LA JOLLA, Calif. -- The 2021 U.S. Open will likely be another in a recent line of U.S. Opens which seem to identify which bomber is putting it best in a given week. Last year's champion, Bryson DeChambeau, described his strategy for bulky Torrey Pines.
"For the most part, I'm going to be trying to bomb it as much as possible and try to gouge it out when I don't hit it in the fairway," said DeChambeau.
If this is the right strategy -- and recent history says it is -- that narrows the list of golfers who can win this tournament to 15 or 10 or even fewer. The longest guys off the tee who also have a set of other skills that are adequate enough for major contention.
"I'd say the rough is a little different [than Winged Foot], so it's not going to be as easy to get through, I think, with the wedge out here at Torrey Pines compared to Winged Foot," added DeChambeau. "But having said that, I think it's going to be the same sort of strategy."
This does not necessarily mean a shorter hitter like Collin Morikawa cannot win the tournament, only that his margin for error this week is much thinner than it is for DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and other guys who are a lot longer than guys like Morikawa, who will have to hit a lot more fairways than they do.
With that in mind, I think the pool of golfers who can win is easier to determine for this championship than for any of the others, and I've narrowed it to the nine from which I think the winner will eventually emerge on Sunday evening.
|While I'm personally fading him this week, I confess that he has a better chance than anyone else in the field at winning this golf tournament. He does everything incredibly well, and if you squint, it's not difficult to envision his win at last year's Memorial Tournament as a sort of U.S. Open harbinger. That week was fast, firm and had loads of rough. He destroyed worlds. That could happen again. It probably will happen again at an actual major, and it could come this week. That's why he's the favorite. Odds: 10-1|
|I wish I could bet on Koepka getting into one of the final three pairings on Saturday evening and then fading out of the top 10 by the end of the final round. That's been a bit of what his major championship narrative has been of late. It was intriguing to hear Geoff Ogilvy recently break down Koepka's major success and why he's so different in these tournaments compared to Byron Nelsons and Palmetto Championships. He said, pretty simply, that when you've played as much golf as guys like Koepka, you often just need extra juice to get your attention in a given week. Koepka has clearly figured out how to give it the right amount of attention and thus has finished in the top 10 in 13 of his last 20 major championships. Odds: 18-1|
|There wouldn't be a complete frenzy of takes this time around like there was when DeChambeau slayed mystical Winged Foot. However, I maintain that his win last September was an inflection point for the sport and should serve as foreshadowing for the way DeChambeau plays future U.S. Opens. He's certainly not going to win all of them, but he's put himself at the head of the tiny group of global golfers (maybe 10 guys in all) who have, what, a 75% chance of winning any given U.S. Open. Odds: 18-1|
|D.J. is in that group as well. This is the thing about U.S. Open weeks like this one. If you're in the small pool, you don't really have to be better than the other 155 guys. You just have to be better than the other eight or nine in your pool. D.J. finished T6 at last year's U.S. Open and is looking for his first PGA Tour win since the 2020 Masters. Odds: 18-1|
|You always worry about the short game a bit, but the benefit for him this week is that Torrey does not seem like a place where immense experience and discipline are meaningful (like they were at the first two majors of the year). Obviously that's always true at a U.S. Open, but this is a course more than most that majors are played at where you can let it rip a little bit and not pay huge consequences. Odds: 25-1|
|It's the perfect setup for him. Huge ballpark where driving distance is doubly meaningful and a place where he clearly has a lot of comfort. If he gets through Round 1 unscathed (i.e. around even par), I'll start to take a fifth major bid pretty seriously. Odds: 22-1|
|Torrey is not all that different from the track where J.T. won his only major championship at Quail Hollow, but Thomas' recent putting would not have won the club championship there, much less another PGA. It's pretty simple for him: If he putts, he contends. Odds: 22-1|
|Like Rahm's case, it seems pretty straightforward for Schauffele. The thing I'd love to see from him this week is the thing I've wanted to see from him for the last few years: a lead on a Saturday night that he closes out emphatically. If you're looking for holes, though, the only thing you could even draw up is a lack of recent form, which has been fine but not spectacular. Odds: 18-1|
|It makes sense why some are hesitant, but if you truly believe he's simply been the most unlucky golfer of all time in terms of notching a win, then it's easy to believe that the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines is the week he gets repaid. Odds: 28-1|
Who will win the U.S. Open, and which long shots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine to see the projected leaderboard, all from the model that's nailed six golf majors and is up well over $9,000 since the restart.