2021 US Open
The rota for the 2021 Major Championships really is a superb list of top quality courses. Augusta needs no introduction, Kiawah Island was one of the most enjoyable from a viewing perspective in quite some time, and now for the 121st US Open we head to Torrey Pines South Course. This week’s venue is not only host to one of the Tour’s long standing best events in the Farmers Insurance Open, but it also played out what to me is the most memorable Major Championship of all time, the 2008 US Open. It was here 13 years ago that a certain Tiger Woods simply refused to be beaten, holing that clutch birdie putt on the 72nd hole, prior to finally beating off a stubborn Rocco Mediate in an 18 hole Monday playoff. All on just the one leg. It’s a lot to live up to, but I am expecting another exciting edition this week, and hopefully we can continue the recent profitable run in Majors.
What To Expect:
A nomadic event which is played on a range of different courses over the years, this year’s US Open does offer the advantage of being played on a course familiar to most regular PGA viewers. The South Course at Torrey Pines, along with the less feared North, plays host to the Farmers Insurance Open each year. There is a sting though. Contrary to say course form for Augusta, which hosts the Masters every year in the same time slot, we can expect Torrey to play somewhat differently now than it does in January.
A quick glance at the previous course form (in the then Buick Invitational around here) of the Top 10 at the 2008 US Open suggests that January performances had little bearing to what you could expect in June. It is only a sample size of one, but I have placed more emphasis on previous US Open form, rather than that from the Farmers Insurance here. Wherever players pitch up for the national championship, conditions are typically set up pretty similarly. Hit it long, hit greens in regulation, and grind like *uck!
Torrey Pines South Course, will this week play as a Par 71 to the tune of 7631 yards. It’s long, it’s tough, and I will be disappointed if we see a winning score anything like the 2019 or 2017 totals. There will be differing views as to what will be the most important facet of a players game this week. Typically a US Open is all about length from the tee. Accuracy hasn’t been overly important, but depending where you hit it this week, players may end up disagreeing on that front. Hence luck will also play a part. Fairways will be narrow, and the Kikuyu Grass that lies in wait can be quite inconsistent. Some balls will sit up like a coconut, and others will dive deep. The latter will demand a chip out sideways, whilst the former seen Bubba Watson hit a 3 wood on occasion in 2008!
When fairways are narrow, even the more accurate hitters from the tee will miss their fair share, and in this regard it’s obviously a big advantage to be 50 yards closer to the green and be able to gouge it on. In saying this I am not sure this rough type will lend itself to the game type which Bryson played so successfully at Winged Foot. There will likely be many different ways to get it done this week, and I feel approaching the week having been in or just found some form, will be key.
Players of Interest:
A bucket load of them! A short list which has been rather difficult to whittle down. I will begin with the player mentioned above, defending champion, Bryson DeChambeau. He had been a player I had on my mind for this for quite awhile, but I wanted to see just a bit more spark from him of late. Maybe his spat with Brooks Koepka is having a negative effect, but he just hasn’t been at his best for the last couple of months. This will be a tough place to find it.
Tournament favourite is Jon Rahm, but at top price 11/1 in the shops, I feel there is no value to be had there. True he was in the process of destroying the field at The Memorial before Covid intervened, but he had plenty go his way there. When winning you will typically have those little breaks of the ball that don’t go your way most weeks, and maybe Rahm has used those up on the wrong week, and to no reward. I didn’t feel he was as dominant as the scoreboard suggested. He has struggled to get himself into early contention in Majors, and his US Open record is poor on the whole. Patience, or lack of it, could be the reason for that. Though he is certainly improving on the temperament front. It could be that having had a near certain win snatched from his grasp two weeks ago, he will be all the more animated if he doesn’t pick up where he left off here. Unlucky losers are often over bet, and there is a hint of that here for me.
Brooks Koepka is so hard to weigh up. Which ‘Brooksy’ do we get here? The one who looked set to win the US Open through most of the opening 54 holes, or the one which played very poorly on Sunday there, form which continued into last week? Given his injuries, that early form at the PGA was very much unexpected, and I fear that we are more likely to see the form which has been the dominant version of late, which is poor. At just 18/1 this week, I am not prepared to take the risk.
Though I have not given too much credence to January form at Torrey, it is the most recent winner of the Farmers Insurance that is my headline selection. Most long term readers will know of my respect for PATRICK REED, and how I feel the public’s general dislike for him sees him over priced most weeks. I have also been quite lukewarm on him of late, as his long game had been pretty awful, and he was over reliant on his brilliance on and around the greens. Even in victory here 5 months ago, he was below average until he got to the greens. Considering the amount of greens he missed over the 4 days, it was quite remarkable that he ended up in the winners enclosure. What that showed though is the type of resilience needed to win a US Open, and why Reed has built up an excellent record in this Championship over the last few years.
The long game which had been dragging him down for a few months, has looked to turn a corner of late. Improvements at both the US PGA and Wells Fargo were bettered again in his most recent outing at Muirfield Village. When Reed starts finding fairways and greens, he is a very dangerous animal indeed. Given the shape of his game as he heads to Torrey, scene of his most recent win, Reed will be licking lips at the week ahead. Fourth to Koepka at a tough Shinnecock in 2018, he has been inside the top 15 in 4 of the last 6 Opens. The tougher the test around the greens, the more Reed will shine. This week sets up perfectly in that regard for our man. He is also probably the best Poa operator on Tour, and if he is as proficient on them as he was in January, they could probably start inscribing the trophy now. A real US Open performer, a Torrey Pines winner, a Poa specialist, amongst the best grinders and putters on Tour, who now arrives having really found something with his long game, I cannot leave him out here.
A player of similar ability and touch around the greens as Reed, though admittedly not as good a putter, is the next man in for me. SHANE LOWRY. The Irishman produced an excellent display at Kiawah to snaffle us a full place dividend there, and although at a shorter price here, he is once again worth going to war with. A career best finish at Augusta has really set Shane alight, with 4 subsequent outings producing 3 top 10 finishes. 9th in the RBC Heritage, that 4th at Kiawah and the most recent 6th at Muirfield, are results right out of the top drawer. All areas of his game have been flourishing in that period, with even his putting being much improved on the whole.
It has been suggested that Torrey will this week play more akin to a British links. It will be very firm and fast, and there will be more than one way to get your ball around. With an honest breeze forecast all week, with the chances of it being quite gusty on Sunday, everything looks set fair for another prominent showing from the current British Open champion. He has that mix of the decent recent form, US Open pedigree, and a previous positive performance around Torrey, that I am looking for this week. At 45/1 to extended places, I am on.
When leaving XANDER SCHAUFFELE aside at the recent PGA Championship, I suggested that there were too many negatives attached to be taking 22/1 about him. Yet here I am recommending him at two points shorter. I do however feel he is an excellent each way play at that price this week. Apart from his lack of ability to close events out, pretty much everything else seems stacked in his favour.
The X Man has lined up in 4 US Opens to date, with finishing positions of 5/6/3/5. He clearly revels in the test that this Championship typically provides. Lengthy approaches will be the order of the week at Torrey, and Xander scores very highly in that department. He hadn’t scored very well at the venue prior to his most recent 2nd this term, but there was no real reason for that in my opinion, just variance and rare bad weeks. That runner up to Reed would allay any fears that the course simply doesn’t suit, but again I would be placing far more kudos in his clear liking for a US Open examination, and Major tests in general. In just 16 appearances in the Big 4, he has amassed 8 top 10 finishes, and 3 further top 20s. No wins, but an amazing record all the same.
He was the only one to cause Matsuyama any real concern at Augusta in April, and has been very solid in all departments since. His stats this year are superb, and he really is just missing the win. All of this is of course known to the odds compilers too, but given the big upside to his place price, I do think there is value in the current 20/1. Getting 4/1 that he finishes in the top 9 is very good indeed. And as regards breaking the door down to land in the winners circle, I am encouraged by recent interviews where he states this is what he has to do. He is clearly angered by his lack of recent success, and this anger can be a more potent weapon come the back 9 on Sunday, than the fear he has been carrying into battle. Whereas Tony Finau continues with the party line of I’m doing everything right, Xander has acknowledged he does need to do things a little differently to gain that elusive win. I am prepared to bet that it is this week, with a tasty backup of the place terms.
I wouldn’t put anyone off having an extra point each way in addition to the advised stake, with the view to laying off 3pt at 6.0 in running in the win market.
At 18/1, off the back of an eye catching warm up last week, I have also included DUSTIN JOSHNON. Some will have been disappointed that DJ couldn’t convert an excellent 36 hole position, but in the end it was pretty much a replica lead in performance to what he produced ahead of his Masters romp in November. Arriving searching for his best, going very close to finding it, but just not quite getting the job done. It sets him up very nicely for the week ahead, and given his superb US Open form in recent years, there is a solid argument that he should be much closer to favourite here.
Winner at Oakmont in 2016, he has now amassed 5 top 6 finishes in his last 7 Opens. It’s been a different course each year, but as said earlier the USGA will set up each venue in very much the same manner. An added bonus this time around is the Poa greens, where DJ seems more comfortable than any other. Host to 11 of his career successes now, it may be that catalyst to an improvement with the putter, an area that has dragged him down for much of 2021. I very much liked what I saw from his play last week, and am surprised the market has not reacted more to it. The eye was taken by the 18/1 quotes ahead of the US PGA, where he was arriving very much out of form. That he is the same price having raised the warning flag last week is not what I expected. He seems as likely as any to contend, and given he now has two Majors under his belt, maybe more likely than most to convert. DJ has had his scar tissue from throwing these events away, but the same could be said about most towards the head of the market, and he was very impressive in closing out the Masters in November.
When on his game Dustin is just about as long and straight as most of the sports biggest hitters, and though he hasn’t bothered with Torrey in recent years, a US Open set up here should be right up his street. Had he not made 7 on the 16th hole on Sunday at Congaree, and gone to win (be handed!) the title, we would be looking at high street quotes of 12/1. Does one bad hole really make that much difference? Not for me. To extended places, I would have backed Johnson at 14/1, and view the 18/1 on offer as very much worth taking.
Jordan Spieth has a US Open to his name, but aside from that victory at Chambers Bay in 2015, he has been pretty disappointing in his national championship. He isn’t as long as the game’s big hitters, and he can be more wayward than plenty of shorter ones. That isn’t a good recipe for this event, and he could again struggle.
Tony Finau has been very well backed in the past 48 hours, but aside from the worries about getting over the line, he just hasn’t been at his consistent best of late. A bit short now for me.
Patrick Cantlay, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama and Tyrrell Hatton will all have their supporters, but none were really close to selection for me.
Those that did make the shortlist, but didn’t make the official outright recommendations were, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Tommy Fleetwood, Zach Johnson, Chez Reavie, Jimmy Walker, Stewart Cink, Cameron Champ and Matt Southgate. A long list indeed!
As such, the last man in for me is JUSTIN ROSE. The Englishman has really raised his game for the Majors this season, and having backed up an 8th at Augusta with a 7th place finish at Kiawah, he does stand out at 60/1 here. Again he has the right mix of US Open, Torrey and current form. Winner of this event in 2013 at Merion Golf Club, he tamed Torrey Pines in 2019, and is obviously arriving with his game in excellent shape. He has the patience in spades that US Opens require, and with his putting this term having been excellent for the most part, everything looks in place for him once again to challenge for major honours. I expect him to be right in the mix come Sunday evening.
Strangely for Major week, there aren’t a huge amount of players in the Top Nation categories that are of much interest to me. This is due to plenty being just 2 or 3 player fields, and others being just too competitive. I do like quite a few in the Top 20/40 markets though.
Top Former Winner:
I will begin here, where I feel with my respect for both DUSTIN JOHNSON and JUSTIN ROSE, accompanied by my view that the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka may struggle this week, makes the two selections backable prices at 4/1 and 11/1 respectively.
I won’t rehash what I have said above, but I do feel they are two of the more likely to give their running this week, and being there or thereabouts come Sunday evening could well be good enough to top this section. Webb Simpson’s record in this event warrants the utmost respect, but two is enough arrows at this, and I prefer the claims and prices and DJ and Rose.
Slightly contradictory here, as I am taking on Justin Rose, but with a player at a price that I am very keen to have onside in some regard this week. At 40/1 MATT SOUTHGATE is the best bet in what is a tough and competitive section this week. I clearly respect the chances of Rose, I will deal with Tommy Fleetwood further down, and though lacking length it will be no surprise to see Matt Fitzpatrick contend once again.
However at the prices I prefer the claims of their lesser known countryman, who I feel will relish the conditions this week. Many have likened the test the players will face to a British Links, and it is on these types of layouts that Southgate consistently raises his game, no matter the opposition. From just 4 attempts in the Open Championship, he has notched a 6th and 12th place finish. Very impressive given his starting prices. Runner up two weeks ago in the 54 hole Porsche Open, he again went well 7 days later in the Mixed Scandinavian, and has found his fom at just the right time for his second attempt in a US Open. Excellent in qualifying for this in between, this is very much a free shot for Southgate, and he can play without the pressure of some of his more famed Englishmen here. Indeed I wouldn’t put anyone off having a few shekels on him at 1000 on the machine in the outright market.
Top 20 Finish:
Another Englishman! This time it’s TOMMY FLEETWOOD I turn to, who at 5/2 represents value to notch his 3rd such finish in his 6th US Open start. This Championship is always likely to bring out the best in Tommy, and he went very close to spoiling the Brooks Koepka party in both 2017 and 2018. Tight fairways, firm and fast conditions, with a premium on accurate iron play are conditions tailor made to see the game of Fleetwood excel. With him having shown much promise at both Congaree and Quail Hollow in recent weeks, I feel his game is now approaching the level it needs to be at to be thinking of contending here once again. His scrambling has been superb all year, and that will stand him in very good stead this week, and with his long game now rounding into shape I think it’s likely Tommy will feature prominently on leaderboards in the seasons 3rd Major.
Top 40 Finish:
I am going two pronged in this market, and am very keen on the chances of both collecting for us.
First up is a player I was very close to backing in the outright market, CHEZ REAVIE. Indeed he is worth having a few quid on at the current 1000 on the machine. That is an insult. Anything from 500+ is worth backing win only, with the place part being the bet here in the top 40 section. Reavie has a lovely US Open style profile. He hits fairways for sport, and is one of the best in the business at finding greens when he does miss one. He is a short hitter, and that is why he didn’t feature in the official outright bets at shop best of 300/1, but he will grind out pars with the best of them and I expect that to leave him inside the top 40 finishers come the close of play on Sunday. His dismissive price is to do with the fact that he was in no sort of form prior to his latest outing at Congaree. He went there off the back of 7 consecutive missed cuts, but the switch was flicked on last week. A 14th there was courtesy of some stellar approach play and scrambling, ideal assets to have in good kilter arriving here. He was 3rd to Gary Woodland in the 2019 edition at another coastal venue Pebble Beach, and he isn’t the no hoper the market would have you believe. There are however plenty of those in the field, and him doing enough to land the bet in this section, should be shorter than the 3/1 on offer. Indeed if he has a decent week on the greens, he could ruffle a few feathers further up the leaderboard.
Another who very similar comments apply to and has also sprung back to life of late, is JIMMY WALKER. His health issues since winning the 2016 US PGA have been well documented, and there is no need to go through them again. But what is noteworthy is how he has been commenting of late about how well he has been feeling. More practice time has been the result, and though one swallow doesn’t make a summer, his 6th place finish at Muirfield suggests that Walker may be on the verge of a sustained decent run. A closing 65 there was superb, and will have given him a massive fillip of confidence. He was the only player on the top 10 there to have a negative strokes gained figure on the greens, with his good work being done tee to green. Half of his 6 wins on the PGA Tour have come on Poa, and like DJ it may be the catalyst he needs to get that flat stick working in his favour again. The ability is clearly still there, he just needs to be healthy enough to be allowed to show it, and recent signs both on and off course are that he is in a better place now. A former big time player, he won’t destroy his togs if he is in contention come the business end, and 5/1 that he remains handy enough to land this bet is too big for me.
Like Reavie, I wouldn’t put anyone off having a few pounds at 1000 on the machine.
I toyed with backing Erik Van Rooyen in the Top South African market, but I wouldn’t have much negative to say about quite a few of his opposition there, so I have left him alone. The 10/1 with various internet firms would be tempting, if attainable.
If the 4/1 on Brian Harman for a Top 20 Finish was more readily available than just with the likes of Sportsnation/MansionBet, I would have put him up. I expect him to go well. It is probable that if left alone until tomorrow evening, that 4/1+ will be available on the Betfair Exchange.
If I was to have another Outright bet, it would probably have been Cameron Champ ahead of the others named earlier. 200/1+ to extended places, especially Skybets 11 if you can avail of it, isn’t a bad bet. He’ll click in one of these one day.
I would be lukewarm on how suitable a firm Torrey will be for the game of Rory McIlroy at the moment, and was hoping to take him on with Shane Lowry in the Top Irish market. I was also hoping for 2/1, and have the current top price of 7/4 alone.
1.8pts ew Dustin Johnson 18/1 (⅕ odds 9 places, WH) *14/1+ to 8+ places acceptable
1.5pts ew Xander Schauffele 20/1 (⅕ odds 9 places, WH) **20/1 to 8 places GentingBet, 6 places Betvictor *16/1+ to 8+ places acceptable
1.25pt ew Patrick Reed 30/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, 365) **20/1 to 6 places with Betvictor/Sporting Index *General 25/1+ to 8+ places acceptable
.7pt ew Shane Lowry 45/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, 365) *50/1 with Betvictor to 6 places
.5pt ew Justin Rose 60/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, 365) **60/1 to 6 places Betvictor/Sporting Index to 6 places, to 7 places with Unibet *50/1+ to 8+ places acceptable
Top Former Winner:
5pts Dustin Johnson 4/1 (Coral/Lads/365/Skybet/Betfred/Betway)
2pts Justin Rose 11/1 (Coral/Lads/365/Skybet/Betfred)
.5pt ew Matt Southgate 40/1 (⅕ odds 4 places, Boyles/PP/BFBSB) *40/1 available elsewhere to ¼ odds 3 places Top 20 Finish:
6pts Tommy Fleetwood 5/2 (PP/BFSB/Unibet) **14/5 with Spreadex *Likely to be 3.7 on exchange tomorrow evening if left alone until then
Top 40 Finish:
6pts Chez Reavie 3/1 (Boyles/PP/BFSB/Skybet) *11/4+ acceptable – For those that can’t get on, liquidity typically appears late Wednesday evening on the exchange in this market
4pts Jimmy Walker 5/1 (Boyles) **Use a shop where possible for this. They are far more accommodating than online. Typically bets under €200 won’t be rang in. *4/1+ acceptable. 9/2 currently available with Skybet and some internet firms.
That’s all from me this week, I will be back with the Travelers Championship in a week’s time. Hopefully we have had a successful US Open in the meantime.