Price not right for British hopefuls

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The Independent Online
If the memory of Saturday's pedestrian performance at Wembley is too painful, this week should remind us that there is one sport at least in which the words "English" and "winner" are not yet a contradiction in terms. The US Open gets underway at Oakland Hills in Michigan on Thursday, and inevitably Nick Faldo, the Masters winner, heads every bookmaker's list of prices.

And if that sounds familiar, it should. Faldo starts favourite for just about every major he contests, but while such quotes might be understandable for the Masters or British Open, they are much harder to justify when Tony Jacklin in 1970 remains the last British player to win the US Open, and the only one since the 1920s. Such reservations apply with twice as much force to Colin Montgomerie who, unlike Faldo, does not even concentrate on the American tour, but is still no better than 16-1 (Hills) to win his first major.

A better guide to the leading US Open contenders is the Buick Classic, which entered its final round last night. In each of the past three years, the Buick runner-up has gone on to take the Open, a striking demonstration of the need for solid recent form on the domestic tour if a player is to go a week later.

As a result, Ernie Els, the 1994 US Open winner, is as short as 14-1 with Ladbrokes (he was 20-1 a week ago) after a series of impressive rounds in New York which took him well clear of his field. Among the chasing pack, Corey Pavin, the defending champion this week, Steve Elkington, Tom Lehman and David Frost have been playing well, while Mark O'Meara also deserves consideration on the basis on his admirable consistency alone. Faldo, by contrast, went in to yesterday's final round 15 shots behind Els.

For those who want to get involved, it should pay to remember that anything less than 20-1 is rarely value in a major tournament, not least one which has produced its share of surprising winners down the years. One suggestion is Brad Faxon (40-1 with the Tote, 33-1 widely available), another very consistent player who was prominent on the Buick leaderboard.

US OPEN (Oakland Hills, Michigan, starts Thursday): Best prices: 14-1 Faldo (L). 16-1 Montgomerie (C, H); Els (H, T); Pavin (C, H, L, T). 18- 1 Norman (L). 20-1 Mickleson (H); O'Meara (T); Couples (C, H). 25-1 Love (H, T); Price (H, L). 33-1 Duval (C, T); Elkington (C, H, T); Lehman (C, H, L). 40-1 Frost (L); Faxon (C, T); Roberts (H, T); Janzen (C, H); Watson (T). 50-1 bar. (C = Coral, H = Hills, L = Ladbrokes, T = Tote). Prices may be subject to minor alteration to reflect the result of the Buick Classic.

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