National Golf Championship gets under way Thursday at historic Pebble Beach Golf Links. As per usual Average Golfer's here to handicap the top part of the field with an assist from Ladbrokes, the British betting house, providing current player odds. Keep in mind that odds are determined by the betting public's interest in a player and have no bearing on their actual chances of winning. In other terms, plunk down your money and cross your fingers.
Odds aside, there's a couple of sentimental favorites teeing off this week. Ageless Tom Watson, on special exemption, tees it up for perhaps his last US Open. Tom's legacy is carved in granite at Pebble thanks to his 1982 17th hole chip-in that sealed his Open win over Jack Nicklaus. The other remarkable story is the tale of Erik Compton, a two time heart transplant recipient, who survived the grueling 36 qualifier just to get here.
With all formalities out of the way and without further ado, let's find a winner.......
Tiger Woods, 8/1 - Short odds due to his resume, especially here at Pebble. Will have to hit it straight off the tees. Don't see it with the state of his game. Won't win.
Phil Mickelson, 8/1 - Odds make more sense here. 5 runner-ups at Pebble, 3 wins. Major mojo. Should win.
Lee Westwood, 12/1 - Coming in off a victory. Perhaps should be the favorite. Has all the tools with new found confidence. Could certainly win.
Padraig Harrington, 25/1 - Has pedigree and talent required. Constant fiddling with his game may hurt. Still, could win.
Rory McIlroy, 25/1 - Maturity beyond his 21 years. Knows how to win. Will be awesome tee to green. Putter will be the decider. Could win.
Dustin Johnson, 25/1 - US version of McIlroy. Defended Pebble Pro-Am here this year. Entirely different course for the Open, but Johnson has the all-around game. Putter will tell. Could win.
Ernie Els, 33/1 - The Big Enigma. Having a solid year for a change. If he's straight off the tees will have a short iron in his hands a lot. It's possible, but doubt it. Can play down to the occasion.
Jim Furyk, 33/1 - Laser-like irons will help with small greens. No need to strong arm this course. As goes the putter, goes Furyk. Possible.
Luke Donald, 33/1 - Great game for this course. See Furyk regarding iron play. Could win this thing.
Nick Watney, 40/1 - In the D. Johnson mold. Sort of a local boy. Will have tons of short irons. Could win, but doubtful.
Steve Stricker, 40/1 - Would have been a pick at the beginning of the season. Game isn't as sharp as usual. A major is no time to figure things out. Won't win.
Camilo Villegas, 50/1 - Not afraid to go low. Risk/reward choices make for some big numbers however. Female gallery fave. Won't win here though.
Retief Goosen, 50/1 - Should be in any major conversation. Short game and putting ideal for this tourney. Not exactly peaking, but should at least contend.
Geoff Ogilvy, 50/1 - Uncharacteristically blase season thus far. Obviously knows how to win an Open. May surprise, but I don't think so.
Paul Casey, 50/1 - Long, fairly straight. Prone to putting lapses. At 50/1 I like him. Possible.
Adam Scott, 50/1 - Appears to be rounding back into Scott of old form. Rather large question mark left though. I don't see him contending.
Bo Van Pelt, 50/1 - Van who? Not Lucy from Peanuts brother. Lots of top tens this year put him here. Nice year so far. Should wilt under the major microscope.
Best of the Rest
Hunter Mahan, KJ Choi, Tim Clark, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, and Stewart Cink all go off at 66/1. Of the bunch I see value in Mahan and Kuchar. And.... never, ever underestimate Tim Clark in a major. All he does is get the ball in the hole. Ian Poulter at 80/1 seems a bit out of whack as does Ben Crane with the same odds. Graeme McDowell at 80/1 odds is a possible dark horse. Who would have predicted Sergio going off at 100/1? Young Ryo Ishikawa pays at 200/1 if you're so inclined. That's a commentary on the importance of shooting 58 on a 6,500 yard course in Japan I suppose. With this strong of a field there's tons of potential dark horses. The trick is identifying them. Let's take our best shot..........
Average Golfer's 2010 US Open Picks
1. Mickelson, (Yeah, I know. easy to go with chalk)
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Tim Clark, (Could easily be considered a dark horse)
Dark Horse Picks
Ty Tryon at 1000/1 (Now that's what I call a dark horse)
Lucas Glover and Henrik Stenson (The defender and great player at 125/1, worth a shot)
As always, bet early and often.