This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Course: Torrey Pines South (7,652 yards, par 71)
Winner: $2,250,000 and 600 FedExCup points
In many years past the U.S. Open has been the second major of the season and a little over two months after the first in Augusta. In this super season, however, the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines is the fifth of six total majors this season and we are just four weeks removed from Phil Mickelson becoming the oldest major champion ever when he bested the field at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. On Wednesday Mickelson will turn 51 years of age as he hopes to win the one title that has infamously eluded him in the game of golf. The six-time major champion has a total of six runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open, finding just about every way to lose our nation's open. Now he will get a shot at it back home in Southern California on a course he has played more than just about anyone in the field.
When talking about the most memorable U.S. Open's in history, most people will start and end with the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Tiger Woods battled through a double stress fracture of his left tibia and a torn ACL to win his 14th major championship. The back-nine of Saturday's third round was vintage Tiger, as he holed two long eagle putts on 13 and 18, while also adding a chip-in on 17 to take the solo 54-hole lead. It came down to the 72nd hole, as Woods needed a birdie to force a Monday playoff with Rocco Mediate. As NBC's Dan Hicks said on the broadcast, "Expect anything different?" Of course Tiger holed the downhill 15-footer for birdie on a greens that were rolling like a plinko board. An 18-hole playoff on Monday wasn't enough to decided things between Tiger and Rocco, so the match went into sudden death. A par on first playoff hole was enough for Tiger to capture his third U.S. Open and 14th major title. It took 11 years for him to get No. 15 at the Masters in 2019.
Of course due to injuries sustained in early February in Los Angeles in an car accident, Woods will not be able to add a ninth career PGA Tour victory at Torrey Pines. Defending his U.S. Open title from September of 2020 at Winged Foot, Bryson DeChambeau seems to be as good of a bet as any. The USGA's setup's in the U.S. Open has favored bombers, and nobody hits in longer than the 8-time PGA Tour winner. DeChambeau's best friend Brooks Koepka will be looking to join Tiger Woods and Hale Irwin as three-time winners of the U.S. Open. Knowing how clever the USGA is with their groupings, it would not shock anyone to see DeChambeau and Koepka tee it up together for the first and second rounds after their exchange at the end of the PGA Championship that set social media on fire.
Of course there are many of other storylines as well. Patrick Cantlay is leading the FedExCup standings coming off his victory at the Memorial. Jon Rahm has cleared COVID-19 protocol after having to withdraw following the third round of the Memorial where he held a commanding six shot lead. World No. 1 Dustin Johnson will be hunting his second major of the season after claiming the green jacket back at the November Masters. The traditional April playing of the Masters went to Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, who also threatened at the PGA Championship before fading on the weekend. Xander Schauffele will be a popular pick this week, as he grew up playing Torrey Pines and hasn't finished worse than T6 in four starts in the U.S. Open. Former Torrey Pines winner Rory McIlroy will be looking for his long awaited fifth major title, after having not won one of the four biggest trophies in golf since 2014. Patrick Reed was the last winner at Torrey Pines back in January at the Farmers Insurance Open, albeit in a somewhat controversial fashion. Temperatures for the U.S. Open this week are expected to be top out in the low-70's and we should get a classic firm and fast test with no precipitation expected to fall all week. Winds should hover around 10-15 miles per hour for the majority of the event.
2020 – Bryson DeChambeau (Winged Foot)
2019 – Gary Woodland (Pebble Beach)
2018 – Brooks Koepka (Shinnecock Hills)
2017 – Brooks Koepka (Erin Hills)
2016 – Dustin Johnson (Oakmont)
2015 – Jordan Spieth (Chambers Bay)
2014 – Martin Kaymer (Pinehurst)
2013 – Justin Rose (Merion)
2012 – Webb Simpson (Olympic Club)\
2011 – Rory McIlroy (Congressional)
2010 – Graeme McDowell (Pebble Beach)
Key Stats to Victory
- Driving Distance
- SG: Approach
- GIR Percentage
Torrey Pines South at the Farmers Insurance Open is typically one of the more intimidating challenges on the PGA Tour. It's extremely long with narrow fairways and thick rough. Being played in June instead of January, it will actually make the course play a little shorter, but the USGA will narrow the fairways even further and nearly double the typical rough length. Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Gary Woodland, and Bryson DeChambeau are all the winners of the U.S. Open since 2016. Now all four of those players have pretty solid all around games, but there's one thing we all think about when we see those names and that is bombers. With the way the USGA has set up their courses recently, short hitters virtually have no chance to win the U.S. Open. The fairways are so narrow and firm that nobody is really going to be hitting the short grass much. So if you aren't going to put it in the fairway, you are a lot better off being as close to the green as possible to give you have a chance at holding the greens. There aren't a whole lot of runoff areas around Torrey Pines, so if you aren't in a bunker you are going to be in very thick round when you are trying to scramble. Thick rough around the greens bring the best and worst short game players closer together because there is only one way you can play the shot, unlike short grass runoff areas like we saw at Kiawah that give players a multitude of different options. The poa annua at Torrey Pines is the most severe poa annua the players see all season. It's bumpy and extremely hard to keep putts on line, which is why some of the short putt conversion rates are among some of the lowest on Tour. That should be amplified this week on a U.S. Open setup, which will make putting somewhat obsolete. The formula is pretty simple, you're looking for bombers who hit a lot of greens.
FanDuel Value Picks
Jon Rahm ($12,200)
Rahm comes in motivated after having a heartbreaking positive COVID-19 test after his third round at the Memorial where he was ahead of the field by six strokes. Torrey Pines has been perhaps his best course on Tour, as he notched his first win there back in 2017 and owns a total of four top-7 finishes. Rahm ranks third in SG: Off-the-Tee, 12th in SG: Approach, second in SG: Tee-to-Green, fifth in GIR percentage, and second in total driving.
Bryson DeChambeau ($11,800)
If the USGA keeps setting courses up like this, DeChambeau may break the record for all-time wins at the U.S. Open, which is a four-way tie with four titles. His six-shot romping of the field back in September at Winged Foot really opened some eyes and made other players question if they should go down the same path to distance that DeChambeau took. The SMU product leads the Tour in driving distance and SG: Off-the-Tee. He's also third in SG: Tee-to-Green and is very solid for his length both around the greens and with the putter.
Viktor Hovland ($10,900)
Hovland has competed in six career majors and hasn't finished worse than a T33 in any of them. He has gone T12-T13 in his two U.S. Open starts to date. His success at an early age is no surprise given how well he hits the ball. The Norwegian ranks fifth in SG: Off-the-Tee, 21st in SG: Approach, eighth in SG: Tee-to-Green, 11th in total driving, and 30th in GIR percentage. Hovland was also runner-up back in January at Torrey Pines. The Oklahoma State product is as consistent as they come and is a bargain at under $11,000 this week.
Tony Finau ($10,600)
Finau has been one of the best players in the majors over the last handful of years. He has finished top-10 in his last four majors, and overall is 17-for-20 with 10 top-10's in his career. Finau has had a lot of good results at Torrey Pines as well, with four top-6 finishes and no results outside the top-25 in seven career starts. As we know Finau is a bomber and he ranks 13th in SG: Approach, seventh in SG: Around-the-Green, and sixth in SG: Tee-to-Green.
Longer Shots with Value
Paul Casey ($9,900)
Even at age 43, Casey can still get it out there at nearly an average driving distance at nearly 304 yards. He ranks fifth in SG: Off-the-Tee, which sets up his world-class iron game for success in these major championships. The Englishman is fifth in SG: Approach, 35th in GIR percentage, 22nd in proximity to the hole, and 11th in SG: Tee-to-Green. Casey is coming off a T4 at the PGA Championship, which is one of five top-10's in nine starts in 2021. He has finished 26th-or-better in each of the last four U.S. Opens.
Jason Kokrak ($9,400)
Kokrak is coming off his second victory of the season back at Colonial where he stared down Jordan Spieth and got the best of the crowd favorite. That was also Kokrak's 13th straight made cut. Kokrak has always been amongst the longest players on Tour, but the difference this season is how efficient he has been with the putter. The 36-year-old ranks 22nd in SG: Off-the-Tee, third in total driving, 25th in GIR percentage, fifth in SG: Putting, and 12th in SG: Total. Kokrak has finished inside the top-30 in four of his last five tries at Torrey Pines.
Sam Burns ($9,200)
Burns really let some people down when he withdrew with an injury at the PGA Championship after coming into the week off finishes of T4-1st-2nd. Now in a better place health-wise, Burns has extremely strong value on a course that sets up perfectly for him. The 24-year-old is among the longest on Tour and also ranks 15th in SG: Approach, 24th in GIR percentage, and 22nd in proximity to the hole. Burns is also 25th in SG: Putting and second in birdie average.
Charley Hoffman ($9,000)
Hoffman continues to have an incredible season at age 44. He has finished inside the top-20 in nine of his last 12 starts. Hoffman is getting is still getting it out there, ranking 26th in driving distance and 26th in SG: Off-the-Tee. He is also sixth in SG: Approach, 33rd in GIR percentage, and 11th in proximity to the hole. Hoffman's game rounds out with him sitting 24th in scrambling and 37th in putter per GIR in case you needed any other reasons to consider the San Diego native.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
You'll notice in each of the players I've highlighted they can hit it far and are precise with their iron shots. That's been what has defined the champions in the U.S. Open as of late, hitting it far and hitting a lot of greens because scrambling can be so difficult. Being a major, the field is obviously very deep so you can find some pretty solid values on players that fit the profile. The heart of the field is between $9,000-$10,500, but if you're looking for some players down the board a little further keep an eye on Garrick Higgo ($8,600), Matt Wallace ($8,600), Russell Henley ($8,300), Martin Laird ($7,700), and Brendan Steele ($7,400). A few players to be careful with near the top of the salary board would be Jordan Spieth ($12,000) because of how punishing Torrey Pines is off the tee, Rory McIlroy ($11,600) because he has missed three of his last five cuts at the U.S. Open, and Xander Schauffele ($11,400) because he has missed the cut four of the six times he has teed it up at the Farmers Insurance Open.