Tiger Woods is clear 8/1 favourite for this week's US Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, but is he a good bet at that price?
The three-time champion has been pushed out to that price by several firms on the eve of the second major of the year, including Paddy Power, Betfred and Ladbrokes. BetVictor are taking a more cautious approach going just 11/2, but that's more to do with the fact they are the only firm (at the time of writing) to be offering each-way terms of a quarter the odds the first seven places. Lee Westwood and Luke Donald are still chasing their first major but must have a decent chance this week and they are jostling behind Tiger in the betting at 12/1 and 13/1 respectively with Paddy Power, with last year's runaway winner Rory McIlroy next at 16/1.
This week's par-70 track is is a brutal one from tee to green and par will be a good score. The last time the US Open was played here, Lee Janzen came from seven behind in the final round to defeat the late Payne Stewart, and his winning score was level par (280) - expect something similar this week. At just 7,170 yards, Olympic is no monster, though, and the course's defences are provided by the penal rough and small, lightning-fast greens. Driving accuracy, rather than distance, is therefore more important this week, as will be the ability to scramble and save par.
My Three Against the Field:-
Lee Westwood @ 12/1 Paddy Power
Woods will be many people's idea of the winner this week after looking more like the Tiger of old when winning at Memorial last time out - who will ever forget that chip-in on 16! However, he was strongly fancied for the Masters back in April after winning at Bay Hill, another of his favourite events, and he let his supporters down badly when finishing a tame 40th. It's also debatable as to whether this week's narrow track will bring out the best in him, so he's swerved at single-figure odds. Westwood isn't much bigger, admittedly, but it's doubtful whether he will ever get a better chance of winning his first Major.
The Worksop Wonder has been a familiar face on leaderboards in the big events for a while now, with his last 16 Majors yielding 10 top-11 finishes and an incredible seven top-threes. He can also boast four US Open top-sevens (in start contrast to Luke Donald), including here in 1998 when aged just 25, and he comes into this week at the top of his game, following a five-stroke romp at the Nordea Masters. One of the great drivers of the ball (ranked 15th on Tour) and deadly accurate with his irons (first for greens in regulation), he has the ideal game for this week's test. His Achilles Heel is his putting but that is improved of late and the smaller than average greens will place less pressure on that part of his game. Granted a bit of luck along the way, it's hard to imagine him not being in the mix come Sunday, when we will hopefully be in a position to lay off to cover our stake or ensure a tidy profit.
Jim Furyk @ 40/1 Ladbrokes
Experience counts for plenty in the US Open and Furyk has that in spades. The American veteran has played in 17 US Opens and can boast five top-five finishes, including winning the 2003 version, and he played well the last time it was played here in 1998, when finishing 14th. After a stellar 2010 during which he won the FedEx Cup, he seemed to go off the boil last season but he's been back to his old consistent self in 2012 - a Ryder Cup year, which can't be a coincidence - with seven top-25s in his last seven starts, including when beaten in a playoff by Luke Donald at the Transitions, fourth at Colonial, 11th in the Masters and 13th last time out. Along with Westwood, he's one player you can rely on this week to find plenty of fairways (ranked second in fairways hit) and his iron play has always been superb, so there's plenty to like about his chances.
Louis Oosthuizen @ 60/1 Stan James
The final pick is a bit more speculative and we do have to forgive him some indifferent form of late (three missed cuts in his last four events), but I've a sneaky feeling that the South African is going to bounce back to his best this week. He's already won one Major - the 2010 Open, by seven shots no less - and almost won the last Major, only succumbing to Bubba Watson in a playoff at Augusta, so there are no doubts about his temperament for the big events and championship layouts like this one. His US Open form is progressive too, finishing ninth at Congressional 12 months ago, and he has the requisite scrambling skills (ranked first on the European Tour in 2011) for the Olympic Club. All of which makes his price of 60/1 look on the generous side.
Lee Westwood 4pts @ 12/1 Paddy Power
Jim Furyk 1pt each-way @ 40/1 Ladbrokes
Louis Oosthuizen 1pt each-way @ 60/1 Stan James