2021 U.S. Open First-Round Leader Odds, Picks: Backing Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland, Victor Perez

2021 U.S. Open First-Round Leader Odds, Picks: Backing Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland, Victor Perez article feature image
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Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Xander Schauffele

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This year marks the 121st playing of the U.S. Open, with Torrey Pines playing host for the first since 2008.

Unlike a handful of other courses in the U.S. Open rota, Torrey Pines hosts an event annually on TOUR (Farmers) and lends itself to a little more familiarity among the players.

However, the course setup during a U.S. Open week is lightyears different from what the players would see during their usual February stop.

This week, the rough is thick and penalizing. The greens are faster. And the nerves are teaser. Here’s a look at my favorite First-Round Leader bets for the 2021 U.S. Open.

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Xander Schauffele (+2800)

It’s hard to talk about a tournament in San Diego without mentioning one of the city’s greats. (No, not Phil)

I’ve been quite bullish on X lately. The SDSU alum’s putting looks great after he changed to the arm-lock style. What’s even more promising is that his best putting surface is Poa, which we’ll see at Torrey.

His last start was a T-11 at Jack’s Place a fortnight ago, where his ball striking stats were phenomenal. Schauffele’s ball striking combined with better putting could be the perfect storm for him to win that first major.

Viktor Hovland (+4000)

We first became officially acquainted with the young Norwegian during the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. As the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, he went on to earn low amateur honors with a T-12 finish.

He turned pro the next week and now has two victories to his name. Two years later, we’re still in awe of his talent and affable personality. He finished T-13 in 2020 at Winged Foot, which is his “worst” showing at the event. It appears that Hovland may turn out to be a horse for this championship. Only time will tell, but another top-20 and a solid Thursday start seems doable in Southern California.

2021-us-open-first round leader-cameron smith
Stacy Revere/Getty Images. Pictured: Cameron Smith

Cameron Smith (+5500)

This is my favorite first-round leader bet most weeks on TOUR. Smith is second in first-round scoring (only recently being eclipsed by Jason Kokrak). He’s also a great ball striker and tends to play well on  difficult courses. Despite his lack of grandeur during U.S. Opens, he makes cuts and tends to still play decently well.

He’s been gaining strokes like crazy on the field, especially during his winter run that saw no finishes worse than 17th.

Justin Rose (+6600)

The South African-born Englishman (who rudely won’t change his last name) is no stranger to Torrey Pines. He won the 2019 Farmers Insurance Open, during which he gained a ridiculous 18 strokes on the field that week.

He has a good history at this course, despite missing the cut the last time the U.S. Open was played here.

Tommy Fleetwood (+8000)

I mentioned earlier how Hovland is on a trajectory to becoming a great U.S. Open player. I present to you another gent about whom I would argue the same. In 2017 and 2018, Fleetwood finished 4th and T-2.

Fleetwood’s game is still up-and-down at best right now. Despite that, I like him and his should-actually-be-an-American-football-player caddie, Ian Finnis, to have a good week.

Victor Perez (+20000)

Ah, yes. My PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP hero. The apple of my eye.

The Frenchman is one of the most underrated rated players on the planet.
Despite being the 35th-ranked player in the Official World Golf Rankings, Perez continually draws long odds when playing in the United States. His good value is one of my biggest reasons for taking him as often as I do. But his consistent play and ability to make me money is why I love him.

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