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U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth Could Offer Value Entering Weekend

U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth Could Offer Value Entering Weekend article feature image

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images). Pictured: Brooks Koepka

BROOKLINE, Mass. — The 36-hole leaderboard at the 122nd U.S. Open Championship is an amalgam of superstars who we expected to be in the hunt for a major championship title and lesser-known names we never considered for such relevance.

It’s a brilliant dichotomy, really, with the likes of Collin Morikawa (+450), Rory McIlroy (+450), Jon Rahm (+450) and Scottie Scheffler (+700) in contention, but Joel Dahmen (+2200), Hayden Buckley (+5500), Matthew NeSmith (+6000) and Nick Hardy (+9000) similarly in the midway mix.

All of which leaves us guessing as to our live betting selections at this point in the proceedings.

Do we want to chase a known commodity, someone who’s proven he can win a major? Or should we veer toward one of these contenders with a bigger price next to his name heading into the weekend?

Those are the questions we need to ask ourselves halfway through this tournament.

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Let’s start at the top. Dahmen is tied with Morikawa at 5-under, one stroke better than five players and two strokes better than five others.

Dahmen recently suggested he’d never win a major title, an ironic statement considering how he’s fared so far. That said, putting our money on a player who might not have put money on himself if he could sounds like a poor strategy. He owns one PGA TOUR title and that was at an alternate-field event last year.

That leads to the other co-leader.

Allow this paragraph to serve as a Morikawa appreciation post. Competing in his 11th career major, the two-time champion is winning at a potentially unprecedented rate — and the previous victories have come when we similarly didn’t quite expect them. He deserves all the accolades so far, as he’s relied on a swing that he hasn’t used since his early collegiate years at Cal, going to a draw instead of his more familiar fade.

The appreciation remains, but the confidence wanes from here.

It’s difficult to fully back a player who isn’t quite confident in his own game and that’s the case for Morikawa right now. He’s done a terrific job of getting himself atop the leaderboard, but it’s tough to back a player who doesn’t totally know where the ball is going off the club face each time.

That has me looking a bit further down the board instead.

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McIlroy and Rahm are very obvious choices. Each is a former U.S. Open champion and has won recently. However, the +450 number for them doesn’t leave much room for error.

I’d rather take a shot with some bigger numbers at this point.

Matt Fitzpatrick (+2000) has been living on Narrative Street all week. The winner of the 2013 U.S. Amateur here at The Country Club, he’s not only been one of the world’s best players this year, he also tends to play his best golf on tough courses where the score is closer in relation to par. He’s three shots off the pace entering the weekend.

Will Zalatoris (+3000) is one stroke further back. We’ve already learned he’s a big-game hunter, with runner-up finishes at the Masters (last year) and the PGA Championship (last month) in his young career. I’m still a bit worried about his ability to roll in a 6-footer for par when he needs it most, but the world-class ball-striking is undeniable.

I’ll readily admit that I didn’t love Brooks Koepka (+5000) coming into the week, but the man who’s finished 1st-1st-2nd-4th in his past four U.S. Open starts is feeling it once again. He hasn’t played a non-major event since before the Masters, but Koepka has continually insisted he can still prep and play his best golf. It’s hard to look away with him five shots back.

Justin Thomas (+5000) is six back, though anyone who watched his second-round 72 on Friday understands it could’ve been so much better. I’ll be willing to bet Thomas had some steam coming out of his ears at the end of this one and I’ve also often maintained that there isn’t a better angry golfer in the game than him. I’d expect him to come out like a man possessed on Saturday.

And then there’s Thomas’ good buddy Jordan Spieth (+15000), who wasn’t even sure he could play this week after suffering through a stomach bug. Well, he’s gotten through it with scores of 72 and 70 and it’s not tough to envision him getting two strokes lower in each of the next two rounds. Seven shots back might seem like a lot, but remember: Two players (Thomas and Sam Burns) recently won after being seven shots back entering the final round. At that deficit going into the final 36, Spieth is still very much in the mix.

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