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Who can challenge Dustin Johnson at the US Open?

Defending champion Dustin Johnson is the bookmakers' favourite heading into the 2017 US Open, but who can challenge the world number one at Erin Hills?

When you are ranked as the best player on the planet, attention from all angles comes naturally and that will be no different for Dustin Johnson as he prepares for the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills. Not only is the American the defending champion heading into the second Major of the year, he will have to field questions regarding his progress since a controversial ruling regarding the marginal movement of a ball almost cost him his triumph 12 months ago, as well as his mindset going into the event after falling down a flight of stairs resulting in his last-minute withdrawal from The Masters in April. However, while Johnson is a runaway leader at the top of the World Golf Rankings and is justifiably the bookmakers' favourite ahead of the tournament in Wisconsin, his form does not necessarily reflect his betting odds and there are a whole host of names offering value with 888sport.

Before his injury, Johnson registered three victories in a row - including two triumphs at World Golf Championship events - but in his last three outings, his best effort is a 12th place at the Players Championship. If we are to look more closely at his scores, he has only produced five rounds under 70 in 14 attempts, which is not befitting of a world number one. The fact remains that Johnson will win this golf tournament if he is accurate off the tee and his approach to the greens replicate his efforts before Augusta but right now, the numbers suggest that there is very little value in going for the 15/2 on offer. The same can be said of the 12/1 for Rory McIlroy, who has played just two competitions since March, and Jordan Spieth, who is rated at the same price despite missing cuts on three occasions in his last half-a-dozen appearances.

Dustin Johnson of the United States poses with the winner's trophy after winning the US Open at Oakmont Country Club on June 19, 2016© Getty Images

What makes the 117th staging of the US Open so exciting is that none of the so-called big names has stepped up in Johnson's absence. Of course, Sergio Garcia ended his long wait for a Major crown at The Masters but in the two months since then, you would have got attractive betting odds for any of the eventual winners of the last eight PGA Tour events. That means that there is an opportunity for punters to try their luck further down the list and the player who should feature towards the top of your shortlist is South Africa's Branden Grace. It has been more than a year since he last registered a tournament win but he will line up at Erin Hills having recorded a top-10 finish at the BMW Championship at Wentworth and having finished at least 11th in each of his last three tournaments. He has also placed in the top five at the last two US Opens so at odds of 45/1, it should be an easy decision to include him in your picks.

Another player priced at 45/1 is Brooks Koepka and while he has not necessarily performed to his best in his last three outings, he can be a major player this week. His game is perfectly suited to US Open conditions, as has been proven on his last three efforts in this tournament with his worst effort being tied-18th in 2015. Despite being aged just 27, he has already finished at least 11th in each of the four Major tournaments and it feels only a matter of time before he adds a high-profile competition to his list of achievements.

Shane Lowry of Ireland aknowledges the crowd on the 18th green during the second round of the ISPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor Resort on September 19, 2014© Getty Images

As far as the British and Irish contingent is concerned, Shane Lowry sticks out at 80/1. Twelve months ago, Lowry led the field by two shots heading into the final round, only for a score of 76 to leave him in a share of second place. It still represented a stellar week for the 30-year-old and with a sixth and 15th coming from his last two starts, he should be under consideration for this week. If you are looking at being patriotic at a massive betting price, Ross Fisher can be had at 200/1. The world number 44 has not played in this event since 2010, but he finished in fifth in 2009 and goes into the US Open with four top-10s from his last seven outings. It is an absolute no-brainer to place a bet on the 36-year-old.

If you are looking for value for money from a past champion, Webb Simpson is probably your man. The American emerged victorious back in 2012 and although it has been four years since he appeared in the winners' circle, 160/1 is far too big for a player who knows how to get it done on the big stage and registered a top-five finish at the Dean & Deluca Invitational at the end of May. Lucas Glover - the 2009 winner and who has missed just three cuts in a year - is also worth a dabble at 150/1 but any of the names mentioned have a shot at glory in a tournament which has seen both star names and rank outsiders excel in the past.

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Sergio Garcia lines up a putt on the eighth green during the first round of the Honda Classic on February 25, 2016
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