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Time after time the Major Championships produce long-priced contenders - and the odd winner - with the US Open possibly being the most likely of all 4 to produce a 3-figure shock. 2013 was the first time for a number of years where a 3-figure chance didn't finish inside the each-way paying positions; prior to that the previous few renewals produced the following outsiders who finished in the each way places:
The list goes on: Geoff Ogilvy won at 100/1 in 2006; Michael Campbell was 200/1 in 2005 - all in all, this is the Major where it can often pay to look a little further down the field in terms of the betting. Most of the mainstream bookmakers have extended their EW places to 6 this week to give us an extra chance of grabbing that long-priced payout; at the time of writing only Boylesports, Spread Ex and Betway remained at 5 places EW - however do check carefully before placing your bet, plus the EW terms will inevitably change once the tournament is in-play.
In terms of specific bookmaker deals for the 2014 US Open, here's a few of the best:
Steve Bamford has given us his view of the outright market in his preview here, however here's a couple of 3-figure chances who I think have a sporting chance of making the top 6 or better once the 72 holes are completed at Pinehurst:
Commentators have been quick to write off Miguel Angel Jimenez now that he's reached 50 years of age and is supposedly on the slippery slide down to golfing oblivion. Well if that's the case then The Mechanic is clearly doing his best to prove everyone wrong! 21 European Tour victories - 14 of which have come since his 40th birthday - have produced many a headline about the Spaniard maturing in a golfing sense in the same fashion as his favourite tipple. Another Ryder Cup appearance is looking increasing likely as Jimenez continues to play some of the best golf of his career, in turn recently extending his own record as the oldest winner on the European Tour with victory at the Spanish Open, and who'd deny him a place in McGinley's final 12 this autumn? He'd be an asset to the team in my opinion.
4th at Augusta in April underlines that he's still well capable of mixing with the World's golfing elite and whilst his US Open record of late isn't exactly inspiring (4 consecutive missed cuts before missing last season's event), we shouldn't forget that he was the closest finisher to runaway leader Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach back in 2000. Jimenez isn't the most powerful of players and hacking out of the 6-inch rough of recent US Open venues simply isn't his forte, so I actually think that Pinehurst will set up nicely for him this week as it will encourage a level of strategy off the tee and imagination in approach shots if they're going to hold putting surfaces. Many of the tee shot landing areas will be the same for all players here with the exception of the brave or foolhardy, so I don't see that his lack of length off the tee is of massive consequence and that gives him a chance here.
Contending at Major Championships is a specific skill that some players have and others don't, so it's very difficult to ignore players like Ernie Els when it comes to the toughest of assignments. With the exception of the obvious names like Woods and Mickelson, few players have truly performed with the consistency of the South African over the past couple of decades, particularly at the tougher two of the four Majors, namely the US Open and Open Championship. Twice a US Open champion early in his career, 3 top-10s in his last 4 US Open appearances proves that he's still capable of competing at this level, a fact that was reinforced when he captured his 2nd Open Championship title a little under 24 months ago.
The lack of rough, uneven fairways and style of approach play required around Pinehurst No.2 will lend itself to players with the ability to play golf along the ground as opposed to in the air and, in that respect, I'm quite happy to side with one of the finest links players of the modern era when those skill requirements are a pre-requisite. The Big Easy's form coming into this event hasn't been anything to write home about, however a semi-final finish at the WGC Match Play earlier this year is positive at least and his first strokeplay top-20 of the year at Memorial, where he produced a positive Strokes Gained Putting performance, is further encouragement. Finished 15th here in 2005 and could well improve on that.
First Round Leader Market
The weather could play a pivotal role this week with heavy rain and thunderstorms forecast at various stages and how that affects course conditions could ultimately shape how this year's event pans out. A dry course could become more receptive for the Thursday morning starters if rain materialises overnight on Wednesday - if not then it could be the afternoon wave who find conditions more scoreable if there are any delays during the day on Thursday, which looks very likely at this stage. The prudent play in my opinion is to keep stakes low and pick a likely fast starter from either side of the draw to give us a chance if there ends up being any significant draw bias.
Paul Casey has previous form in the First Round Leader market at the US Open having co-led after round 1 at Pebble Beach in 2010 and recent performances on the PGA Tour suggest he's well capable of repeating that feat here this week. 5 top-25 finishes in his last 6 PGA Tour events doesn't tell the whole story as he could, and perhaps should, have pushed on and truly contended in at least one of those, however he's struggling to string 4 low enough rounds together at present to get close enough to the line. That said, a 3rd round 64 at the Zurich Classic, a 2nd round 63 at the HP Byron Nelson and an opening pair of 66s at The Memorial on his penultimate start prove that he's playing great golf in patches and that's all we need for this bet if he can find top gear on the opening day.
South Carolina native Russell Henley is almost close enough to call a local this week, however it's his recent fast starts at the Honda Classic (64) and TPC Sawgrass (65) that gives him my vote here. The 25 year-old went on to win that event at PGA National with the likes of Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia finishing behind him in the top 10 and that victory cemented the promise that he'd shown by becoming the first PGA Tour rookie for 12 years to win on debut at the previous season's Sony Open in Hawaii, carding three rounds of 63 into the bargain, and the 2010 Leading Amateur in this event has the ability to put a low round in whenever and wherever he plays. 4 missed cuts in 5 events has pushed both his outright and first round leader prices out, however I'm under no illusion as to how talented Henley is and, with a potentially prime Thursday morning tee time if it does rain overnight on Wednesday, we might find that having defending champion Rose and crowd favourite Mickelson in the group in front is enough to inspire the young man to a great opening round.
Top 20 Finish Market
The beauty of these 2 bets is that if either of them come in then we're on for a minimum 50% profit from the 4 points staked assuming no ties; if both finish inside the top 20 then we're laughing - and that's well within the realms of possibility in my opinion.
The cream tends to rise to the top in the Majors as we know and these 2 previous - and relatively recent - Major winners know exactly what kind of temperament is required to hang about on Major leadboards in order to have a chance when it comes down to the business end of the tournament on a Sunday. G-Mac has finished inside the top dozen 5 times in his last 9 Majors, has his 2010 Pebble Beach victory tucked under his belt, and has top-20 finishes in 4 of his last 5 US Opens. Dufner, on the other hand, has 5 Major top-5s to his name since 2010 including victory at last season's US PGA Championship and consecutive 4th place finishes in this event over the past 2 seasons. Slight question marks about McDowell's form (MC/23/62/24) and Dufner's short putting may be enough to put me off backing the pair in the outright market - although I wouldn't be at all surprised to see either seriously contend - however they've both certainly got the game to finish inside the top 20 of an event where over a third of the field are making their US Open debut and precious few have the Major mindset of this pair.
Top Senior Market
There are only 3 players in this market - Miguel Angel Jimenez, Jeff Maggert and Kenny Perry - and, of the three, I think that MAJ is by far the most capable at this kind of level. All 3 have won on the Champions Tour this season: Maggert captured the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic in March before Jimenez captured his first over-50s title at TPC Sugerloaf; Perry is the most recent winner of the trio when he beat Mark Calcavecchia by a stroke at the Regions Tradition less than a month ago, however for me that's where the comparisons end. This will be Maggert's first Major championship since 2006 and Perry's first since 2010, whereas the cigar-loving Spaniard has been competing at the highest level for pretty much all of that period, save for the odd Major missed through injury or prior engagement. Jimenez was 4th at Augusta a couple of months ago, won the Spanish Open last month immediately after getting married and arrives here fresh off of a top-5 finish in Austria. Yes, Jimenez has a poor recent record in this event but, as I stated above in my longshots section, I'd expect Pinehurst to suit far more than some other recent venues.