Hello again! No, it’s not Friday. Don’t get too excited.
Today we have a special edition newsletter dedicated to all things U.S. Open! A lot has happened since Tiger Woods won at Torrey Pines in 2008, so let’s do some catching up.
When: June 17-20, 2021
Where: Torrey Pines South Course, La Jolla, California
Last year: Bryson DeChambeau topped off the best year of his career by winning the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September. The big man started the final round two shots back of Matthew Wolff and fired a 67 that put him six shots clear. Relying on his incredible length and elite putting, DeChambeau looked unbeatable on Sunday. Just four players finished within 10 strokes of him. After a year of chasing distance, Bryson overpowered Winged Foot in a way no one had previously considered possible. It was, in a word, dominant.
The big questions
Will we see a repeat performance? – Bryson’s tour de force at Winged Foot and Brooks Koepka’s similar assault on Bethpage Black in 2019 confirmed that narrow fairways and deep rough are no defense against the “bomb and gouge” method. In fact, those elements only enhance the advantage of bombers. Unsurprisingly, according to our friends at DataGolf, driving distance is strongly predictive of success at the South Course at Torrey Pines. That will be even more the case at the U.S. Open, where the rough will be especially juicy. Until proven wrong, we’re going to assume the big hitters will thrive even more than usual at this type of venue
Then can everyone really compete? – Given what we just talked about, does the South Course leave room for other guys to win? After all, Brandt Snedeker, No. 148 in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee in 2021, has two wins at the Farmers Insurance Open, the PGA Tour’s annual Torrey Pines stop. Even Patrick Reed, No. 90 in SG: OTT, took home the Farmers trophy this year. But here’s the thing: the Farmers Insurance Open isn’t the U.S. Open. June brings heavier air to San Diego, making the course play longer; the USGA brings longer rough to the South Course; and a major championship brings more pressure than a February PGA Tour event. If they’re going to win, shorter hitters are going to need to hit a lot of fairways. When it comes down to it, we just don’t think everyone has a chance.
What’s Jon Rahm’s status? – As of this writing, we are unsure whether the betting favorite and No. 2 player in the world will be able to play in the U.S. Open. A positive Covid test, a forced withdrawal from the Memorial Tournament, and an ongoing quarantine have everyone wondering whether Jon Rahm will make it to San Diego. Assuming he doesn’t develop new symptoms, he would technically be eligible to return to action early next week. Rahm’s game is sharp and he’s a perfect fit for a U.S. Open-ized Torrey Pines, but there are a lot of questions around the Spaniard at the moment.
U.S. Open Victory Club
This year’s U.S. Open returns to the site of one of the most inspiring victories in golf history. While the South Course at Torrey Pines is a familiar venue, things feel a bit different when the 2008 U.S. Open and the memory of Tiger Woods’s limping triumph resurface.
To get the most out of this year’s championship, join the U.S. Open Victory Club! Members enjoy virtual fan experiences, access to limited-edition merchandise, and content not found anywhere else. Did we mention it’s free? Because it is!
The big boys – Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson
As we’ve already noted, Torrey Pines with a U.S. Open setup is likely to give a huge advantage to the longest, strongest players. So any discussion of favorites for next week has to start with DeChambeau, Koepka, Rahm, and DJ, who are a cut above when it comes to wrestling with big, burly golf courses. No, not all of them are in great form at the moment, and Rahm’s Covid quarantine isn’t exactly the prep week he had imagined, but this quartet is too good and too strong not to top this list of candidates.
The power flushers – Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland, Justin Thomas
When we refer to someone as a flusher, we usually mean a player who lacks elite speed but hits the center of the club face with crazy consistency. Cantly, Hovland, Thomas, and Schauffele are flushers, no doubt. But they also have plenty of speed. The South Course’s length won’t overwhelm them, and the small sections of its greens won’t intimidate them on their approaches.
The guys who shouldn’t do well but might go ahead and do well anyway – Jordan Spieth, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed, Will Zalatoris, Collin Morikawa
Hey, we know. There’s a readily available reason why each of these guys won’t contend this week. Morikawa and Zalatoris are fighting the heebie-jeebies on the greens; Reed and Simpson are 155th and 128th on the PGA Tour in driving distance this season, respectively; and Spieth’s mental game is always a mystery. But you know what all of them are good at? Golf. They’re good at golf. So they might surprise you.
A pillar of USGA championships, qualifying was canceled in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2021, qualifiers have returned with a vengeance. Many tour pros got through Monday’s final qualifying, but we’re more interested in the lesser-known names headed to San Diego. Here are a few to watch next week at Torrey Pines. Final Qualifying Results
Sahith Theegala – Theegala’s career was acutely affected by the pandemic. Last year’s Haskins Award winner, he was on a tear for the Pepperdine Waves before his senior season got cut short. This spring, he’s been fighting for starts on the Korn Ferry Tour and had to survive a playoff to earn his spot in San Diego. Theegala now has substantial experience in professional golf and will be making his second U.S. Open appearance, his first since 2017.
Andy Pope – A member of the Korn Ferry Tour, Pope just got through final qualifying for the fifth time in the past six years. The 37-year-old Korn Ferry Tour member has made the cut in two of his previous four U.S. Open appearances but has yet to finish better than T-58. Maybe this is Pope’s year to make a little noise!
Pierceson Coody (a) – One of the best players in college golf over the past two seasons, Coody had to pull out of the NCAA Championship with an illness. He recovered nicely and was the only amateur to get out of the Columbus qualifier on Monday. A rising senior at Texas, Coody had eight top 10s in 10 starts during the 2020-21 season. He has played only one PGA Tour event, but he possesses the length necessary to do well at a U.S. Open course.
Luis Gagne – On Monday, this former LSU Tiger got through the Bear’s Club qualifier for the second time in his career. Gagne had a strong collegiate career in Louisiana and earned low amateur honors in the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock. A three-time All-American, he has what it takes to compete on the big stage.