With the U.S. Open upon us, it’s major time again. The time when the best in the business battle it out for the right to get their hands on one of the most prestigious prizes in golf.
Last year’s renewal of this famous tournament, which was first played all the way back in 1895, delivered a first-time major winner in the shape of big-hitter and maverick Bryson DeChambeau, who boomed his way round Quaill Hollow in a way that no other player could manage.
This year, at a venue where distance off the tee will once again be paramount, the man who hits bombs off the tee for fun will be looking to retain his crown. Doing so will be no easy task, though, as a whole host of top-tier players go for glory. Serial major winner Brooks Koepka looked back to near his best when finishing in a tie for second at the PGA Championship three weeks ago, so it would be no surprise to see him challenging at the very top of the leaderboard, while plenty of other players look ready to deliver a big effort.
Unlike last week at the Palmetto, where plenty of the big names opted for rest and their own form of U.S. Open preparation over playing in South Carolina, this week the course will be full of the finest talent in the world, so expect to see the leaderboard stacked with the best of the best.
What is the course going to be like?
The South Course at Torrey Pines is a savage beast, one that can chew up and spit out any golfer if they’re not quite on it, regardless of their standing in the world rankings. The course is long – the longest on the schedule this season – so distance will be hugely important in San Diego this week. The same is true for finding the fairway with regularity, what with daunting rough areas, areas that if entered will be a nightmare to get prime position out of. For more detail on the course and what it’s likely to take to thrive check out the BeerLife fantasy preview here.
So, who fits the bill this week? Which players make for appealing sportsbook bets? Below are a few players who stand out at the odds.
Rory McIlroy +1800
Contending in majors is something that Rory needs to get back to doing if people are going to continue to recognize him as one of the best in the world, which he undoubtedly is when things click, and this may just be his perfect opportunity. We’ve seen glimpses of the old Rory this season, especially when he beat a talent-packed field to claim the Wells Fargo in May. Didn’t quite deliver at the PGA Championship, but still showed some promising moments over the dour days, while there were definite indications that another big effort could be round the corner when he was last seen finishing in a tie for 18th at the Memorial a fortnight ago.
What makes Rory appeal more is his previous efforts at this venue. The four-time major winner finished fifth and the Farmers Insurance here in 2019 and third a year later, while if we look across all the critical strokes gained metrics, he ranks as the fifth best player in the field, and the best in terms of strokes gained: tee-to-green. Add in that he’s the second longest driver on tour (on average) and he’s hard to resist at what could turn out to be a slightly generous +1800.
Will Zalatoris +350
24-year-old Will Zalatoris has come of age this season, playing some excellent golf, and tussling with the best. He showed golf fans around the world what he’s made of when finishing as the runner-up at Augusta in April, and that was no one-off, as the youngster battled his way to a very respectable tie for 8th at Kiawah Island in the PGA Championship three weeks ago. Add in that he finished in a tie for 6th in the US Open last season, meaning he’s finished inside the top ten in each of the three appearances in majors, and it’s clear to see that this is a player who belongs at the top and is certainly not someone to be overawed by the big occasion.
His seventh at this year’s Farmers Insurance boosts his cache further, as do a set of important strokes gained numbers. Of those in the field who’ve played four or more rounds on the South Course at Torrey Pines in the last five seasons, Zalatoris is the sixth-best in terms of strokes gained: total. If you want a reasonably priced top ten bet, then young Will is your man.
Marc Leishman +250
Now Leishman may not fit the profile of a South Course Torrey Pines entirely, but there’s plenty to like about the chances of the Aussie this week, especially as this is a venue where he has won before. It’s been an up and down season, but moments of brilliance have emerged amidst the numerous no-shows, like when the 37-year-old won the Zurich Classic back in April.
Interestingly, Leishman knows how to win here. His experience of winning the 2020 Farmers Insurance could really hold him in good stead. After all, we’re talking about the sixth-best average scorer at Torrey Pines South Course in this field. Such a stat should be overlooked, nor should the fact that big Leish ranks as the second-best player when it comes to strokes gained: putting. He’s shown he’s got the game to hit these greens, but crucially he’s proved he’s got what it takes to putt well on them.
Bettors looking for a tasty top 20 bet should hold this information dear and latch onto Leishman at +250.
Who to avoid?
Dustin Johnson +1600
Less than a year ago, DJ was on top of the world, as he dominated at Augusta, showcasing just why he’s spent so much time as world number one, but things haven’t really gone his way this time around. He bombed out at Kiawah Island three weeks ago, and while he did perform well in his native South Carolina last time out, he never really looked like going and grabbing the lead during either of the final two rounds. Given the lack of big names in the field at Conagree last week, it was disappointing that we didn’t see the big hitter really blitz it.
We know he’s long which is going to be a key attribute to have this week, but this isn’t exactly a course where he has thrived in the past, missing the cut in two of his last three Farmers Insurance Opens at this venue, while the strokes gained numbers that he’s produced in four rounds at this place aren’t particularly appealing, or at least they’re not appealing enough to warrant support at rather skinny odds. Looking to take on one of the big boys this week? Go against Johnson.