Oakmont, which had a +5 winner in its last U.S. Open will almost definitely again be the weekend’s true winner. The trophy will go to its best survivor.
There are many worthy challengers: the entire Top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings will be there, and several of them have stared down courses comparable to Oakmont, in fields nearly as strong. The winning golfer will likely be someone highly ranked with a tough mental game, and major championship experience. One of the great things about the U.S. Open, though, isn’t just its talent at the top of the field, but the stories that come from the bottom.
Each year, club pros, amateurs, and moderately-to-lesser regarded professionals earn the opportunity to see how they compare to the elites, on an elite course. These guys are long-shots, but if you pick the right ones, the payoff is enormous.
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) May 6, 2016
The following is a list of a few long-odds players who may provide a sneaky good bet. We are not suggesting you take out a second mortgage to bet on these guys, but if you are a gambling daredevil (or are looking for some potential steals for your U.S. Open pool), and have a small amount of disposable income to burn, these guys might be worth a look.
1. Kyung-Tae Kim
Current odds: 250/1
K.T. Kim does not just play on the Japan Tour, he basically IS the Japan Tour. A look at the season money leaders in Japan, shows that it is the 29-year-old Korean, Kim, and then everyone else. Yuta Ikeda is their only golfer who would catch Kim if he were to suddenly double his 2016 earnings, and that would not be by much. His dominance in Asia is a big part of the reason why he is the #39 ranked golfer in the OWGR. He’s not a newcomer on the big stage either, as he turned pro a decade ago, and has played in 11 major championships.
— GolfSwinger (@MMHighGolf) May 29, 2016
All that being said, there is a reason his odds are so long. Although he is undoubtedly gifted, the significantly lower level of talent on the Japan Tour makes it difficult to tell how good Kim really is. While he has major championship experience, his best major finish was a T30 at the 2011 U.S. Open. However, he has been winning a lot lately, which should have him brimming with confidence when he takes the first tee at Oakmont.
2. Matteo Manassero
Current odds: 500/1
Manassero has been playing terribly this year, there is no way to sugarcoat it. He is ranked 786th in the world for a reason. He has made only five cuts in 13 tournaments this season, which sadly, is a big improvement from the 6 cuts he made in 22 events last season.
Still, Manassero was once considered Europe’s brightest young star, as he made the cut at the Masters at 16, won his first European Tour event at 17, and won three times before turning 20. He even got as high as #26 in the world rankings. Despite his disastrous past few seasons, he is still only 23-years-old, and has played better as of late: he finished T12 at his last event (the Nordea Masters) and has three top-25s in his last six tournaments. He also did well enough in sectional qualifying to get into the U.S. Open. The signs are there that his mental game is coming back around.
At his best, Manassero was a short hitter, but one of the most technically-sound players in the world. He lost his game when he became obsessed with getting longer. Oakmont is many things, but it is not a long course, and if the formerly precocious Italian plays his game, rather than trying to be Rory McIlroy, 500/1 odds will feel like a steal.
3. Tim Wilkinson
Current odds: 500/1
New Zealand’s Tim Wilkinson, the world’s 360th ranked golfer, currently has the following stats in relation to the PGA Tour:
Par 3 scoring: 6th
Par 4 scoring: 5th
Par 5 scoring: 163rd
Guess what Oakmont only has two of? Par 5s. In addition, Wilkinson is ranked 5th on Tour in scrambling, which is a critical part of the game at a course where the rough is as diabolical as anything these players have seen. His 2016 results aren’t especially impressive, but he has made 11 of 14 cuts, and does have two top 15s in his past four events. This will be Wilkinson’s first career major, and expecting him to be the next Ben Curtis or Keegan Bradley is probably a huge stretch, but at 500/1 odds? If you believe strongly in analytics, Wilkinson could pay off big.
4. Cameron Smith
Current Odds: 300/1
Cameron Smith, the 22-year-old Aussie, has not played on the PGA Tour long, but has shown a penchant for the biggest events. He burst onto the U.S. Open scene at Chambers Bay last year (his first major), finishing T4 after finishing both his weekend rounds under par. An impressive tap-in eagle on the 72nd hole was one of the highlights of the entire tournament. He then posted a respectable T25 at the 2015 PGA Championship, and more recently, played three good rounds at The Masters, where while he finished +15, +10 of that was in one round. Was that one poor round a fluke? If you think it was, 300/1 odds have to be very attractive.
5. Angel Cabrera
Current Odds: 250/1
Including Cabrera feels like cheating, but in what other sport can you get 250/1 odds on a defending champion?
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) June 13, 2016
6. Aaron Wise
Current Odds: 500/1
The 19-year-old American seems to do nothing but win. The University of Oregon sophomore took first place at the NCAA Championships, and played an integral role in the Ducks taking the team competition. He followed up those championships by shooting a 9-under at the Vancouver (WA) sectional qualifying. The U.S. Open will be Wise’s professional debut. He is a long-shot among long-shots, but he has been a huge success at every level so far.