U.S. Open Round 2 Odds & Picks: Expect Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, More to Climb Leaderboard
Pictured: Jon Rahm at the 123rd U.S. Open Championship. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES — It took 123 editions of the U.S. Open Championship for the first 62 to be posted.
It took 22 minutes for the next one.
Rickie Fowler set a historic mark on Thursday, making 10 birdies to break the long-standing, single-round record, first accomplished by Johnny Miller at Oakmont exactly 50 years ago this week.
Playing two groups behind, Xander Schauffele soon joined Fowler in the record books. Dustin Johnson and Wyndham Clark later added scores of 64 in the afternoon wave.
Throughout a round that was record-breaking for the scores atop the leaderboard, the single-round scoring average and lack of a single round in the 80s, social media was in a collective uproar over a U.S. Open that looked wildly un-U.S. Open-like.
All of which ramps up the need for this quick history lesson.
Back in the 1980 edition of this event at Baltusrol Golf Club’s Lower Course, Tom Weiskopf and Jack Nicklaus posted matching first-round totals of 7-under 63. As the legendary Thomas Boswell wrote in the Washington Post, “no day in Open annuals has ever seen such a sacrilegious deluge of low scores as the blitz that befell rain-softened, defenseless Lower Baltusrol in this windless first round.”
That sentence might’ve been a glorious triumph of wordsmithing, but it lacked prescience.
Three days later, Nicklaus won with an 8-under total, while only four other players finished under par.
Moral of the story: Even 43 years later, we should expect the USGA Revenge Tour over the next three days.
Behind closed doors, USGA officials admitted they were going to play it cautiously in the opening frame, not wanting to start out too diabolical on a course that had never hosted this tournament before. Expect to see much different conditions as the event continues. Warmer temperatures will help firm the fairways and bake the greens, while a few more back tees and devilish pin positions should rear their ugly heads.
In fact, don’t be shocked if that leading score of 8-under is consistent with the winning score when this finishes on Sunday evening.
With so many players in prime position after the first round, the live odds at the top of the board don’t offer much value. Schauffele (+300) is the favorite, followed by Rory McIlroy (+500), Scottie Scheffler (+650), Fowler (+650), Johnson (+850), Clark (+1200) and Jon Rahm (+1800).
With that in mind, I’m looking at three superstars, whose prices have multiplied from their original numbers, as potential live options entering the second round.
Jon Rahm (+1800)
If you watched Rahm’s performance and graded it solely on his demeanor, instead of the score, you’d think he was in last place. On multiple occasions, Rahm appeared ready to break a club over his knee, only to contain himself at the last second. He similarly seemed shocked when a few putts didn’t reach their intended destination. And yet, when he was done, the score next to his name was a 1-under 69, which means there’s work to do, but he’s hardly out of it. After gaining at least two strokes with both his irons and putter, we should have reason to believe the world’s most talented player — that’s right Scheffler people, I said it — will get right back in this thing.
Brooks Koepka (+4500)
Entering the opening round, I repeatedly said Koepka, who finished tied for second at the Masters and won the PGA Championship, might’ve been the Occam’s razor play all along — essentially that the simplest explanation for trying to find a winner could also wind up being the correct explanation. Like Rahm, he appeared frustrated throughout a 1-over 71 that quite honestly didn’t show much reason for optimism, other than the fact that he’s a fierce major competitor. I like him when the conditions start getting tougher and I like the fact that he’ll theoretically have an easier time of things in Friday’s morning wave. At quadruple his opening odds, he’s worth a thought.
Cameron Smith (+5500)
My pre-tournament pick to win, Smith’s round was a series of pump fakes, as three of his four birdies were followed by a bogey within a few holes. Eventually, he finished with a 1-under 69. That said, he was positive strokes gained (by nearly a full stroke) in every major category, other than around-the-greens. I initially liked him because I presumed creativity and imagination would be at a premium on LACC. I believe that will be the case even more moving forward and he makes a lot of sense to continue moving up the board as it plays more difficult. At just about double his original number, I don’t mind doubling down.