Nick Bonfield looks at five US Open outsiders who have the potential to do something special at Shinnecock Hills

US Open outsiders worth backing at Shinnecock Hills

The US Open is a Major Championship unlike any other, with the USGA setting up the host courses in a manner many deem to be bordering on unfair.

As such, the list of past winners is extremely strong. It’s the sports sternest examination and, as a result, you see far fewer players surging through the field with one low round. You need to be at the top of your game for four days to win the US Open. Naturally, the game’s top players are best prepared to do that.

Related: US Open betting tips 2018

However, it’s still a golf tournament, and that means there’s a degree of inherent unpredictability. No one expected Jack Fleck to outduel Ben Hogan in the 1955 US Open, or for Lucas Glover to reign supreme at Bethpage Black in 2009.

So who might this year’s surprise packages be? Let’s take a look at some US Open outsiders who could feature at Shinnecock Hills

Tony Finau – 80/1

Earlier this week, Bubba Watson’s caddie, Ted Scott, predicted confidently that a long hitter would win at Shinnecock Hills, and they don’t come much longer than Tony Finau. The World No.37 has been in decent form of late – four top-25s and a top-ten in his last seven starts – and his stats are solid across the board. If he has a good week on the greens, he shouldn’t be too far away. He finished 14th at Chambers Bay in 2015 and 10th in the USPGA at Whistling Straits the same year – both courses with similarities to Shinnecock Hills – and he notched a top-ten at The Masters in April.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – 90/1

The US Open is about hitting fairways and greens, and few players in the world do that as well as Rafa Cabrera-Bello. Granted, he should win more golf tournaments given the strength of his game, but he’s a good each-way bet this week. This season on the PGA Tour, he ranks 8th in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green, 19th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and 24th in Strokes Gained: Total. What’s more, he putted very well in both the BMW PGA Championship and Italian Open, where he finished 8th and 4th respectively. He’s yet to register a top-25 at the US Open, but I see that changing this year.

Tyrrell Hatton – 150/1

The Englishman hasn’t been in the best form of late, but he typically excels on firm and fast courses and he proved in the WGC-Mexico Championship earlier this year that he’s capable of winning one of golf’s biggest events. He’s a solid all-round player who’s having a good season on the greens, and if he can find some more consistency with his iron play, another Major top-five isn’t out of the question at all. His temperament remains a concern at the most mentally taxing event of the year, but he’s certainly good enough to feature.

Steve Stricker – 200/1

Okay, this is a bit of a left-field shout given that Stricker is 51 years old and only a bit-part player on the PGA Tour these days. Still, he’s been in incredible form on the Champions Tour this year, recording two wins and three other top-fives in five starts. He’s played fairly well in a handful of PGA Tour starts, too, and he’s inside the top 40 in four of the six major statistical categories (believe it or not, he’s actually 126th in Strokes Gained: Putting). Striker hasn’t missed a cut in a Major since 2009 and he finished 16th at Erin Hills last year.

Haotong Li – 250/1

My first impression when I looked down the list of favourites was that 250/1 is far too long for a player inside the world’s top 50 who’s already won this season. The Chinese player beat off Rory McIlroy to claim the Dubai Desert classic in February, and while he hasn’t set the world alight of late, he did finish inside the top 20 in his last outing in Italy. Li is a quality player, as he proved at last year’s Open Championship, where he surged into third place with a final-round 63.

Sam Burns – 500/1

Sam Burns made a name for himself earlier this year with a string of impressive performances on the PGA Tour, most notably a tie for 7th at the Honda Classic, where he played with Tiger Woods in the final round. Burns had a sterling amateur career at Louisiana State University, earning the NCAA Division I Player of the Year accolade in his final year. He won his first professional title at the 2018 Savannah Golf Championship on the Tour and earned his spot in the US Open via regional qualifying in Memphis, where he shot a 15-under-par two-round total to finish five clear of second place.

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