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2019 United States Open: Head-to-Head Predictions and Best 3-Balls Wagers

US Open at Pebble Beach
I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a problem with our site’s golf blog.

That probably strikes you as a weird thing for me to say at this point, having written years’ worth of major-championship links content into the Legit Gambling Sites golf archive.

But I realized that a lot of the posts were based on my personal enthusiasm for a player, or a futures market, or any single betting angle that catches my fancy. It’s fine to be persuasive – but to focus so intensely on Dustin-Johnson-at-Bethpage or Tiger-Woods-at-Augusta whiffs on a big reason why the game is such a popular wager in 2019.

Golf betting sites are nothing if not rich with variety leading up to a major championship. The upcoming U.S. Open at Pebble Beach is no different, as suddenly, gamblers who just wanted to place a spontaneous bet on Tiger Woods to win a tournament are confronted with lingo like “3-balls” and “72-hole match-ups” in addition to the usual championship futures lines.

It’s only fair that we give everyone the 3-penny tour of 3-balls and other such gambling lines for Pebble Beach. Maybe following just 1 round and 3 golfers is your fancy – maybe you want to pretend it’s a 72-hole match between 2 great golfers – or maybe you prefer to wager on the whole she-bang. I’m flexible enough to set my biases aside and give recommendations on all of the above U.S. Open markets.

So let’s look around a few sites at some 18-hole, 72-hole and prop wagers for Thursday’s tee-off on the Monterrey Peninsula.

But first, a word from our sponsor…or a word about a very well-sponsored golfer.

U.S. Open Odds Ripple as Rory Wins the Canadian Open

In last Thursday’s preview of the favorites at Pebble Beach,  we glanced at Rory McIlroy’s solid opening-round score at the Canadian Open. When I said he could conceivably win, I figured he might make enough birdies and eagles to wind up at 12 or 15 under par after 4 rounds…having no clue that Rory was planning a “tweeter” party.

The powerhouse win may not have had the gravitas of Lee Trevino’s noteworthy Canadian Open victory in 1971, but then again, McIlroy hasn’t played in the major-to-follow just yet.

Not surprisingly, the Irishman’s futures lines-to-win the U.S. Open have shortened over the weekend. However, he’s still not considered an overwhelming favorite to prevail at Pebble. Rory is an (-800) bet to win the tournament at MyBookie, which puts him in close company with Dustin Johnson and PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka at the sportsbook. Masters winner Tiger Woods might still be a bargain at (+1200).

Koepka is still the favorite choice at BetOnline, with Rory lagging behind at (+900). Tiger is also 12-to-1 at BetOnline and (+1100) at Bovada Sportsbook.

I’m super into Rory’s 9-to-1 market at BetOnline, not because he just won a PGA Tour tournament but because you have to be driving the ball well to score -22 over 72 holes at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. When he’s off his game, McIlroy’s adventurous driving habits are a liability at courses like Merion or St. Andrews. But a tuned-in Rory’s driver will come in handy at Pebble Beach, where less-nervy and less-powerful players will be playing safe trying to avoid the rocks and the foliage.

Combine it with the cross-continental star’s ability in the wind and on difficult greens, and McIlroy is a fantastic pick to win the U.S. Open at BetOnline (+900).

Now on to those head-to-head and 3-balls picks.

2019 U.S. Open: Thursday 3-Balls and 72-Hole Head-to-Head Markets

I don’t like to tell representatives of betting sites that I gamble sometimes, since gamblers are routinely offered perks and deals that would only distract from the information I need – namely the rules.

If I tell my readers that Rory McIlroy is a (+200) wager to be under par after 36 holes, and he opens with a pair of 68s but the gamblers don’t get paid out because the market was really for 72 holes, I’m complicit in an accidental robbery.

I’m unfailingly polite and patient with site reps, and I love talking shop with them, but it’s very important to get simple answers to basic questions.

Easier said than done.

Me: Hello, are the listed “head to head” U.S. Open markets for 72 holes or 18 holes? They say “U.S. Open Game Thursday 6/13” so I’m not sure.

Rep: I’d be delighted to help you with that today, May I please get the answer to your Security Question?

Me: I am not a betting client. I am a blogger. I’d like to confirm that these markets are for 72 holes before posting a preview.

Rep: Have you not been informed about this by our marketing team yet? Because they are the ones who handle that.

Me: The marketing team is in charge of U.S. Open betting rules?


Rep: Is there anything else I can assist you with?

Me: No, I doubt it.

As it turns out, I can confirm that every site in our network is offering the standard 72-hole match-up bets on golfers at Pebble Beach – nobody is offering any weird “2 balls” bets on the 1st round even when they list them as a “Game” that occurs on Thursday.

It’s amazing what a few good old-fashioned phone calls can accomplish.

Thursday 3-Balls Markets: Dustin Johnson (-120) vs Phil Mickelson (+220) vs Graham McDowell (+300)

A running theme on our golf blog is that aging veterans make excellent picks at long odds for Thursday, and poor futures bets to win major championships.

Does D.J.’s presence in the MyBookie 3-balls market make Phil Mickelson a bad pick at more than 2-to-1? I’m of 2 minds about it.

At a lengthy U.S. Open setup with dry fairways and hardened greens, it’s hard for an old pro to keep up with primed power-hitters using souped-up equipment.

Phil knows Pebble Beach like the back of his left hand, and won the AT&T Pro-Am there in February. But take for instance the Par 4 8th hole, where golfers must cautiously drive up a hill overlooking a Pacific Ocean cove that cuts dramatically into the layout. From there, it’s a terrifying mid-iron shot to a severely sloping green. Mickelson will play the hole “respectfully” and try for a par. Johnson is likely to crank his driver leftward and past the cliff, trusting that the gallery opposite the ocean will have tamped-down the fescue around the cart path. From there, it’s a wedge approach from the “light” rough.

There are a couple of factors that move my eye back to Mickelson, though, including a U.S. Open weather forecast that calls for sunny skies and a mild breeze going into the weekend. Older players are more likely to score well on the 1st day when conditions aren’t prohibitive.

Also, bear in mind that Johnson’s shaky putter mostly got the week off at Bethpage Black when he finished 2nd behind Brooks Koepka in the PGA Championship. Pebble Beach has yielded more birdies to Phil’s flat stick than the relatively-weak putter of The Cheetah.

  • Pick: Phil Mickelson

Adam Scott (+160) vs Webb Simpson (+180) vs Matt Kuchar (+180)

I can still recall Jeff Sluman clowning around after Matt Kuchar’s feel-good, PR-heavy, mostly etiquette-lacking debut on the PGA Tour in 1993. “Hey there Mr. Watson, my name’s Matt Kuchar,” Sluman yelped to Tom Watson while grinning stupidly through a baseball cap and sounding a little bit like John Candy kissing-up to Roy Walley at the end of National Lampoon’s Vacation. “Gee, I think you’re a great player, Mr. Watson. If I turn pro and we play together, can my Dad still caddy?”

Strange to think of how Kuchar’s career has gone since then. He’s a fine PGA Tour pro and has been for decades, but without a major title, he’s got to feel like he never quite piped-down the haters.

But I’m liking either underdog in this 3-balls market – either Kuchar or Webb Simpson also at close to 2-to-1 odds. Adam Scott is yet another favorite whose ball-striking led to a strong finish at Bethpage Black but whose putter could let him down at Pebble Beach, especially on a mild Thursday in which players are gunning for birdies and par-hoarders are falling behind.

  • Pick: Matt Kuchar or Webb Simpson

Tiger Woods (+140) vs Jordan Spieth (+190) vs Justin Rose (+200)

This is a strange 3-balls market, since my favorite 2 futures picks involved are neither a value-pick against the 3rd choice.

Tiger is a pretty good pick to win on Sunday at longer than 10-to-1 odds. I’m also fond of overseas links veterans like Justin Rose at Pebble, since a U.S. Open there is the closest thing to a “British Open” vibe as it’s possible to have in the United States.

Meanwhile, power still comes in handy at Pebble Beach, and Jordan Spieth’s methodical game may take a few blows as the weekend progresses. It only takes a single bad, upwind drive to prompt a big number for an average-length hitter at holes like #8 and #9 and #10. Yet on a sunny Thursday, I’m liking the youngest member of our 3-some’s finesse skills and putting prowess to produce more short-term birdies and pars than Woods or Rose will manage while warming to the challenge.

  • Pick: Jordan Spieth

72-Hole Head to Head Markets: Tiger Woods (+120) vs Brooks Koepka (-140)

Another interesting note on 72-hole betting markets is that MyBookie is tacking-on a “Draw” line to each match-up, essentially creating a “3-way” moneyline. Meanwhile our friends at BetOnline are simply offering prices on each linksman and (I assume) returning wagers on tied 36 or 72-hole scores.

I prefer the latter system, so we’re looking at the head-to-head tournament markets at BetOnline. However, it could be fun to compare the 2 on like match-ups – for instance Tiger is only a (+110) wager at MyBookie next to (+1600) for a Draw. Koepka is more of a favorite at (-140) in MyBookie’s system than he is under BetOnline rules…but the difference at MyBookie is that you don’t get your money back if Tiger and Brooks are tied when it’s all said and done.

Koepka is a hot commodity, even favored to win the next 3 events in a potential Tiger Slam. But the fact that he’s trying for a milestone named after the guy he’s matched against at the sportsbook should help lend just a little bit of perspective.

Pebble Beach has a way of evening things out. Koepka’s power game will be of spotty use through 72 holes, and he’s not striping the driver quite like my futures pick-to-win Rory McIlroy. His putting is cool and confident, but that doesn’t matter when you’re above the hole on the 13th green.

Tiger has been overly de-valued at betting sites after missing the cut at Bethpage Black, a course not suited for him. This week’s course is well-suited for Tiger…young or old.

  • Pick: Tiger Woods

Patrick Cantlay (-170) vs Jordan Spieth (+150)

…and now for a pair of gimmes.

I don’t expect Jordan Spieth to win the U.S. Open – I expect him to play well until a double or triple-bogey knocks him backward on Saturday or Sunday. But why Patrick Cantlay would be close to a 1-to-2 favorite to whip Spieth over 72 holes is beyond me.

Heck, I just web-searched Jordan Spieth again to make sure there aren’t any injury problems or stories I’m missing. That’s how mispriced the line is. Spieth is swinging well and healthy enough to commit to extra PGA Tour tournaments that weren’t originally on his schedule.

Cantlay is overvalued thanks to recent PGA performances. He won The Memorial in May, but the Nicklaus course in Ohio has zip, zero, zilch to do with the skill-set needed at a beach-side U.S. Open. Close your eyes and imagine the leaderboard on Sunday. Would it look weird at all if Jordan Spieth, 3-time major championship winner and former FedEx champion, was ahead of Cantlay?

  • Pick: Jordan Spieth

Danny Willett (-110) vs Erik van Rooyen (-110)

The even-up moneyline on this pair’s Thursday scores is also a blessing to gamblers who remember Willett’s underdog U.S. Masters win.

Erik van Rooyen played well at the PGA Championship and in the Canadian Open, but missed a cut in Denmark in between those 2 performances, and as a South African it’s not as if he grew up playing old-fashioned golf links where putts always break to the ocean.

Willett has also had a steady spring and finished -10 at Hamilton.

Especially for a Thursday round, I’m liking his scrappy and finesse-laden game to prevail on a course where sheer power (and international street cred) can only take the golfers so far. Nerves, patience, and an impeccable short game will prevail in the end.

  • Pick: Danny Willett

Finally, it goes without saying that Rory McIlroy is a fine pick to win almost any 72-hole market at any odds, since I expect Wee Mac to win the tournament at Pebble Beach.