This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Winner's Share: $2.25
FedEx Cup Points: 600 to the Winner
Location: La Jolla, Calif.
Course: Torrey Pines Golf Club
2020 champion: Bryson DeChambeau (Winged Foot)
When we last saw Torrey Pines host a U.S. Open, Tiger Woods walked off with his third U.S. Open title and 14th career major – while barely being able to walk. Woods unfathomably played the 2008 tournament – including 19 extra holes Monday – with two stress fractures in his left leg and a torn ACL that required season-ending surgery immediately afterward. He did not win another major until the 2019 Masters. Tiger will not get a chance to perform more heroics this time around, but every other top golfer in the field will have the opportunity to add to his legacy.
At the forefront of all that, of course, is Phil Mickelson. The annual storyline of six-time U.S. Open runner-up Mickelson needing a win to complete the Career Grand Slam takes on added resonance this year thanks to a win-for-the-ages of his own at last month's PGA Championship, in which he became the oldest major winner ever. He will turn 51 this weekend and gets to celebrate with a virtual home game in his native San Diego. He has played the Farmers Insurance Open a record 31 times, winning thrice, though not since 2001. He finished a so-so 53rd there in January, part of a pedestrian 2021 that offered no inkling of what would happen on Kiawah Island just four months later. The U.S. Open will be tougher for Mickelson to win than the PGA, because this week's event is almost always set up to play right into his big miss: accuracy off the tee. Torrey Pines will be no different.
Really, the tournament will focus on the top 10-to-15 golfers in the world, with another big storyline being Brooks Koepka, the PGA Championship co-runner-up behind Mickelson, going for his third U.S. Open title and fifth major, which would really move him into rarefied air. Somewhat curiously after his performance at the Ocean Course, Koepka is not among the top two favorites. They are Jon Rahm, who is listed at 10-1 on golfodds.com and the top price of $11,200 on DraftKings, and Dustin Johnson, who checks in at 14-1 and the No. 3 choice on DK at $10,700. Rahm is the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open winner and finished top-10 in that event the past three years. He is also a top-10 machine in majors – and really everywhere – but is coming off a stunning withdrawal at the Memorial due to a positive COVID-19 test. Johnson not only limps into this major with a lackluster 2021 thus far, he has not played the Farmers event since a missed cut in 2017. Koepka, fifth on the DraftKings board at $10,100, shares a 16-1 price with his mortal enemy, defending U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, who is fourth on the DK board at $10,400, as well as San Diego native Xander Schauffele, listed ninth on the DK board $9,300, who finally figured out Torrey Pines last time there with a runner-up to runaway winner Patrick Reed, who is only 30-1 and $9,000 on DraftKings.
There definitely are some differences between the DraftKings prices and the golfodds.com odds, which tells us how hard this tournament is to handicap.
It's kind of remarkable how few former Farmers Insurance Open winners are in attendance. There's Marc Leishman (2020), Justin Rose (2019), Rahm (2017), Bubba Watson (2011) and Mickelson (1993, 2000-01). That's it for the 156-man field. This is a good time to point out that the top 60 and ties will make the cut, making a perfect 6-for-6 lineup a daunting endeavor.
Okay, onto the course. Many of the golfers are very familiar with Torrey Pines. It normally plays as a par-72, but the USGA has dropped it to par-71, turning the 515-yard 6th hole from a short par-5 into a long par-4. The South has played as the third-toughest track on Tour this season with a stroke average of 73.340 as a par-72, behind only the two other major venues, Winged Foot and the Ocean Course. The two hardest holes in January were played back-to-back, with the dastardly 225-yard 11th leading to the toughest hole on the course, the par-4, 505-yard 12th – where there were only 20 birdies all week. No. 12 is usually the hardest hole and one of the 10 toughest on the entire PGA Tour. The back nine is the harder side, and on the scorecard it nearly touches 4,000 yards, checking in at 3,962.
Eight of the 10 par-4s exceed 450 yards (okay, one is 446). Two of the three par-5s exceed 600 yards; only the 568-yard 18th is reachable in two, sort of – that's the only hole on the course with water. Three of the par-3s are 195-plus and two are 220-plus. Really, you could make a case that there's only one short hole on the entire course – the 387-yard second. Not only is the sheer length of the course a challenge; the golfers will be far back in the fairway aiming at some of the smallest greens on Tour. The tricky poa annua surfaces average only 5,000 square feet. Oh, and don't forget about the gnarly, club-twisting kikuyu grass that always makes the rough so formidable alongside these narrow fairways. Of course, the rough will be higher this week than for the Farmers.
While it seems there is an obvious need for distance this week, neither Reed nor the five runners-up in January ranked top-10 in driving distance. Reed is not a long hitter in any sense of the word and won by five strokes. He ranked 52nd in driving distance at 288.3 yards. Schauffele was the longest among the runners-up, ranking 11th at 303.2. Luke List ranked first at 319.0, and he finished two shots out of second place.
One of the bigger unknown variables is how the course will play in June as opposed to January, during which San Diego is often rainy and cool or even chilly.
Weather-wise, temperatures will range from the upper-60s to the mid-80s, with mostly gentle winds and, of course, zero chance of rain in Southern California at this time of year.
For more information and a full ranking of the field, check out RotoWire's Majors Value Meter.
Key Stats to Winning at Torrey Pines South
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee/Driving Distance/Driving Accuracy
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Par-4 Efficiency 450-500 yards
Past U.S. Open Champions
2020 - Bryson DeChambeau (Winged Foot)
2019 - Gary Woodland (Pebble Beach)
2018 - Brooks Koepka (Shinnecock)
2017 - Brooks Koepka (Erin Hills)
2016 - Dustin Johnson (Oakmont)
2015 - Jordan Spieth (Chambers Bay)
2014 - Martin Kaymer (Pinehurst No. 2)
2013 - Justin Rose (Merion)
2012 - Webb Simpson (Olympic Club)
2011 - Rory McIlroy (Congressional)
Past Farmers Insurance Open Champions
In the past eight years, the winning score has ranged from 6-under (Snedeker, 2016) to 21-under (Rose). Weather has been a factor, which won't be the case this year. Four times in the past seven years, the winner has been single digits under par. The past two years, Reed shot 14-under (but everyone else was single digits) and Leishman shot 15-under. Neither won with distance; Leishman ranked 34th in driving distance. He led the field in Strokes Gained: Putting. Reed, with his sensational short game, was 10th in putting but first in SG: Around-the-Green. We have seen the short-hitting Snedeker win twice here, once on the strength of his world-class putting but especially thanks to his scrambling. So, there certainly is more than one way to win on a long course. Greens-in-regulation numbers are annually among the lowest on Tour, which brings deftness around the greens into play (Reed, Snedeker, etc.). Seven of the past 10 winners were top-10 in scrambling. On the other hand, 2019 was a completely different story: The top seven finishers were top-25 in both driving distance and Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, while only one of them was also top-10 in SG: Putting.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Jon Rahm - $11,200 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 10-1)
Back from his COVID withdrawal at the Memorial, Rahm should be a full go this week. He's been a machine at Torrey Pines – win in 2017, runner-up in 2020, seventh in January. He's been a machine this season – top-10s in seven of his 11 starts before the Memorial. He's been a machine in majors – top-10s in seven of his past 13, including both this year. But ... the thing is ... he still hasn't won a major and he's come close really only once, when he tied for third at the 2019 U.S. Open.
Brooks Koepka - $10,100 (16-1)
Koepka's major record is astoundingly good: In his last 21 starts, he's won four, finished runner-up three times, was top-10 13 times and top-25 18 times. He missed one cut – the Masters earlier this year, when he clearly was still injured. By all indications, he's healthy now, as he was when finishing second to Phil Mickelson at the PGA last month. Kopeka has played Torrey Pines only twice, last in 2017, but that shouldn't matter – with him. He is ranked No. 1 in RotoWire's Majors Value Meter.
Rory McIlroy - $9,900 (20-1)
McIlroy was late to discover Torrey Pines, playing it for the first time only two years ago. But he finished top-5 in both 2019 and '20, and he tied for 16th back in January. He ended his 18-month winless drought at the uber-long Quail Hollow course last month. He was 18th at the Memorial last time out. McIlroy tied for eighth at last year's U.S. Open.
Collin Morikawa - $9,500 (20-1)
Morikawa's game is perfect for U.S. Opens and PGA Championships, tournaments that normally are long and tight and put a premium on accuracy off the tee and from the fairway. His big weakness is putting, but the smaller Torrey Pines greens should help offset that, especially if he finds the putting surface from the fairway, which he's as good at as anyone else. He was top-10 at the PGA and top-20 at the Masters.
Tier 2 Values
Xander Schauffele - $9,300 (16-1)
His record in U.S. Opens, and majors in general, is well known: he finished 5-6-3-5 in his past four national championships. But of course he's never won one – or won anywhere else for that matter – since January of 2019. But now that his price has dipped into the low-$9,000s, he doesn't have to win to return value on DraftKings. The San Diego native missed the cut four of the first five times he played his hometown course, but he finally mastered it with a runner-up back in January. Another good thing about Torrey Pines for Schauffele – there's water on only one hole. Unfortunately for him, it's No. 18.
Patrick Reed - $9,000 (30-1)
As Brandt Snedeker did before him, Reed showed you don't have to be a long hitter to win here. The greens are so small, and so many will be missed, that a superior wedge-putter game can come away with the title this week. (Narrator: Reed has a superior short game, maybe the best of anyone in majors.). He won here in a romp in January, when the colder weather may have made the course play even longer than it will this week. For such a short hitter, Reed is ranked 11th on Tour in par-4 450-500.
Tony Finau - $8,900 (30-1)
Another major machine like Rahm, Koepka and Schauffele, Finau has finished top-10 in nine of his past 13 starts. Like Rahm and Schauffele, he hasn't won one. But at sub-$9,000 and the 13th guy on the DK board, he's a bargain. As with Morikawa, the smallish greens will help counter Finau's poorer putting. Oh yeah, one other thing: He was one of the five Farmers runners-ups back in January.
Will Zalatoris - $8,600 (50-1)
Here's yet another guy with a great recent history in majors and at Torrey Pines. Zalatoris was sixth at last year's U.S. Open, then second at the Masters in April, then eighth at the PGA. And he was seventh at the Farmers earlier this year. You can see where his game falls off – at the shorter tracks such as Pebble Beach (T55), Harbour Town (T42) and Colonial (T59). This ain't a shorter track.
Tier 3 Values
Justin Rose - $8,000 (60-1)
This is one, big, fat green-light special. To find a golfer of Rose's caliber at the edge of the $7,000s is a gift. He won here at Torrey Pines in 2019, he's won a U.S. Open, he was top-10 at both majors earlier this year. It's true that Rose, now in his 40s, doesn't it bring it every week. He's made only nine starts all year. But there's a lot to be said for major experience, and Rose has 19 career top-10s in majors, five of them in U.S. Opens.
Paul Casey - $7,900 (60-1)
Casey is ranked 19th in the world, thanks to a win in Dubai this year and six other worldwide top-10s, including top-5s at both THE PLAYERS and PGA Championship. And he's under $8,000. What's the catch? Good question. He's finished top-25 the past three years at the U.S. Open and just missed the year before that. He's rarely played Torrey Pines, tying for 28th when last there in 2017. He was one of the 20 or so guys to play the 2008 Open there, and he made the cut.
Jason Kokrak - $7,600 (60-1)
Kokrak has always played Torrey Pines well – three career top-25s – even when he couldn't putt. And now, all of a sudden this year, he's been a fantastic putter. He's won twice, recently outdueling Jordan Spieth at Colonial. Kokrak has always been a great ball striker, someone you'd expect to do well at U.S. Open-type tracks. He's been in only four, with last year's tie for 17th his best.
Harris English - $7,300 (60-1)
We are in the territory of the low-$7,000s where making the cut is the goal and anything more is a bonus. And when you can find a golfer ranked in the top-25 in the world down here, there's some real upside. English has missed only three cuts in 19 careers majors, and they all came in one year (2014). He was fourth last year at Winged Foot. He has two top-10s at the Farmers, including runner-up in 2014. He was has top-15s in two of his past three starts and was top-25 at the Masters. So much to like here.
Ryan Palmer - $7,100 (150-1)
Palmer presents a fascinating choice. One one hand, he was just runner-up at the Farmers in January for the second time in four years. In between, he was top-25 both times. On the other hand, he's made only two cuts in eight U.S. Opens. On the other hand – and we realize you would now need a third hand but please play along – he's made the cut in 20 of his past 22 starts. But both were in majors, at the PGA last month and last year's U.S. Open. If that first hand is the dominant hand, $7,100 is a steal.
Robert MacIntyre - $7,000 (200-1)
The young Scotsman has been in five career majors and made every cut, including a tie for 12th at the Masters in April, his best finish ever on the PGA Tour. He tied for 56th at Winged Foot. He's missed only one worldwide cut in 12 starts this year. That was at THE PLAYERS. He's never played Torrey Pines, but he manages to get his way around most golf courses.
Ian Poulter - $7,000 (250-1)
We're counting on three things here for Poulter to make the cut: His play around the greens – he's third on Tour in scrambling; his putting – he's ranked 10th on Tour; and his experience playing in 68 majors (51 made cuts) and 15 U.S. Opens (10 made cuts). Oh, and one other thing: It's a Ryder Cup year, and this could be the 45-year-old's final shot to make the team.
Martin Laird - $6,600 (500-1)
The winner of the Shriners last fall is no slam dunk to reach the weekend. But he did so at Bay Hill, THE PLAYERS, the Masters and the PGA, and also at last year's U.S. Open. He missed the cut at the Farmers in January, but he's made it in nine of 13 tries. Laird is ranked 19th on Tour in driving accuracy and 21st in greens in regulation.