For the first time since 2008, the U.S. Open is returning to the beautiful Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, California.
At a whopping 7,652 yards, Torrey Pines' south course is the longest course on the PGA Tour. It includes two holes well over 600 yards and even two par-fours that surpass 500 yards.
The par-71 oceanside spectacle snakes in and around legitimate canyons creating spectacular views but unforgiving hazards. Trees are minimal, and the majority of the holes are long and straight, but fairways and greens are lined with bunkers on nearly every hole.
Above all else, Torrey Pines favors the long ball. Accuracy off the tee is a major plus, but on this course, power is king. In addition, brutally shaped and sloped greens make distance control on approach shots a must for any prospective champion.
So with these factors in mind, let's discuss the golfers who will be on my bet slip heading into Thursday.
Favorites to Win Outright
Jon Rahm (+1000)
54 holes into the Memorial Tournament, Jon Rahm looked unstoppable. At 18-under par, he was set to carry a six-stroke lead into Sunday. It seemed a forgone conclusion that he would take the tournament. Yet it wasn't meant to be as Rahm was forced to withdraw after a positive COVID test.
Rahm's status for the U.S. Open was in question, but the 26-year-old Spaniard put all of that to rest himself this weekend.
With his participation now seemingly confirmed, Rahm enters the U.S. Open as a pretty significant favorite, and for good reason. Rahm leads the PGA Tour with ten top-ten finishes already this season. He is third on the tour in true strokes-gained off the tee and second in the Total Driving metric.
In addition, his pedigree on this particular course is one of more impressive in the field. In five events for his career, Rahm has finished top-five three times, including one win, and has only finished lower than tenth once. He has won over $2.5 million at Torrey Pines alone, so it's safe to say he's comfortable here.
After having victory ripped away from him the last time out, you can bet a rejuvenated Rahm will return this week with a vengeance.
This is easily my top pick for the tournament.
Bryson DeChambeau (+1400)
I can't lie, I struggled with this pick for a long time before telling myself to just stop overthinking it.
The reason I struggled is DeChambeau's history at Torrey Pines and similar courses. DeChambeau has only played Torrey Pines (South) twice, in 2017 and 2018. He missed both cuts in a miserable fashion. I do however acknowledge the small sample size in that stat. Furthermore, Data Golf's course fit tool gives Augusta National and Torrey Pines a 90.5 (out of 100) similarity rating, and in five events at Augusta, DeChambeau has never finished higher than 21st. He's also not on a great stretch, averaging a 34th place finish over his last six tournaments.
But sometimes you just need to stop overthinking it. As I mentioned in the introduction, this the longest course on the Tour and it favors the long drive. Even the casual golf fan is apprised of DeChambeau's power off the tee. At over 322 yards per drive, DeChambeau is the measuring stick for distance in the PGA. It honestly just didn't feel right leaving him off my bet slip at this course.
Brooks Koepka (+1800)
Maybe it's wishful thinking, but can you imagine a scenario where both DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka are at or near the top heading into the final round? The two's well-documented hatred for each other would make for some electric golf. Well, I don't consider that scenario far from reality this weekend.
Koepka's 308.7 yards per drive is nothing to scoff at, and he's slightly more accurate than his rival with a 55.58% driving accuracy. Koepka also holds his own pretty well on approach and is top-ten in approach shots greater than 275 yards, which will play well on these long par-fives.
Koepka seems to be recovered from the knee surgery that plagued him early this season and already has one second-place Major finish this year. Also, don't forget Koepka is already a two-time (back-to-back) U.S. Open champion (2017, 2018), albeit at different courses.
Patrick Cantlay (+2000)
The current FedEx cup points leader Patrick Cantlay is having himself a year on the Tour. The 29-year-old UCLA alum has four top-five finishes on the season including two wins. His most recent was two weeks ago when he defeated Collin Morikawa in a playoff to win the Memorial.
Much of Cantlay's success is attributed to his well-rounded play. He is top-25 on the tour in strokes-gained off-the-tee, on the approach of the green, as well as around the green. These factors combine for one of the best tee-to-green games on Tour.
He has only played Torrey Pines three times and missed the cut twice. He's also coming off the high of a playoff win in his last outing. Winning back-to-back tournaments in the PGA is no easy feat, but his recent success may also give Cantlay the confidence needed to do it. I may add a Cantlay top-five finish to my bet slip at +400 but would not feel bad about an outright win wager either.
Collin Morikawa (+2500)
I can't help myself, I keep coming back to Morikawa in these previews. He's simply too good to not include him on my bet slips. No one is better tee-to-green than Morikawa. What also drew my eye to him this week is his accuracy off the tee. He doesn't have the power some of the aforementioned golfers do, but his 69.6% fairways hit is one of the best on tour.
Morikawka's downfall... his 0.316 strokes-lost putting, which quite possibly cost him the Memorial Tournament after missing a six-foot putt in his playoff with Cantlay.
He will be outdriven, but if by chance some of his top competition find themselves in trouble with erratic drives, Morikawa could easily make up strokes using his world-class accuracy and approach.
If his putting and driving distance scares you, a top-five bet at +500 feels like a great value.
Abraham Ancer (+4000/+700)
Ancer has been quietly playing great golf as of late. He has two top-five finishes in his last four tournaments and has only finished outside of the top-25 six times this season out of 20 events played. That is a really impressive run.
Here is another golfer who may not have elite power off the tee, but he can hit fairways seemingly in his sleep. His 72.2% driving accuracy is third-best on tour.
He finished in the top-20 at Torrey Pines in 2018 before missing the cut in 2019. Ancer has been playing great and hovering around the top of the leaderboard. Now it's time for the 30-year-old to take that next step and win his first PGA Tournament. At a minimum, +700 odds for a top-five finish feel like a steal.
Long Shots (Win/Top 5/Top 10)
Jason Kokrak (+5000/+900/+400)
Jason Kokrak is one of the only golfers left in this field currently ranked in the top-20 in true strokes-gained both off-the-tee as well as on approach. He already has two victories on the season and famously played spoiler a few weeks back at the Charles Schwab Challenge, edging out Jordan Spieth to take the tournament.
In that upset, the 36-year-old averaged 321.8 yards per drive and hit over 73% of fairways off the tee. That is the perfect recipe for success at Torrey Pines, and if Kokrak can replicate that performance this week I could see him playing spoiler once again. He has also played more than 20 rounds at this course in his career.
At the very least a top-five (+900) or top-ten (+400) finish is an obvious play for me this week.
Corey Conners (+7000/+1200/+500)
I love the value Conners is getting in this tournament. I mentioned Kokrak being one of the only players left currently top-20 off the tee and on approach. Well, Conners is the other, and over the past three months has been better than Kokrak in both areas.
The 29-year-old Candian already has seven top-ten finishes on the season, and already played Torrey Pines once this season, finishing -2 in the Farmers Insurance Open.
A win here is not out of the realm of possibility, but a top-five (+1200) or top-ten (+500) wager is a great bet as well.
Jhonatten Vegas (+12500/+2200/+1000)
As always, I searched for a real long-shot and landed on Venezuelan-born Jhonattan Vegas.
In 20 events so far on the season, Vagas has logged three top-ten finishes and has finished second twice including last week at the Congaree in the Palmetto Championship. In that tournament, Vegas averaged 332.1 yards per drive and hit over 71% of fairways off the tee. As I've said with other golfers on this list, that is exactly what he will need to do this week.
Most fans know the big names when it comes to driving, but few may realize that Vegas is quietly the fourth-best golfer on Tour when it comes to strokes gained off the tee.
This is certainly a high-risk/high-reward wager. While Vegas thrives on the tee box, he has struggled mightily around and on the green on the season. However, he seemingly made some adjustments last week, hitting nearly 71% of greens in regulation and gaining strokes putting.
I'm betting on Vegas carrying his recent success into this week and will be leaning on a top-ten (+1000) or even top-five (+2200) wager.
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