US Open In-Play Tips – Class-acts shine on day one

12:00 – June 19, 2021

As many as 23 players broke the par of 71 around the South Course at Torrey Pines in round one of the US Open and 24 achieved the feat in round two but only Richard Bland, Russell Henley, Matthew Wolff and the pre-event favourite, Jon Rahm, have broken par in both rounds and only 12 players are under-par at the halfway stage. Here’s the top-20 through 36 holes, with prices to back at 11:50.

Russell Henley -5 14.5
Richard Bland -5 38.037/1
Louis Oosthuizen -4 8.415/2
Matthew Wolff -4 13.5
Jon Rahm -3 5.14/1
Bubba Watson -3 27.026/1
Xander Schauffele -2 9.08/1
Kevin Streelman -2 55.054/1
Mackenzie Hughes -2 110.0109/1
Scottie Scheffler -1 36.035/1
Guido Migliozzi -1 160.0159/1
Patrick Rodgers -1 160.0159/1
Brooks Koepka Ev 19.018/1
Bryson DeChambeau Ev 21.020/1
Collin Morikawa Ev 26.025/1
Justin Thomas Ev 27.026/1
Branden Grace Ev 95.094/1
Christiaan Bezuidenhout Ev 110.0109/1
Harris English Ev 120.0119/1
Adam Hadwin Ev 280.0279/1
+1 and 44.043/1 bar

As detailed yesterday, US Opens tend to be won by the frontrunners and since Corey Pavin won the 1995 edition at Shinnecock Hills, having sat tied for 11th and only four off Nick Price’s lead at halfway, Webb Simpson, in 2012, is the only winner to be outside the top-ten after 36 holes.

Simpson was tied for 29th and six off the lead and he looks like a massive outlier. Since 1996, Michael Campbell, who trailed by just two strokes in a tie for sixth in 2005, is the only other winner not to be inside the top-four places at halfway and Brooks Koepka, in 2018, and Simpson in 2012, are the only two winners since 1996 to be more than two strokes adrift after two rounds.

DeChambeau sat second at halfway last year and five of the last seven winners were in front at this stage, so anyone that wants to blindly bet those stats is getting some juicy prices this morning with Bland and Henley trading at 38.037/1 and 14.5 respectively but can either go on to win? I certainly have my doubts.

Both were matched at 1000.0 before the off and the Bland story is simply remarkable. He was making his 478th European Tour appearance when he won his first event on that tour – the British Masters in May – and he’s playing in just his fourth major championship – 23 years after he played in his first!

It’s very hard to see how he can get over the line and Henley’s hard to fancy too. It’s now more than four years since he came from behind to win his last event – the Houston Open – and this is the first time he’s led or been tied for the lead in any event since the Travelers Championship in 2016. On that occasion, he finished 11th.

As well as he’s playing, Louis Oosthuizen is yet to win on American soil and he’s not one to go to war with over the weekend so at a much bigger price, on the same score, Matthew Wolff represents better value.

The big-hitting 22-year-old led the championship with a round to go last year before a disappointing 75 on Sunday saw him eventually finish second and nobody’s hit more greens in regulation over the first two days.

As he was before the off, and after the opening round, Jon Rahm is still a fair price but I’m happy to swerve him given how easy it is to fall away here and how poor his stats are at halfway. He ranks only tied 60th for Greens In Regulation so he’s clearly not giving himself enough chances. That could all change in a heartbeat but I’m in no rush to back him at the price and on the same score, Bubba Watson represents better value.

Now 42 and without a win in three years, he’s easy to dismiss but he’s won 12 times on the PGA Tour, including two US Masters, two WGCs and a Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, ten years ago.

He was extremely candid after the second round but his nerves are nothing new and he could just be the one to cope with the weekend pressure better than anyone else.

Pre-event pick, Xander Schauffele, is certainly not out of it in a tie for seventh and just three off the lead but he needs to find a bit more luck on the greens and one of my Find Me a 100 Winner picks, Kevin Streelman, is alongside Xander.

As Dave Tindall highlighted in his 10-year trends piece, this has been a young man’s major of late but that could change this year with so many experienced men in the mix and it’s a tough one to call.

The stats suggest the seven men tied for 13th and five off the lead are already too far back but I’m in no rush to write off the likes of Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa or Justin Thomas.

I’ve added to the portfolio with very small wagers on Wolff and Bubba but it’s a really difficult tournament to assess at this stage and I’m very happy to remain cautious. I’ll be back tomorrow with a look at the state of play before round four.

10:35 – June 18, 2021

After a 90-minute delay to the start of the 121st US Open, thanks to the presence of fog yesterday morning, the first round was suspended for darkness with the final couple of three-balls still having five and six holes of their opening rounds to play.

Pre-event pick, Justin Rose, who’s already too far back to win his second US Open after a very poor start, teed off on the 18th tee as darkness descended while playing partners, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, finished up on 17, just before the hooter went off, and as a result, they were able to get finished.

Johnson, who shot a level-par 71, described getting finished, and therefore avoiding a very early start to finish off his round today, as ‘so crucial’ and Rory, who made a birdie four at the par five 18th to post one-under, joked that he was “better putting in the dark!” He scrambled nicely yesterday but he hadn’t driven or putted especially well all day.

Russell Henley is the clubhouse leader after a four-under-par 67 but Louis Oosthuizen is alongside him and he has two holes of the first round still to play. Here’s the current state of play with prices to back at 10:30.

Russell Henley -4 50.049/1
Louis Oosthuizen -4 9.417/2 (thru 16)
Francesco Molinari -3 55.054/1
Rafa Cabrera-Bello -3 110.0109/1
Jon Rahm -2 6.611/2
Brooks Koepka -2 9.28/1
Xander Schauffele -2 11.521/2
Hideki Matsuyama -2 23.022/1
Sebastian Munoz -2 160.0159/1 (thru 14)
Hayden Buckley -2 600.0599/1
Selected others
Rory McIlroy -1 16.5
Patrick Cantlay -1 23.022/1 (thru 16)
Tyrrell Hatton -1 42.041/1
Dustin Johnson Ev 22.021/1
Bryson DeChambeau +2 46.045/1
-1 and 55.054/1 bar

Although the first round hasn’t finished, there isn’t going to be too much change to the leaderboard once it’s concluded so it’s well worth looking back at historical data.

As highlighted in the preview, a fast start is important at the US Open and in the last 22 years only three winners have trailed by more than four strokes after round one. Lucas Glover trailed by five in 2007, and Webb Simpson, in 2012, and Brooks Koepka, in 2018, both trailed by six.

There are currently 23 players under-par and it’s long odds-on that the winner is among them but with such a talent-heavy early leaderboard, the best tactic at present is to sit and wait until later because being up with the pace through 36 holes in this championship is absolutely crucial.

Webb Simpson was tied for 29th and six off the lead through 36 holes at the 2012 US Open but since 1996, Michael Campbell, who trailed by just two strokes in a tie for sixth in 2005, is the only other winner not to be inside the top-four places at halfway. Incredibly, Koepka, in 2018, and Simpson in 2012, are the only two winners since 1996 to be more than two strokes adrift after two rounds.

DeChambeau sat second at halfway last year and five of the last seven winners were in front. The evidence is convincing, up with the pace at halfway is the place to be in a US Open so concentrating on the very top of the leaderboard in the early hours later, before the market settles and adjusts at the end of play and overnight, will be the way to play it.

I’m far from convinced I’ll be able to stay awake long enough to adopt that tactic but I’ll be back tomorrow morning to take a look at the state of play regardless.

I was definitely tempted to play Koepka this morning. He’s produced form figures reading 1-1-2 in his last three US Opens, but with class-acts, Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen, pre-event pick, Xander Schauffele, and Rory McIlroy all within three of the lead and trading at less than 17.016/1, I’m happy to wait.

Rahm and Rory play early today and if either or both make a big move Koepka will drift but he and world number one, Dustin Johnson, are the two I’m going to be keeping an eye on later.

DJ trails by four on level par so he’s got work to do already but he’s a tournament specialist and he sat tied for 71st after round one last year before eventually finishing tied for sixth.

Much is being made of Rory’s poor first round record in majors of late, and rightly so, but this is a championship in which he’s not been too pedestrian early on. He sat tied for eighth after the opening round two years ago and he was fifth and only two adrift in last year’s edition. He was trading at 8.88/1 after day one last year but he shot 76 in round two. Pre-tournament favourite, Rahm, looks a perfectly fair price this morning and he’s a worthy favourite still after such a solid start but I wouldn’t be in a rush to side with Rory.

Pre-Event Selections:
Xander Schauffele @ 24.023/1
Justin Rose @ 70.069/1

In-Play Picks:
Matthew Wolff @ 14.5
Bubba Watson @ 27.026/1

Find Me a 100 Winner picks:
Back 2 u Gary Woodland @ 120.0119/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1 Β½ u Kevin Streelman @ 220.0219/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4
Back 1 Jhonattan Vegas @ 330.0329/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4

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