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Monday, 19 November, 2018

Best value option looks to be in the opening contest

Niebrugge facing weak opposition

Dustin Johnson will be the centre of attention at 2.35pm
1 of 1

Day one threeballs
Sky Sports 1 & 4, from 6pm Thursday

The last three US Open champions – Martin Kaymer, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson – play together in the first round at Erin Hills, with Johnson a shade of odds-against to win the 2.35pm glamour match.

Cameras will be following every move Johnson and Spieth make, but a much quieter affair which starts just under two hours earlier is where the best value lies. Jordan Niebrugge can see off Talor Gooch and Kevin Dougherty in the 12.45pm (UK and Ireland time) contest.

Wisconsin native Niebrugge can hit the ground running on a course that he knows well. He played a college event at Erin Hills and won a qualifier for the 2013 US Amateur Public Links Championship there. Local knowledge and superior talent should equate to defeating Gooch and Dougherty.

Niebrugge has already proved he can handle the pressure of Major arenas, finishing sixth at the Home of Golf in the 2015 Open Championship. He opened with a 67 at St Andrews and was comfortable on the leaderboard all week. Gooch and Dougherty are both poor players making their Major debut.

The three best bets of the first round are all early affairs, and a treble on Niebrugge, Jamie Lovemark and Chez Reavie could get punters off to a flyer. Both Lovemark and Reavie start at 1.29pm (UK) from the tenth and first tee respectively.

Lovemark can overpower Michael Putnam and Scott Harvey on a long, wide-open course which should prove right up his alley. The power-packed Californian brute finished 18th in his only previous US Open start at Chambers Bay in 2015 and something similar could be coming given some encouraging recent form.

Lovemark was 18th in the AT&T Byron Nelson and tenth in the Memorial last time out, and the softening of conditions at Erin Hills helps his cause. Putnam, a 34-year-old journeyman who struggles in elite company, and Harvey, a 39-year-old amateur making his US Open debut, should be left behind.

Complete your day-one attack with Reavie to beat Stewart Hagestad and Gene Sauers. Reavie contended for the St Jude Classic title last week, finishing fourth, six days after coming through a US Open sectional qualifier.

Reavie is a tidy player who should make far fewer mistakes than Hagestad and Sauers. Hagestad is a 26-year-old amateur who does not think he is good enough to turn professional, while Sauers is a 54-year-old earning a crust on the Champions Tour.

Johnson and Spieth will command the biggest gallery among the early starters, while Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Bubba Watson comprise an all-star 7.36pm gathering. Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Justin Rose tee off at 8.09pm.

J Niebrugge
4pts 11-10 Betfred
J Lovemark
3pts 8-11 general
C Reavie
2pts 17-20 Betfred, Coral

Local knowledge and superior talent should equate to defeating Gooch and Dougherty
E.W. Terms
Sky bet