The Punter

The Punter's US Open In-Play Blog: Odds-on Bryson clear by three at Pinehurst

Golfer Bryson DeChambeau
Bryson DeChambeau finishing up round three at Pinehurst

There's just one round to go at the US Open and Bryson DeChambeau has hit the front at Pinehurst so Steve Rawlings is back with his final in-running thoughts on the year's third major here...

  • DeChambeau fairly priced to win his second US Open

  • Brilliant and patient Rory still in the hunt

  • Cantlay the value play with a round to go

11:40 - June 16, 2024

On a tough third day at Pinehurst, where the scoring average at the 124th US Open was 73.19, only seven men broke the par of 70 and three of them - Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy and Matthieu Pavon - had began round three inside the top five places.

Collin Morikawa's bogey-free four-under-par 66 was the best round of the day and that saw him climb from 42nd to ninth but the biggest move came from DeChambeau, who's sensational 67 has seen him ease three clear of the field with 18 holes to play. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 11:30.

Bryson DeChambeau -7 1.9210/11
Rory McIlroy -4 4.94/1
Patrick Cantlay -4 10.519/2
Matthieu Pavon -4 24.023/1
Ludvig Aberg -2 20.019/1
Hideki Matsuyama -2 25.024/1
Tyrrell Hatton -1 65.064/1
Tony Finau -1 90.089/1
Collin Morikawa Ev 85.084/1
Tom Kim Ev 220.0219/1
Corey Connors Ev 280.0279/1
Xander Schauffele +1 170.0169/1
+1 and 1000.0999/1 bar

DeChambeau is the 35th player in US Open history to enter the final round leading by three strokes or more and 22 of the first 34 went on to win. That's a 65% strike rate.

Those numbers are a bit misleading though, just this century the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer, have successfully converted 10, eight and five stroke leads and when we look at those that have recently held an advantage like Bryson's the strike rate isn't very impressive.

Jim Furyk converted a three-stroke lead in 2002 and Tiger won from four in front the following year but we've seen some catastrophes and one of them occurred at Pinehurst in 2005...

Payne Stewart lost a four-shot 54-hole lead 12 months before he won the event here in 1999 and Shane Lowry finished runner-up to Dustin Johnson at Oakmont in 2016 having also led by four with a round to go.

Johnson had suffered his own meltdown four years earlier at Pebble Beach when he shot 82 in round four to finish eighth, having led by three, and Retief Goosen led the 2005 edition by three here at Pinehurst before shooting 81 to finish 11th!

That was a big shock given Goosen was defending the title and that he was looking to win his third US Open in five years. And his nearest challengers with a round to go fared no better.

Olin Browne and Jason Gore, who had been tied with Goosen at halfway, trailed the South African by three in a tie for second after three rounds. Browne shot 80 and finished tied for 23rd and poor Gore shot 84 to finish 49th!

Michael Campbell won the 2005 edition by two over Tiger Woods, and they'd began round four trailing by four and six shots respectively so we may well witness some drama later.

Having backed Bryson after round one, I'm happy to keep with him and although he received some treatment on the course during round three, he's going to take some stopping if he keeps his cool.

He's held a clear 54-hole lead four times previously, once on the Korn Ferry Tour, once on the DP world Tour and twice on the PGA Tour and he's gone on to win every time, although his first two victories were via a playoff.

For the record, since 1996, 136 men have held a three-stroke 54-hole lead in a72-hole stroke play event on the PGA Tour and 72 of them went on to win. That's a strike rate of 53% but I've no idea how relevant that is to today's leaderboard.

For example, the last man to convert a three-stroke 54-hole lead was Nick Dunlop at the American Express in January but he'd already got to 27-under-par after three rounds! Comparing that event with this one is almost like comparing two different sports.

Rory McIlroy has impressed me greatly this week and he's most definitely the leader's biggest danger entering the final round.

I layed him after round one for a top-eight finish as I felt he'd struggle to keep his patience and concentration on track for four days straight at what is the hardest test he'll have all year but he's been brilliant.

If he can maintain that level of concentration and patience, he's a huge threat but he's not a great price at less than 4/15.00 given he has the pressure of trying to win his first major in ten years weighing heavy and that he also has the negative of playing alongside the snail-like Patrick Cantlay.

Rory plays at a fair pace, and I'm far from convinced that playing with the deliberate Cantlay will help him today.

As demonstrated at Riviera in February, when he finished fourth having led by five at halfway and by two with a round to go, Cantlay is not one to trust in-contention but he's the value play this morning at around 10/111.00 on the exchange.

As the world number nine in search of his first major, he emphatically ticks some strong trends boxes.

As many as eight of the last ten US Open winners have been ranked inside the top-25 in the world rankings and seven of the last eight were winning their first major.

Cantlay will obviously feel the heat today but being three back will help and he's the value play.

I'm happy to be on Pavon at a juicy price and he's still fairly priced given he's playing in the final two-ball alongside DeChambeau.

Pavon at Pinehurst.jpg

Ranking 24th and in search of his first major, the same applies to the Frenchman and as highlighted yesterday, he has the added plus of having won the Farmers at Torrey Pines.

As a coastal course in California, Torrey differs to Pinehurst in many respects but it's still a brutal test and a US Open venue so that victory back in January is a huge fillip for the Frenchman.

Given they trail the leader by as many as five strokes, Hideki Matsuyama and Ludvig Aberg are going to need some help from the four players ahead of them but neither man can be discounted.

Like Tony Finau before him, Aberg had trouble at the short par four 13th in round three yesterday. Both men recorded triple-bogey sevens after finding the back bunker with their approaches, but he made three bogeys as well as the triple yesterday and I just wonder if there'll be too many errors today for the Swede.

If I had to plump for one of those two it would be Matsuyama at the prices, but he can't afford too many mistakes either.

The Japanese shot a quite brilliant 62 at Riviera in February to win the Genesis by three, having trailed by six, so we know the 2021 US Masters winner is capable of something very special on a tough track but it's very hard to look beyond the front four given every winner this century has been within four of the lead with a round to go.

08:15 - June 15, 2024

We've reached the halfway stage of the US Open at Pinehurst and it's quite incredible just how closely the course has played to the way it played ten years ago.

In 2014, the AM-PM starters were advantaged by 0.45 strokes over the first two days but this year, the PM-AM side of the draw averaged 0.26 strokes better than those drawn on Thursday afternoon.

That's a slight difference that will have been governed by the weather, but the scoring averages are incredibly close to those shot over the first two days in 2014.

As highlighted yesterday with Justin Ray's tweet, the first-round scoring average this year was 73.26 compared to the 72.23 in 2014 and yesterday's second round scoring average was 72.9. The second-round scoring average ten years ago was 72.89.

Back in 2014, Martin Kaymer headed into the weekend with a huge six stroke lead over Brendon Todd in second place, having somehow managed to get to 10-under-par and there were 13 players in total under-par.

This time around, another European, Sweden's Ludvig Aberg, leads the way but he's only reached five-under-par and there are 15 players under-par. Here are the latest standings with prices to back at 8:10.

Ludvig Aberg -5 4.57/2
Bryson DeChambeau -4 5.95/1
Patrick Cantlay -4 13.012/1
Thomas Detry -4 24.023/1
Rory McIlroy -3 5.79/2
Tony Finau -3 17.5
Matthieu Pavon -3 60.059/1
Hideki Matsuyama -2 19.018/1
Xander Schauffele -1 15.014/1
Tyrrell Hatton -1 50.049/1
Tom Kim -1 60.059/1
Corey Connors -1 65.064/1
Akshay Bhatia -1 100.099/1
Tim Wilding -1 360.0359/1
Zac Blair -1 700.0699/1
Sam Burns Ev 110.0109/1
Russell Henley Ev 120.0119/1
Billy Horschel Ev 150.0149/1
Sergio Garcia Ev 200.0199/1
Stephan Jaeger Ev 360.0359/1
Scottie Scheffler +5 75.074/1
+1 and 300.0299/1 bar

By the end of the week in 2014, only three players had bettered par. The winner, Kaymer, who posted an incredible nine-under-par 271 total, and Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler, who finished the week on -1, two ahead of five players tied for fourth on +1.

Given how remarkably closely this year's renewal has mirrored the 2014 edition so far, don't expect the number of players under-par to increase today.

In 2014 there were only six players under-par after round three and I expect we'll be looking at something similar tomorrow morning but with five players sat on level par, we have as many as 20 players within five of the lead at halfway and it's an extremely tough tournament to call.

As many as 26 of the last 28 US Open winners have been within three strokes of the lead at halfway and two of the three winners here were in front at halfway.

In addition to Kaymer's clear lead in 2014, Payne Stewart was tied for the lead with David Duval and Phil Mickelson in 1999 but Michael Campbell, the 2005 winner, sat tied for sixth place, alongside three others, and this year's leaderboard is as cluttered as the one back in 2005.

On that occasion there were 16 players within four of the lead through 36 holes and Tiger Woods finished the week alone in second behind Campbell, despite shooting one-over-par over the weekend, having sat tied for 10th at halfway!

Matt Fitzpatrick sat tied for 13th and three off the lead before winning this major two years ago and Webb Simpson, the victor in 2012, sat tied for 29th and six off the lead at halfway so, although unlikely, it is possible to come form off the pace in a US Open and as Woods showed in 2005, you can climb a leaderboard over the weekend at Pinehurst without shooting below par.

The third-round scoring average ten years ago was a whooping 73.82 so there's a distinct possibility that we witness some brutal scoring today and if anyone on level par or better at halfway can somehow mange to shoot level par or better today, they're going to be in great shape heading into round four.

Quite who that might be (if anyone!) is anyone's guess. The leader, Aberg, has been the personification of calmness so far but it's going to get very serious now and Hideki Matsuyama and the recent US PGA Championship winner, Xander Schauffele, are possible candidates to hang around today but I'm happy to throw a few pounds at three players at much bigger prices.

Back in 2014, only two players broke 70. With everyone struggling, Compton and Fowler somehow both shot 67 and they both moved from tied 14th and ten back to tied second and five off the lead so it's perfectly possible that we witness a big move today from someone. It might just be worth taking a small chance at big odds.

This time last year it would have taken a huge stretch to imagine the European Tour journeyman, Matthieu Pavon, winning a major, but he won the Farmers Insurance Open in January on the PGA Tour at another US Open venue - Torrey Pines - and he might just hang around. He looks a fair price at 60.059/1 and I'm also happy to chance two players on level par at halfway.

Sam Burns was five-over-par after six holes on Thursday so the fact that he's even in the conversation is remarkable.

The new dad and big friend of the world number one, Scottie Scheffler, will be full of confidence having played his last 30 holes in five-under and he looks big at a triple figure price.

In addition to backing Pavon and Burns modestly, I'm also happy to throw a few pounds on the recent Houston Open winner, Stephan Jaeger, who is one of the few players to go eyeball to eyeball with Scheffler and come out on top.

The German will draw inspiration from that result, as well as the one here ten years ago, and odds in excess of 300.0299/1 are verging on ridiculous.

10:30 - June 14, 2024

Pinehurst played more than half a stroke harder in the afternoon on day one of the US Open yesterday but that didn't stop Rory McIlroy from posting an impressive bogey-free five-under-par 65 to catch the morning pacesetter, Patrick Cantlay. Here's the first-round leaderboard with prices to back at 10:20.

Rory McIlroy -5 3.7511/4
Patrick Cantlay -5 14.013/1
Ludvig Aberg -4 7.87/1
Bryson DeChambeau -3 9.28/1
Matthieu Pavon -3 130.0129/1
Tyrrell Hatton -2 38.037/1
Tony Finau -2 42.041/1
Akshay Bhatia -2 85.084/1

Selected Others
Xander Schauffele Ev 19.5
Collin Morikawa Ev 27.026/1
Brooks Koepka Ev 34.033/1
Tommy Fleetwood Ev 60.059/1
Scottie Scheffler +1 8.07/1
-1 and 90.089/1 bar

Martin Kaymer, who shot level par yesterday, led the US Open by three after round one on the last occasion that Pinehurst hosted the event ten years ago and he went on to win wire-to-wire.

We've got two tied at the top this time around, but other than that, the numbers are remarkably similar to those produced on day one in 2014.

In the two US Opens held here prior to Kaymer's victory, the 1999 winner, Payne Stewart, sat tied for fifth, trailing by just a stroke after round one, and the 2005 champ, Michael Campbell, sat tied for 17th and four adrift. And if we look at US Opens at other venues, up with the pace is usually the place to be.

The last three winners were all inside the top-seven places and trailing by two and since Lee Jansen won in 1998, having trailed by seven after round one, only three winners have trailed by more than four strokes after the opening round.

That's not good news for the pre-event favourite, Scottie Scheffler, who trails by six after a uncharacteristically poor day's play yesterday.

The world number one hit just six fairways all day and he had this to say after his one-over-par 71.

"I didn't hit it, chip it or putt it very well, but other than that, I played well."

Sitting in a tie for 34th and six shots adrift of McIlroy and Cantlay, he can't possibly be described as a decent price at just 7/18.00 but only a fool would discount him given his general level of play since March.

McIlroy and Cantlay have both converted first round leads at the Zurich Classic pairs event but their record in individual stroke play events isn't great.

Cantlay has led or co led five times previously after round one and he's yet to win and Rory hasn't kicked on for the win in ten years.

All four of his major championship victories came after he'd shot a bogey-free opening round so that's a great omen but the fact that he's led or co-led after round one 17 times without winning since he won the Open Championship wire-to-wire in 2014 is a bit of concern for anyone backing the world number three at less than 3/14.00.

Rory McIlroy round one US Open.jpg

How Rory performs with his early tee time today is going to be key to how the week pans out but given the course is only going to get harder, and that only 32% of the 50 players to sit inside the top-ten and ties at the three previous US Opens at Pinehurst finished inside the top-10, I was happy to lay him modestly at long odds-on in the Top-8 market.

As for the outright market, I suspect the value sits with Bryson DeChambeau.

The 2020 winner has underperformed on the LIV circuit this year but having finished sixth in the US Masters and second at the US PGA Championship, he's clearly concentrating on the majors.

The 8/19.00 available this morning is fair, so I've got him onside, and I've also had a tiny bet on Akshay Bhatia, who sits on -2.

US Open pre-event pick:

Scottie Scheffler @ 4.57/2

In-Play trades

Rory McIlroy layed in the Top-8 Finish market @ 1.331/3
Bryson DeChambeau backed @ 9.28/1
Akshay Bhatia backed at 90.089/1
Matthieu Pavon backed @ 60.059/1
Sam Burns backed @ 120.0119/1
Stephan Jaeger backed @ 360.0359/1
Patrick Cantlay backed @ 10.519/2

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