2021 U.S. Open: 3 Live Outright Bets to Make Entering Round 3, Including Bryson DeChambeau
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images. Pictured: Bryson DeChambeau.
SAN DIEGO – Roy McAvoy famously referred to the U.S. Open as the most democratic tournament in the world.
“It’s open,” said Kevin Costner’s character in Tin Cup. “Anyone with a handicap [1.4] or better’s got a shot at it. You just must get through a local and sectional qualifier, then like Doral or Colonial or AT&T, they can’t keep you out. They can’t ask you if you’re a garbage man or a driving range pro whose checks are signed by a stripper. You qualify, you’re in.”
The U.S. Open has produced plenty of Hollywood-like movie scripts over the years and another one is being written this week.
On the heels of 50-year-old Phil Mickelson winning last month’s PGA Championship, 48-year-old Richard Bland climbed atop the leaderboard at Torrey Pines, playing just his fourth career major championship in a fourth different decade.
At 600/1 pre-tournament, Bland would rank among the greatest longshot champions in the game’s storied history if he can hang on for 36 more holes, but that, of course, remains a massive if.
Instead, I’m focusing on some bigger names for live outrights entering this weekend. In fact, three of the biggest names around.
All odds via DraftKings
Jon Rahm (+350)
What a pick, huh? He was the pre-tournament favorite and is now the favorite entering the weekend, with odds sliced in more than half of the original price. That doesn’t seem like such a bargain – and it isn’t. Trust me: This is not a value play. But it just might be the right one. How come?
Well, there are the obvious reasons, of course. Rahm is one of the game’s best players, he’s had success on this course in the past and he’s in terrific form.
Here’s a less obvious reason, though: He hasn’t had his best stuff. While some bettors might try to pick out those who are playing best entering the weekend, I always tend to look at the contenders who have gotten into position on the leaderboard with something less than their A game.
When I spoke with Rahm after the round, he told me, “It just felt a little tight all day. It wasn’t my best day off the tee. Even thought they weren’t terrible swings, they were just going dead straight, not fading. It felt like it was really close to being really good, but the good swings I was making were not giving me the results I really wanted.”
Those sound like the words of a player who shot 75, but is trying to convince himself that his game really isn’t that far off. Rahm’s “close” performance was still good enough for a three-birdie, two-bogey 70 that helped him climb the leaderboard. If indeed he finds those results he wants over the final 36 holes, then the favorite might be the right man to back right now.
Bryson DeChambeau (+1800)
On Thursday evening, I walked past the Torrey Pines driving range at precisely 8:35 p.m. The sky was somewhere between twilight and pitch-black. A lone spotlight shone on the practice area and a lone figure remained, the only player still banging balls into the increasing chilly air.
That player, of course, was DeChambeau, so often the subject of ridicule and eye-rolling because of the methods to his madness. I will submit, however, that working on one’s game should hardly incite any ridicule. As it turns out, Bryson didn’t find anything in that extra session, but insisted after a second-round 69 that something hit him later in the night. Much later.
“I was sleeping, and it came to me in the middle of the night,” he said. “Woke up and I was like, ‘Hmm, I’m going to try this.’ I went out, and my intuition is pretty good, so I went out and tried it, and it worked.”
I know, I know. That’s the sort of rhetoric which is just going to provoke more eye-rolling, but there’s a point here: Much like Rahm, DeChambeau is in contention while still searching for his best stuff. His opening 73 was held together with duct tape, and his second-round 69 still left plenty of room for improvement. If that improvement indeed takes place, he could be the first player to go back-to-back at the U.S. Open since his good pal Brooks Koepka.
Dustin Johnson (+5500)
How far back is too far back? This week, at least, I think that’s a trick question. With only the top-60 and ties reaching the weekend (regular PGA TOUR events go 65 deep) and a veteran-yet-unproven commodity in Richard Bland atop the leaderboard, I honestly think any player who reaches the weekend will have a chance at the trophy.
Accentuating that notion is the fact that the South Course has tended to play softer and easier during the morning rounds this week, then tougher as it firms up throughout the afternoon. That means those with earlier tee times should have better scoring conditions, if only marginally, which could essentially tighten the pack even more.
Of the world-class players who will tee off early, Hideki Matsuyama lost strokes to the field in nearly every major category on Friday, Patrick Reed couldn’t conjure his Torrey magic and Patrick Cantlay’s putter looks like it’s living in Decel City.
Instead, I’ll “settle” for the world’s No. 1-ranked player in Johnson, who like Rahm and DeChambeau has left plenty of room for improvement. While DJ hasn’t played his best golf in recent months, there are signs that he’s ready to bust a low one – and even something in the range of 66 could vault him into serious contention going into the final day. At this price, I don’t mind taking a shot on the game’s most talented player.