The 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst begins on Thursday, and there are a few stars on the PGA Tour that you should place your bets on before Day 1.
Even without Tiger Woods in the field, there are plenty of storylines to follow at this year's U.S. Open. Phil Mickelson will be trying to finally win the major after finishing in second a record six times. Meanwhile, Jordan Spieth, the youngest player to ever be ranked in the top 10, is looking to make a big push and prove that he's the next superstar in the sport.
As the U.S. Open gets underway, let's take a look at some of the current stars that you should place your bets on.
Note: All odds for golfers provided by OddsShark.com
Jason Day (28-1 Odds)
A thumb injury has limited the amount of events that Jason Day has been able to play in this year, but now that he's apparently healthy, he'll be a name to watch out for at Pinehurst, especially on the first day.
Day said on Tuesday, according to Yahoo! Sports:
I'm 100 percent healthy. I just want to get that out there. There's no issues with the thumb. There's no issues with any other part of my body that have been an issue in the past. Definitely looking forward to playing this week. I feel good about my game.
While he's only played in five PGA Tour events this season, Day has looked good when out on the course. He already has a win and a second-place finish, making the cut in every event.
Day will have an edge on a course this long. He ranked 16th last season in driving distance, averaging 299.3 yards per tee shot. He'll need every yard at this year's major because the course is set to be the third-longest in U.S. Open history, according to Golf Central.
With two previous second-place finishes at the U.S. Open, Day will be looking to finally get his first career major, and he'll have a legitimate shot thanks to his driving distance and solid short game.
Sergio Garcia (33-1 Odds)
Besides a rough couple of rounds at the Masters, Sergio Garcia is probably having one of the best starts to a season of his career, and that bodes well for the 34-year-old.
Since April, Garcia has had two third-place finishes, which came at the Shell Houston Open and The Players Championship. In those two tournaments, he posted just one round over par. He's had success at Pinehurst before, putting up a career-best U.S. Open finish at the course back in 2005, finishing tied for third.
According to CBS Sports Radio, Brandel Chamblee from the Golf Channel believes that Garcia should be the favorite, saying:
This is Sergio Garcia’s best chance ever to win a major championship because every part of his game is in order. Every part of it. The only question mark – and it’s always a question mark with Sergio Garcia – is can he handle the adversity? But from every other aspect, Sergio Garcia should be the favorite in this championship.
There's a lot to like about Sergio's game that translates to Pinehurst. He's currently eighth on the tour with a 69.66 green in regulation percentage. With how long this course is, a number of golfers will struggle to make the green, especially with a few 500-yard par-four holes. His sand save percentage of 62.96 also ranks second on the tour.
Garcia isn't the most popular name at this year's U.S. Open, but with how he's been playing lately and his previous success at Pinehurst, he'll be a name to look out for.
Bubba Watson (18-1 Odds)
This has been a terrific start to the season for Bubba Watson, and with one major title already this year, he's looking for a second at Pinehurst.
Very few golfers have ever been able to win the first two majors in the same season. According to ESPN Stats & Info, only five other golfers have ever been able to do so.
Right now, Watson is the No. 2 player in the FedEx Cup standings. In 11 PGA Tour events, he already has two wins, two second-place finishes and seven top-10 finishes. He most recently came in third at the Memorial Tournament, posting a score of 12-under par over the weekend.
This season, Watson leads all golfers with an average driving distance of 314.2 yards per tee shot. His accuracy has been a question, and that might be a cause for concern considering the absence of lush rough at this year's course. According to Michael Whitmer from The Boston Globe, Watson plans on dialing back a bit with his driver to focus on staying in the fairway, saying:
It’s a second-shot golf course, the greens are so difficult. I’m going to lay farther back than normal, because it’s still iffy hitting in that — I don’t know what they call it — rough, dirt, sand, I don’t know what they’re calling it.
But it’s going to be iffy, you don’t know what kind of lies you’re going to get. I’m going to have a lot longer shots into the holes, 200-plus yards into par-4s. For me, it’s the second shots what’s going to matter the most.
The wider fairways will be to Watson's advantage, but this is such a different course than everyone is used to, so it will be interesting to see how Watson handles Pinehurst.