Shane Lowry one of two options


BROOKLINE, Mass. — Once upon a time, the U.S. Open was the domain of the little guys. 

You know, the plodders. The guys who knocked it in the short stuff, aimed for the middle of greens and two-putted for pars. The ones who rarely made any major mistakes. 

From champions such as Corey Pavin to Lee Janzen, Jim Furyk to Graeme McDowell, it was widely known that big-hitting aggressive players didn’t have the patience of these types. 

It would be too imperceptive to suggest that all changed when Dustin Johnson won at Oakmont in 2016 — especially after he shoulda, coulda, woulda won the previous year at Chambers Bay — but it’s impossible to ignore the recent list of winners and the commonalities among them. 

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Johnson’s win led to a pair of victories by Brooks Koepka, which in turn led to Gary Woodland, Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm. If we were putting together a golfers-only arm wrestling team, the roster might look very similar to this list of winners. The advantage for these big hitters has been twofold, essentially offering an edge both off the tee and on approach shots. 

What’s happened in recent years is that U.S. Open fairways have been narrowed to the point where even the most accurate players off the tee will find the rough pretty frequently. Of course, those who hit it 320 yards into the rough own a massive advantage over those who hit it 280 into the rough. Then there’s the matter of these big, strong players being able to gouge the ball out of this thick grass when needed, as opposed to other players who might be forced to lay up on more occasions. 

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We can argue as to whether this tournament should be more equitable — the best venues are often undiscerning in the types of players who can find success — but it’s tough to debate this trend which has taken place in recent years. 

Perhaps a 7,264-yard track like The Country Club, hosting this event for the first time since 1988 and the first time for any event featuring the world’s best professional golfers since the 1999 Ryder Cup, will buck the trend a bit. Early reports are that it very much resembles other U.S. Open venues, with a premium on accuracy, sure, but a massive advantage to the stronger players when — not if — that accuracy goes awry. 

Let’s get to this week’s picks, starting with a player who’d be a very popular winner here in the Boston area. 

US Open best bets and picks

Outright winner 

Shane Lowry (33/1, BetMGM)

I’ve had a few players earmarked for this event over the past few months, but Lowry stands out as a strong outright value with high upside more than anyone else. 

It’s tough to argue that the former Open Championship winner isn’t best suited for that major, considering his background and prior success, but I’ve always believed that Lowry might be similarly primed to win a U.S. Open. 

Shane Lowry shoots.
Shane Lowry takes a shot during a practice round.
Getty Images

Lowry has made the cut in six of his last seven U.S. Open starts and while he hasn’t seriously contended since a runner-up result at Oakmont six years ago, Lowry is inarguably playing some of the best golf of his life right now. 

Earlier this year, he fell victim to an untimely rain storm at the Honda Classic, which helped keep him from winning that title, but he soon afterward suggested that karma could manifest itself in a special week at the Masters — and it did, in the form of a T-3 result. 

He wasn’t wrong about that suggestion, but there’s a chance Lowry’s best is still yet to come this year. He’s continually been on the brink of his next victory and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if it happens this week. 

Top-Five finish 

Daniel Berger (+750, BetMGM)

Besides being extremely talented and the type of player who doesn’t make too many mistakes, the South Florida native is a de facto New Englander, having spent parts of many summers in this region, largely honing his game at The Misquamicut Club in Rhode Island. Throw in a playoff loss to Jordan Spieth at the Travelers Championship a few years ago and there’s reason to believe Berger should feel right at home this week. 

Not long ago, I thought I might have to back off this assessment, as a combination of injuries and mediocre results left him a bit undesirable here, but a T5 at the Memorial Tournament in his most recent start has me feeling good about Berger’s game once again. 

More of Jason Sobel’s U.S. Open selections at

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