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Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Koepka the most likely of leading quartet to hold his position

Floridian powerhouse enjoying Erin Hills

Brooks Koepka has a golden chance of a Major breakthrough
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The story so far

The halfway axe fell on a bevy of star names at the US Open in Wisconsin, bookmakers thrilled by the opening two rounds of action at Erin Hills.

Dustin Johnson, the 8-1 ante-post favourite, carded a second successive over-par round to finish four over and three shots short of the cut-line. Rory McIlroy was another casualty, finishing a shot behind Johnson.

It is back to the drawing board, too, for former world number one Jason Day, who had only eight players below him on the leaderboard after two rounds of Major combat. A 79 and a 75 left Day at ten over par.

Also packing their bags prematurely were Justin Rose (two over par), Adam Scott (three over), Henrik Stenson (three over), Charl Schwartzel (three over), Bubba Watson (four over) and Jon Rahm (five over).

Jordan Spieth scraped through to the weekend on level par, one of only three of the top ten in the pre-tournament outright betting who made the cut. The other two were Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia, who are much further up the leaderboard.

Fowler was seven under par going into round two and he dropped to six under after another 18 holes. The early pacesetter got to nine under through seven holes of his second round, but three consecutive bogeys from the 11th through the 13th took the wind from his sails.

Fowler, though, is only one shot off the lead, the USGA making life tougher for the competitors in round two with more difficult pin positions. A quartet of players are tied at the top – Paul Casey, Brian Harman, Tommy Fleetwood and Brooks Koepka.

Fowler has retained favouritism, despite hitting reverse gear, and is a best-price 6-1 to claim a first Major title on Sunday. Koepka is 13-2 and Casey is 7-1, the market congested as a wide-open event heads for its final two rounds.

The tournaments resumes at 2.26pm UK and Ireland time, with the final twoball of Harman and Casey due to tee off at 8.29pm.


-7 Paul Casey, Brian Harman, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka
-6 Jamie Lovemark, Rickie Fowler, JB Holmes
-5 Si Woo Kim, Xander Schauffele, Cameron Champ, Brandt Snedeker, Hideki Matsuyama
-4 Brendan Steele, Marc Leishman, Harris English, Bill Haas, Charley Hoffman, Chez Reavie
-3 William McGirt, Russell Henley, Sergio Garcia, Bernd Wiesberger, Martin Kaymer

Selected others

-2 Justin Thomas
Par Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace, Jordan Spieth

Best prices

6 R Fowler, 13-2 B Koepka, 7 P Casey, 9 H Matsuyama, 14 T Fleetwood, 16 B Harman, 18 JB Holmes, 20 S Garcia, B Snedeker, 25 S W Kim, 28 J Lovemark, 33 M Leishman, 40 M Kaymer, 45 J Thomas, 50 J Spieth, B Haas, C Hoffman, B Steele, 66 bar

Day-three advice

The US Open has become US Open Light heading into the weekend, with so many of the headline acts already eliminated, and an unsettled Saturday weather forecast adds to the sense of disappointment in Wisconsin.

Scattered showers and thunderstorms could impact play today. A wet Saturday seems set to be followed by a breezy Sunday at Erin Hills, so punters must factor changing weather into their outright calculations.

It is difficult to be bullish about the chances of anyone at this stage, given the tightness of the leaderboard and how closely matched many of the players on it are. Rickie Fowler will be fuming with his three-over-par back-nine in round two and the early pacesetter has quickly waved four rivals past him.

It is difficult to imagine Paul Casey, Brian Harman or Tommy Fleetwood having enough mental strength to get the job done. None are blessed with a huge amount of killer instinct and they have only three US Tour victories in total between them.

Brooks Koepka is by far the most appealing of the leading quartet – a 27-year-old who has built a fine Majors record over the last three seasons – but he has only one US Tour title to his name.

Koepka is extremely well suited to Erin Hills, has been hitting his ball with confidence and is loving a US Open with four par-fives, so 13-2 is a fair price about this becoming a Major breakthrough for the big-hitting Floridian.

There is still plenty of time for the picture to change, though, so maybe sensible punters will wait another 18 holes before getting involved. Koepka is the advice for those desperate to strike an outright wager today, but expect Marc Leishman (33-1), Sergio Garcia (20-1) and Justin Thomas (45-1) to make a move from just off the pace to apply pressure to the leaders.

Leishman has been playing superbly all season, while Masters champion Garcia has gone about his business impressively over the first two days without finding top gear. The Spaniard could easily grind his way to the top of the board over the final 36 holes and keep his Grand Slam dream alive. Thomas has the tools to go low on this layout and a surge from the power-packed youngster would come as no surprise.

Third-round twoball punters are pointed towards Koepka, who can outscore Fleetwood in the penultimate match (8.18pm), and Louis Oosthuizen, who can outgun American Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk in their 4.27pm encounter. With showers softening the course, the powder-puff driving of Furyk should be exposed. Furyk had missed six cuts in a row prior to this week.

Kevin Chappell, who has excelled in soft US Open conditions before and has been full of form and confidence over the last couple of months, should see off Stewart Cink in their 4.16pm duel.

Twoballs recommendations
B Koepka
3pts 8-11 general

L Oosthuizen
3pts 8-11 Hills

K Chappell
2pts 5-6 Hills, Sky Bet

He is loving a US Open with four par-fives
E.W. Terms
Sky bet