Welcome to Virtual Insanity, where we spend virtual money to try and win virtual money on golf betting. It's that simple!
The virtual pot is at €1000 from €1000, dead even in terms of profit and loss for 2022 entering this week's tournament of focus, the U.S. Open at the Country Club in Brookline, just outside Boston in the state of Massachusetts.
Golf's third major of the year attracts a top class field, the injured Tiger Woods notwithstanding. The tournament will provide welcome respite from the ugly split in golf which has seen players such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau sign up to play LIV golf events, the rebel tour backed by Saudi Arabia. This has prompted a backlash from the PGA Tour.
The US Open is governed by the USGA, and LIV golfers are allowed to compete this week.
Tournament favourite Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Seamus Power are the Irish players in the 156 strong field, which includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Masters champion Scottie Scheffler and U.S. PGA champion Justin Thomas.
Rory McIlroy is a worthy favourite to win his first major in 8 years following his barnstorming triumph at the Canadian Open. He was like the pied piper last Sunday and his all round game looks strong. It would be great to see him do it, but I would rather watch and see it happen rather than take 11/1. Shane Lowry is having a great season and Brookline should suit, but he does have to shake off his major disappointment when the pressure came on over the weekend at Augusta. For Power, it's a case of enjoying himself and gaining more experience after his fine top ten at the U.S. PGA.
The Country Club is a par 70 course, measuring 7,264 yards, with deep rough and small greens. It staged the 1999 Ryder Cup and was where Francis Ouimet won the US Open as an amateur in 1913. The last major championship to be held at Brookline was the 1988 US Open, won by Curtis Strange. England's Matt Fitzpatrick won the 2013 US Amateur at the course. The weather forecast is fair and it's unlikely there will be any draw bias.
The event starts at 11.45am Thursday, Irish time.
Be sure to shop around, with bookmakers such as Paddy Power, Coral and SKY Bet offering 1/5 the odds for your pick to get into the top ten places. Boyle Sports are going to 11 places and Betfair 12 places. Other bookmakers are offering less places, but better odds.
I highlight the best terms and bookmakers offering them beside each recommendation below.
Our headline selection is Patrick Cantlay for €15 each way at 28/1. (1/5 the odds the first 9 places, William Hill).
World number four Patrick Cantlay is seventh in the betting, which is a reflection of a couple of things; his low-key nature and his weak record in major championships. The American tied for 39th at the Masters and missed the cut at the U.S. PGA this year, leading some commentators to question his resolve on the biggest stage. His best finish at a U.S. Open is a tie for 15th, which came last year, but he has never missed a cut in six starts. I put Cantlay's mediocre major record down to what he calls a lack of 'reps' - remember the 30 year old spent years out of the game with a serious back injury. Cantlay withstood the pressure to win the FedEx Cup last year and he's won the prestigious Memorial Tournament twice. His record this year has been impressive outside of the majors - seven top 10 finishes in 12 starts, including a team victory with Xander Schauffele in New Orleans. He also lost play offs in Phoenix and at Hilton Head. Cantlay's all round game is very strong and his best asset is his temperament. He has played courses with small greens such as Pebble Beach well because he's attuned to finding the right spots around the course. Intelligent play and an ability to grind should serve him well in this U.S. Open. I feel 28/1 is an insult for him to finish in the top nine and he rates a strong headline selection to confirm his amateur promise and become a major champion.
Our second selection is Xander Schauffele for €5 each way at 25/1. (1/5 the odds the first 9 places, William Hill).
Olympic champion Xander Schauffele is good friends with Cantlay - and like his fellow Californian, he should be a major champion before long. Why not this week? Schauffele's U.S. Open record is off the scale - tied fifth, tied sixth, tied third, fifth and tied seventh in all his appearances to date - an each way punters dream. Yes, it is said he doesn't win enough, but the gold medal victory in Tokyo is not to be sniffed at. 28 year old Schauffele is a long, straight driver of the golf ball - he tied for 13th at the PGA Championship and it's just a case of him putting it all together. He ranks seventh in the strokes gained statistics from tee to green and tends to putt well on bent grass surfaces. Schauffele is a strong competitor and an elite talent. It would be no surprise to see him lift the trophy on Sunday.
Our third selection is Sungjae Im for €5 each way at 40/1. (1/5 the odds the first 8 places, Ladbrokes).
Korea's Sungjae Im is a relentless worker, but also very talented - anyone who finishes in a tie for second on their first Masters appearance as he did in 2020 has got game. A fantastic ball striker, 24 year old Im enters the US Open in rude health - with three top 15 finishes in a row. He missed the PGA Championship due to COVID-19, but contended at Augusta in April and won earlier in the season in Las Vegas. He ranks 12th off the tee in strokes gained and fifth around the green - he's also eighth in the old fashioned greens in regulation statistic on the PGA Tour. I don't think nerves will hold Im back from a first major title - he won the Honda Classic under the gun in 2020 and if the putts drop, he can be right there come Sunday.
Our final selection is Corey Conners for €5 each way at 55/1. (1/5 the odds the first 10 places, SKY Bet).
The talk will be of Matt Fitzpatrick and how he can repeat his 2013 success at Brookline, but what of Canadian Corey Conners, who narrowly lost the US Amateur semi-final to Fitzpatrick? Conners shot a 62 to finish in a tie for sixth at the Canadian Open last Sunday and returns to a venue which holds good memories. The 30 year old from Listowel in Ontario (do they know in Kerry!) is one of the purest players on the circuit with a driver or iron in hand. His ability to produce crisp iron shots that get close to the hole will stand to him at the Country Club, with its small greens and emphasis on precision. Conners' weakness has been putting - he was 181st on the PGA Tour in that category two seasons ago - now he's 75th. He's finished in the top ten on his last three visits to Augusta, showing a greater comfort for the big stage. I believe he's a value outsider to become Canada's first major champion since Mike Weir at the 2003 Masters.
So that's €60 wagered virtually on this week's U.S. Open golf. Make sure you bet less at home! A euro each way will do!
Please gamble responsibly, never bet more than you can afford, and good luck!