US Open 2017: Knox to be Top Scot but Rory might not be best of the Irish

Russell Knox – a decent bet to finish top Scot according to The Punter
Russell Knox – a decent bet to finish top Scot according to The Punter

Steve Rawlings has scanned the three UK and Ireland based nationality markets for value and he's especially keen on a Scotsman...

"I can see why the Sportsbook have cut Knox from 6/4 to 11/8 but that still looks generous to me and I make him an even money poke at best."

England's Horace Rawlins won the inaugural US Open way back in 1895 and an Englishman or a Scotsman won every one of the first 16 editions, until the Americans took over and won the next seven straight. In the last seven years, we've seen victories for Irish pair, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, and for England's Justin Rose, and Shane Lowry went close 12 months ago when he went into round four with a four-stroke lead.

The UK and Ireland challenge is both historically and recently strong so I thought I'd look at the various nationality markets, starting with the Top English.

The Olympic Champion and 2013 US Open winner, Justin Rose, is the strong and rightful favourite to finish the week as the Top English player at Erin Hills and after his incredibly sporting reaction to his defeat at the US Masters in a playoff to Sergio Garcia, few would begrudge the understated and charming 36-year-old.

Rose knows what's required - plenty of patience and a calm demeanour - and he should love the course. When England's Jack Senior reached the semi-finals of the U.S Amateur at Erin Hills in 2011, this is what he said of the course.

"Where the Walker Cup is in two weeks' time (Royal Aberdeen in Scotland), this is exactly like it. A lot. This is the exact style of course I play week in, week out, so this is a real home track for me."

Justin won the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen in 2014.

I could have easily plumped for Rose in the outright market but overcoming that defeat at Augusta won't be easy and there's always a constant worry about his ongoing back issues. As highlighted in the preview, I'm going to be concentrating on the leaders from very early on and if Rose, a notoriously slow starter, begins well, I'll be looking to get him onside but he looks a risky play before the off and he makes little appeal in this very competitive market.

Rose's closest rival here is Paul Casey and he has just the right all-round game to make an impression in a US Open but his pedigree isn't great. His tied 10th at Oakmont ten years ago is his best effort and Rose backers may have more to fear from young guns, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton. Both look destined for greatness. Fitzpatrick may lack a bit of length but he has a great temperament and few in the world can putt as well as Tyrrell.

Lee Westwood featured heavily last year and was alongside Dustin Johnson in round four, Ross Fisher is a class act who should love the venue and Chris Wood will feel fortunate to have sneaked into the field having withdrawn from the Lyoness open last week to protect his fragile 60th position in the World rankings. Had he played in Austria and finished outside the top-20, he wouldn't be playing this week.

Tommy Fleetwood is another maturing at a rate of knots and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that last year's US Masters champ, Danny Willett, sparks to life. And I haven't yet mentioned Andrew 'Beef' Johnston. This market is deep and I'm happy to leave it alone.

There are only three in the Top Scot market - Russell Knox, Martin Laird and Richie Ramsay and I'm more than happy to take the 11/8 about Knox.

Ramsay's home course is Royal Aberdeen so he might take to Erin Hills but he's not in great form and nor is Laird.

Ramsay, who ranks 309th in the world rankings, hasn't had a single top-ten finish since he was sixth in his national open last July and Laird, who ranks 114th in the OWR, is on a poor run too. He had three top-10s on the PGA Tour at the start of the year but his last eight starts have produced form figures reading MC-49-64-18-42-MC-MC-52.

Knox, the 39th best player in the world according to official figures, isn't exactly setting the world alight either but his 67 in Memphis on Sunday, which saw him climb from 68th to 37th, was encouraging enough and he has the best US Open record too.

In two starts, Knox has finished 45th and 23rd. Laird has four missed cuts and a 21st to his name and Ramsay missed the cut ten years ago on his only previous attempt.

I can see why the Sportsbook have cut Knox from 6/4 to 11/8 but that still looks generous to me and I make him an even money poke at best.

The Top Irish is a small but select field featuring Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and Paul Dunne.

I want to be against Rory here. As detailed in the Market Leaders section of the preview, I think he's a little undercooked after his rib injury and he's up against three decent opponents. As already mentioned, Lowry had a great chance to win this last year and this venue looks ideal.

Paul Krishnamurty makes a very good case for G-Mac in his Find Me a 100 Winner column and Dunne is no forlorn hope either. He led the Open Championship with a round to go in 2015 and he finished runner-up at the Trophée Hassan II as recently as April. He has a terrific short game and he might just finish in front of Rory.

If forced to pick one, I'd go for Lowry but I'd rather just take on McIlroy at 1.51/2 or shorter one the market materialises for modest stakes.

Recommended Wagers

Russell Knox @ 11/8 (Sportsbook)
Lay Rory McIlroy Top Irish @ 1.51/2 or shorter

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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