee to green it's vastly different. It's going to be tough to hit greens. I don't spin (the ball) as much as a lot of guys, so I'm going to be steering toward the side where I think I can get it up and down. That's just the way it's going to be for me, I think.
Although he has yet to win a major, that doesn’t mean he can’t this weekend.
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