The 118th U.S. Open kicks off this week in Southampton, New York. This tournament is one of the four Major Championships of the year, and it is one of the most exciting parts of the PGA season. We’re now far enough into the season that some clear favorites have emerged for this championship, but we’re also early enough that anyone can win. Part of the nature of golf is that even an average professional golfer has an outside chance of winning on any given day, and at a Major, anything is possible.

Before you place your bets, read over our quick guide to figuring out which golfers and which bets are positive value, and which ones you should probably stay away from. While we can’t predict the future, we can look over the current values on some of the more popular bets and help you to figure out from a mathematical point of view which ones provide opportunity.

The Favorites

Dustin Johnson is the current favorite to win the whole tournament, with an average return of +900. For golf, this is actually a really low rate of return, even for a favorite. That likely means that betting on Johnson is not the best choice. For this to be profitable, he needs to win better than one out of every nine times, which is a pretty tall task. Yes, Johnson is a great golfer and he does tend to peak for the Majors. However, he had a T10 finish at The Masters, which could be indicative of issues in the biggest of competitions. Johnson did have a convincing win by 6 strokes this past weekend, which will likely encourage a lot of people to bet on him. Although he’s great, the payout just isn’t big enough to warrant betting on him in such a competitive and high stakes field.

After Johnson, the next favorite is Rory McIlroy. At +1300, McIlroy is a far better payout, returning an extra $4 for every $1 bet. McIlroy has had a great season so far, but with his last win being back in March, there is some cause for concern with selecting McIlroy to win it all here. He finished T5 at The Masters but has struggled since then with his best finish being a second place against a weaker than normal field at the BMW Championship. McIlroy could surprise, but he hasn’t been playing at his top level for over a year now.

The third place favorite is Justin Thomas, and it’s here that betting begins to get interesting. He has a current payout of +1500, which is actually right where we expected him to be. If you can find a value that is better than this, such as +1600, then he’s probably a great bet. However, at +1500 he is probably a wash. Still, values do change, and Thomas should remain on your radar up until betting closes out.

Long Shots

Typically, long shots tend to be the most exciting bets at a Major Championship. These types of bets are only worth making if their expected value is better than the math supporting the payouts. For example, if a golfer has a payout of +2000, you want to be assured that they are likely to win at least one out of every 15 trials that would be run. This means you aren’t looking for unknown golfers, just golfers that aren’t ranked in the top ten, yet probably should be.

Henrik Stenson and Hideki Matsuyama both remain interesting picks in the long shot category. Both have an average return around +3300, but both have definite chances of winning this. Some sites place them both within the top 12 of the overall field, and both have experience winning big tournaments. This is not a setting where either will be outclassed, and in fact, both have a far better than one in 30 chance shot of winning this. As long as the odds that you are getting here stay at +2800 or better, either of these (or both) could be great outside shots. If you must choose one or the other, Stenson remains the better choice simply because he’s been a tiny bit more consistent making the cut this year (12 for 13) than Matsuyama has been (10 for 12).