The first golfers tee of at 6:45 am EDT Thursday.
For the first time in forever, there will not be two months between the first and second golf majors of the year. Instead it’s now one, since the PGA Championship has been moved from August to May. This week the Wanamaker Trophy will be up for grabs at Bethpage Black on Long Island, where the U.S. Open was played in 2002 and 2009. And yes, Tiger Woods won in ’02 and Phil Mickelson nearly won seven years later. Left will turn in 49 in June. But Tiger just won the Masters, his first major in 11 years. And of course the 15th of his career, only three behind Jack Nicklaus’ all-time record.
First things first, though. Last week one of our three picks, Rory Sabbatini, at 40-1, was actually a contender. While he was never really a threat to win on Sunday, he did tie for fifth. So that’s something. Just not enough.
You can shop around for the best odds, but basically this week there are four guys who are all around 10-1, in no particular order. You can probably guess who. It’s Tiger, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy. No surprises there. Tiger hasn’t played since Augusta, and I’m not sure what to make of that. I’m not convinced he can win back-to-back majors at this point, especially since he hasn’t done it since 2006. But he is Tiger, albeit an older Tiger. And he’s never won the Masters and PGA in the same year. Yet he almost won the two majors before the Masters, so I think he’ll play well. I just don’t think I’m going to take him.
Johnson was a very quiet second at Augusta, with a really strong weekend. He’s always capable. And Koepka has won three of the last seven majors he’s played. The defending champion was runner-up at the Masters too. If only he didn’t hit it in the water at No. 12 on the closing nine. McIlroy, who won The Players Championship in March, didn’t play all that well at Augusta. And he won the last of his four majors nearly five years ago.
Moving on, Rickie Fowler is 16-1. He’s still the best player never to have won a major. He’s had a top 3 in all four majors, but has been outside of the top 15 in three of the last five. Jon Rahm, who’s also looking for his first, is 18-1. Francesco Molinari, who won the British last July and was in position to win a green jacket last month, is 20-1. Ditto Justin Rose, who missed the cut at Augusta. At 25-1 is the noted law firm of Jason Day (the 2015 champ, his lone major), Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele and Tommy Fleetwood. Jordan Spieth, who hasn’t done much of anything in the last year or so, is 30-1. I wouldn’t touch him at the moment. Tony Finau is also 30-1. And while he’s finished in the top 10 in four of the last five majors, he’s only won once on the PGA Tour. And that came three years back in an alternate-field event. Just saying.
Matt Kuchar is 40-1, as are Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama and Patrick Cantlay, who had a very good Masters. Paul Casey is 50-1, along with Mickelson. So is Adam Scott, who nearly won this thing last year after being mostly MIA since his victory at Augusta in 2013. Sergio Garcia, Webb Simpson, Louie Oosthuizen, Bubba Watson and Henrik Stenson are all 60-1.
I have to admit I’m really a little perplexed about which way to go here. I have Tiger in my yearlong pool that I’m always telling you about. And that’s usually not good. Probably means I have him one major too late. And by the way, I have Dustin Johnson in the U.S. Open next month, so I might have to compute that into my sometimes outside-the-box reasoning. Hey, in 2013, I picked Jason Dufner to win the PGA because he lost when he should have it in 2011. Golf has a weird way of producing stories like that. Along those lines, I have Fowler next week at Colonial. See what I put myself through. I also have McIlroy (who’s won this twice) in another pool, if you’re looking for full disclosure.
You know me, I’m not a chalk kind of guy. But it’s really hard to dismiss not taking a shot at Koepka at that number, just because. That doesn’t mean he’s going to keep this major thing up, but he is long and the greens at Bethpage are relatively flat, which should help his putting. I could say much the same about DJ. Since I can only take one favorite, I’ll go with DJ. And probably regret it. Hey, it is what it is. For my second choice I’ll try Rose, on the theory that the Masters was a hiccup and that he might be due for his second major and first in six years. But it’s more of a hunch than anything. And for a longer shot I’ll throw a dart at Webb Simpson, who has five top 20s in majors in the last two years. Don’t know what that means exactly, but at 60-1 what the heck.
Again, I can’t explain why but I just don’t have any strong opinions about this one. Just trying to be as honest as possible. So I would tread carefully. But it’s a major, so that usually doesn’t apply. There’s a lot of good prices out there. You just have to find the right one. May the force be with you. And your tickets.
Dustin Johnson 10-1
Justin Rose 20-1
Webb Simpson 60-1