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Brooks Koepka hits his tee shot on the ninth hole during a practice round for the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament Monday, June 10, 2019, in Pebble Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Brooks Koepka hits his tee shot on the ninth hole during a practice round for the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament Monday, June 10, 2019, in Pebble Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)|Associated Press

Golf: Mike Kern picks the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but is staying away from Tiger, Rory and Brooks and looking to make some real money

The third major starts Thursday morning and ends Sunday in prime time

Mike Kern

Mike Kern

A week after giving out eventual winner Patrick Cantlay as one of my three guys at the Memorial at 18-1, last week one of my three picks was Brandt Snedeker at around 50-1 at the Canadian Open. And he did shoot a 60 in the second round. And was only one shot off the lead heading into Sunday. But nobody was beating Rory McIlroy, who closed with a 61 that could have easily been a 59. So Sneds finished in a tie for fourth. But we had something to cheer for, which is better than nothing. And maybe you found a way to get him as a Top 5 prop bet, which would have been nice. That’s why you sometimes have to hedge your bets to protect yourself. Which is why they have place and show.

Now it’s on to the U.S. Open, which is back at Pebble Beach for the first time in nine years. So let’s go over most of the usual suspects and try to come up with a champion. Hopefully one that might even pay off at some decent odds.

The fave is Brooks Koepka, at 7-1. He’s won four of the last eight majors he’s played in, including the last one at the PGA Championship last month. And he tied for second, one behind Tiger Woods, at the Masters in April after making a few mistakes down the stretch. He’s trying to become the first man to win three straight U.S. Opens ever. And the only time it happened was over a century ago. So there is that.

Next is Dustin Johnson, at 8-1. He’s finished second in each of this season’s majors. And he has a good track record at Pebble, having won two AT&T Pro-Ams there. He also led the 2010 Open after three rounds before imploding on the last day. And I have him in my yearlong pool that I have to fill out in December, which more often than not is hardly a promising sign. But you never know.

Woods and McIlroy are 10-1. Woods of course won the 2000 Open there by 15 shots. And he showed at Augusta that he’s at least capable of doing special stuff again, even in his 40s. McIlroy has missed the cut at the last three Opens. And he hasn’t won a major in nearly five years. But he has won four of them, including this one in 2011. And he sure did look ready last week. But this is different. And if he doesn’t drive it accurately it’s hard to win the hardest tournament of any year. Same for Tiger. And some other blokes.

Jordan Spieth and Cantlay are 16-1. Spieth hasn’t won anything since the 2017 British Open, which was his third major. But he seems to be playing better. Still, he hasn’t been in the top 35 in his last three AT&T appearances, for whatever that’s worth. February at Pebble is not June at Pebble. Cantlay is as solid as just about anyone right now, but asking him to win twice in three weeks could be asking a bunch.

Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler are 20-1. Rose won in 2013 at Merion, which is his lone major. But he’s come close several other times. And he’s had Top 10s in the last two U.S. Opens. As for Fowler, we continue to wait. And when was the last time he was this big of a number at a major? Which could be a sign, either way.

Xander Schauffele, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood
and Jason Day are all 25-1. Interesting group. Schauffele was in late contention at the Masters. Rahm is sort of hard to figure out, but he has the game. Thomas is coming back from a wrist injury, so who knows? Fleetwood has yet to win on American soil, but has shown he can certainly be a factor. Day hasn’t won anything big in awhile, but he’s been involved enough on a Sunday before in these spots. And in 10 appearances he does have six top 6s at the AT&T. Might mean something.

Francesco Molinari is 30-1, as is Hideki Matsuyama, Tony Finau, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson, who at 49 is still looking for his first U.S. Open to complete a career grand slam. And he won the AT&T five months back. It would be a tremendous story, but this is not the AT&T. He’s had one top 35 since winning the AT&T. Finau can be around but has only won once. And that wasn’t in a primary-field event. Molinari could have won at Augusta, after winning the British Open last July. Matsuyama looks like one of those guys who’s going to get one someday, but I’m not sure this is the time yet. Scott’s issue is always the putter, and that’s not conducive in a USGA setup. Or most setups.

Bryson DeChambeau is 40-1. Ditto Matt Kuchar, who’s having a wonderful season. I just don’t know if he’s ever going to get it done in a major. I keep thinking about the 2017 British. Paul Casey is 50-1. Webb Simpson is 60-1. Snedeker is 70-1, Sergio Garcia 80-1. Which should about cover enough ground.

I, unfortunately, could go several ways here. Part of me wants to ride McIlroy. And I might. Bu how many guys have won the Open after winning the week before? Thought so. I’m not going to take Tiger, even though many will. I’m not going to take Koepka, just because. And I already have DJ in my pool.

I’m going to stay away from the faves, mostly because I can’t decide which one I like better. Bear with me. So give me 1) Xander Schauffele. Just don’t press me on the reason why. Sometimes it’s just a hunch, more or less. I’m also taking 2) Justin Rose, who hasn’t had a good year in the majors so far and might not necessarily be in the best form. But in 2010 Graeme McDowell won, and he’s kind of from the same parts. Makes perfect sense, right? Maybe that means I should have taken Tommy Fleetwood instead. And for my longer shot, try 3) Matt Kuchar. He usually winds up frustrating me, but he can usually be counted on to if nothing else give you a worthy effort. And again, you might want to look into some of these fellas to just finish in the top 5 or top 10, just in case they do well but don’t quite get it done.

And the best thing is we get to watch it in prime time on the weekend. Love those west coast majors. As long as I didn’t have to file on deadline from one of them. Only kidding. I would love to be out there, as I was in 1992, 2000 and 2010 when I worked for the Daily News. There are parts of early retirement that I do miss. Trips to the Monterrey Peninsula is way high on that list.

And Happy Father’s Day, to all of us dads. And especially granddads, now that I’m one of those too. Nothing better, trust me.