US Open 2018: Outright and three ball tips ahead of round two

European Tour golfer Andrew Johnston
Beef looks value for tonight's three-ball
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Dustin Johnson has grabbed a share of the early lead at Shinnecock Hills but Paul Krishnamurty is taking on the world number one and 2016 champion. Check out our man's thoughts and best bets for day two here...

"Laying Johnson and the only other player trading in single figures, Justin Rose, makes plenty of appeal...majors are marathons rather than sprints and, as the weekend develops, I'm expecting a frequently changing leaderboard including various big-guns."

At last, the US Open is back to its brutal best! Within minutes of the illustrious group of McIlroy, Spieth and Mickelson beginning their catastrophic three-ball - aggregate score +25 - it was evident that this would be very different from recent renewals. Regardless of changes, Shinnecock Hills is every inch the beast that we last saw in 2004. The one-under par total registered by four co-leaders will be a good score all week.

Dustin already in front but can we trust him at short odds?

Most significant amongst that quartet is the pre-tournament favourite and the market has duly responded. Dustin Johnson carried on where left off last week and is now trading at just [3.8], despite there being three rounds to go and a vast number of players still in contention. He was unarguably the man to beat coming in and remains so, but punters should be very wary before taking these short in-play odds.

In fact, Dustin often plays his best golf at the start of the week and is not a bombproof front-runner by any means. Last month he led the Players Championship after R1, only to drop away outside the top-ten. Ditto at last September's Dell Technologies Championship. He also failed to convert three first round leads during 2016 in the final three majors of 2015.

This course is ideal for catch-up golf

Another point worth considering is that Shinnecock isn't a front-running track by any means. Multiple shots can be frittered away within seconds and, if the wind changes significantly throughout the course of a day, the leaderboard could be transformed. In fact, Saturday's early forecast suggests the morning starters might have a good chance to play catch-up.

Furthermore, as Steve Rawlings explained in his pre-tournament preview, Shinnecock tends to defy the general in-play trends of this major. Normally you need to be in contention early but the last three champions here were between four and six shots behind at this stage. I'm still considering anyone within seven of the lead, which amounts to a massive 87 players.

Take on the two market leaders at this early stage

Usually in such a scenario, I'd recommend a series of back-to-lays on players within the contention zone from relatively big odds. However in this instance, simply laying Johnson and the only other player trading in single figures, Justin Rose, makes plenty of appeal. Combined, they can be laid at around [2.6].

This bet bears no reflection on their title claims - they are correctly rated as the pair to beat. However majors are marathons rather than sprints and, as the weekend develops, I'm expecting a frequently changing leaderboard including various big-guns. The likes of Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Paul Casey are all set to play a big hand.

Nor is it just the biggest names - I'm keen to keep the lesser front-runners onside. Ian Poulter absolutely has the skills-set and temperament for this test, while Russell Henley is building a very promising record in majors and also looks very well-suited to Shinnecock.

Three-balls - A quartet of bets

Back Rafa Cabrera Bello 2u @ [3.2] (Starts 12.29) (vs Rahm, Garcia)

Whilst one should, obviously, always be wary of assuming that opening day form will be replicated, Rafa is good value for the repeat. He won this by two from Garcia and five from Rahm, and I reckon he's the best suited of this Spanish trio to the test.

Rahm's prodigious power offers little or no advantage here and his weak spot - scrambling - is arguably the key to scoring. Garcia should in theory loves a linksy, short game challenge but he's been out of form and is the type to lose interest if making the cut becomes beyond him.

Back Webb Simpson 3u @ [2.4] (Starts 12.40) (vs McDowell, Glover)

Simpson was on my radar pre-tournament and the way he fought back yesterday - shooting level par down his closing back nine - was an eyecatching effort. The emphasis on short game must bode well for the best scrambler on the PGA Tour over the past year and he's already won a tough US Open from off the pace. The other two former champions in this group are quite capable, but evidently inferior and showed little to recommend yesterday.

Back Steve Stricker 5u @ [2.0] (Starts 12.51) (vs Furyk, Els)

Recommended as yesterday's nap, this bet ended in a tie between Stricker and Furyk. It is certainly worth going in again because the argument is rock-solid. The 51 year-old is consistently producing a much superior standard to either of these legendary opponents and should be happy with a 73 opener.

Back Andrew Johnston 2u @ [3.2] (Starts 18.47) (vs Chappell, Berger)

Finally another player who won yesterday and can still be backed as the outsider of three. Kevin Chappell and Daniel Berger would generally warrant the utmost respect and might have even been considered as pre-tournament picks, were they in any sort of form. They're not. Chappell has missed five of his last six cuts. Berger's best in four, despite playing one of his favourite courses last week, is 55th.

Alternatively, 'Beef' is well capable of a strong weekend. Ultra-accurate and resilient is precisely what this test demands and, from +3, he's close enough if good enough.


Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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