2021 U.S. Open Picks: The Outright Bets We Made Right Away for Torrey Pines
Stacy Revere/Getty Images. Pictured: Shane Lowry
The 2021 U.S. Open will get underway on Thursday, June 17 at Torrey Pines in San Diego, Calif.
Jon Rahm is the betting favorite at +1050 to win the tournament, but the top of the board is a real murderers’ row as Bryson DeChambeau (+1500), Dustin Johnson (+1500), Xander Schauffele (+1500), Brooks Koepka (+1900), Jordan Spieth (+1900), Rory McIlroy (+2100), Patrick Cantlay (+2200), Tony Finau (+2200) and Justin Thomas (+2250) are all sitting under +2500.
It’s only natural that a few names will jump right out at you in a field like this. That’s why we compiled a list of players that we couldn’t wait to bet to win the 2021 U.S. Open:
Paul Casey (+4500)
At these odds, this one might seem like a bit of a stretch, but consider that Casey actually owns a shorter pre-tourney number than Hideki Matsuyama before the Masters (60/1) or Mickelson before the PGA Championship (250/1). At 43 – he’ll turn 44 next month – Casey is playing some of the better golf of his career. It’s not just the week-in, week-out results which have me optimistic for this one, though; it’s the fact that he’s continued to show up for majors, finishing 2nd-17th-26th-4th at the last four, the second of which came at last year’s U.S. Open. While he ranks “only” 37th in driving distance on the PGA TOUR this season, Casey’s strength isn’t just about bombing drives.
Those Popeye-like forearms should be enough to hit some quality shots from the gnarly rough. Having spoken with Casey in multiple post-round interviews during the festivities at Kiawah, I can easily see him drawing some late-career inspiration from Mickelson, which should be a real thing this week.
In a year that’s already seen some major championship surprises to varying degrees, don’t be afraid if another one is lurking at Torrey Pines.
Rory McIlroy (+2100)
This number falls in the auto-bet category for Rory McIlroy. He has rounded back into form over his last several events, jumpstarted by his win at the Wells Fargo at the beginning of May. Even as Rory fell short of his lofty expectations at the PGA Championship, he was still fantastic tee to green. In fact, McIlroy has gained more than four shots on approach in each of his last three events, which is a great sign for him coming into the week. He has long been known as the best driver of the ball in the game, and if he can dial that in just a touch better this week, he will be in position to contend for his first major since 2014.
While much of the focus this week will be on Jon Rahm and his success at Torrey Pines, Rory also has a strong history on this course. He has two top-5 finishes in three trips, and all three of his appearances have resulted in top-20 finishes.
The combination of great form, a course that clearly fits his game, and a rare strong number make Rory McIlroy stand out to start the week.
Adam Scott (+9500)
Adam Scott hasn’t been playing his best golf of late, but this number is simply too enticing to resist. Torrey Pines will certainly play a lot different this week for the U.S. Open, but Scott did finish 10th at the Farmers Insurance Open this year and has excellent course history including a second-place finish here in 2019.
At this stage of his career, the Aussie probably isn’t winning any birdie-fests but he can still grind as well as anyone when he is on his game. Scott also putts much better on POA greens and the putter has been a bright spot lately; gaining strokes on the field in six of his past seven events.
If he can get his historically excellent tee to green game going, he has a real chance to contend at Torrey Pines.
Shane Lowry (+6000)
Remember to shop around, because the numbers on Lowry vary pretty wildly from sportsbook to sportsbook. The case for the Irishman is simple, he’s simply too talented and battle tested to be priced around guys like Matthew Wolff or Harris English at a major championship. He’s been in extremely good form of late, posting a T-6 at the Memorial and a T-4 at the PGA Championship. Lowry also has two really strong finishes at Torrey Pines, so I have no worries about him handling the length of this course.
His U.S Open resume is solid but not spectacular, but he does have a pair of top 10’s at this event in both 2015 and ‘16. He’s always been pretty strong around the greens, which is true of most major champions, however, it’s his ball-striking that’s been the catalyst for him of late. He ranks 15th in that department over his past eight rounds in this field while sitting fifth in SG: Tee-to-Green in the same time frame. Lowry shows up regularly in big time fields and getting 60/1 on a former major winner in this spot feels like a slam dunk bet.
Jon Rahm (+1050)
I don’t know about you but after three months of going 0-fer while chasing value in the outrights, I’ve had enough of ripping up the virtual tickets on Sundays. The journey is fun but not when you see another guy kissing the trophy at the end.
I don’t care that Rahm is the prohibitive favorite at Torrey Pines. You shouldn’t, either. This is about the journey and the destination.
If you’re worried about leaning on a non-winner of any major, dismiss that immediately. Five of the last seven major champions were first-timers and four of the last five winners of the U.S. Open never had won any major previously.
I’ll also reprise my inaugural angle for these early picks. It was in advance of the 2021 Masters that I wrote, simply, “Two words: Nappy Factor.” The timing is even better now since the U.S. Open is scheduled to conclude traditionally on Father’s Day, so this is about serendipity, too.
You can read more about the theory developed by the legendary Keith Elliott in my special on it last year.
Collin Morikawa (+2550)
It doesn’t need to be said, but the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines looks like it will be a difficult test. Videos that have surfaced from the course have shown a long course with very thick rough, meaning errant shots will be punished severely and the winning score will likely be single digits under par.
I’ll be looking for players that consistently hit fairways and greens, play cerebrally to avoid the big numbers, and don’t try to overpower golf courses on their way to victories. A few names come to mind when I think of this type of player, but none measure up to the run of consistency that Morikawa has been on of late.
Over the last 24 rounds, Morikawa ranks 1st in greens in regulation, 1st in Strokes Gained: Approach, 2nd in double bogey avoidance, and 11th in fairways gained. His last four starts have resulted in three top-10 finishes, highlighted by his recent runner-up at Memorial where he lost in a playoff to Patrick Cantlay. In these four tournaments, he has gained over 30(!) strokes on approach against the field. He is absolutely dialed in right now, and fits the mold of a U.S. Open champion.
The only crack in Morikawa’s game is his putter, which ranks 71st in this field over the last 24 rounds. However, he did gain 5.4 strokes putting in his last showing at Memorial, snapping a streak of four tracked events in a row with negative putting performances. I’m not ready to say that the putting issues have been resolved, but knowing he’s coming off a positive performance on the greens can only help his confidence with the flat stick.
I believe Morikawa’s game is in peak form, and he will be in contention come Sunday with a chance to win his second major.
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