Best bets for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines
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The third major of the year is already upon us, and the world's best will tee it up at Torrey Pines (South Course) in the 121st U.S. Open. Bryson DeChambeau, who has once again been a notable figure in the golf world lately, is the defending champion.
Which players are the favorites this time around, who offers good odds and what props are worthwhile this week in La Jolla, California?
Betting analyst Chris "The Bear" Fallica, sports betting deputy editor David Bearman and fantasy analyst Anita Marks offer their best bets.
Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill unless otherwise noted.
Bets to win
Jon Rahm 10-1; top-10 finish (+100)Bearman: Anyone who reads this column regularly knows I don't often take the favorite. There are too many variables and too many golfers to find high value in short odds. Usually, I will wait until they have an average first round and take them live to win at a higher number. However, Rahm's success at Torrey Pines at the Farmers Insurance Open, as well as his recent awesome play, points me toward taking him here. We all saw his incredible third round at Jack's course two weeks ago, as he was well on his way to his sixth career PGA Tour win before the positive COVID-19 test. Even prior to that, Rahm had a T-8 at the PGA and T-5 at the Masters, part of his tour-leading 10 top-10s this season. Torrey Pines was home to Rahm's first career PGA Tour win in 2017. He added a runner-up in 2020, T-5 in 2019 and T-7 earlier this year.
On the South Course, Rahm is 23 under par in his five starts, better than anyone since 2015, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Yes, the course will be set up harder for this week's Open, but Rahm's two wins last season were at the Memorial and BMW, two of the tougher tracks out there. The third-ranked player in the world leads the tour in scoring average, is second in both shots gained total and tee to green, is third off the tee (23rd in distance, 56th in accuracy) and 12th on approach. At this course, you need to drive it straight, avoid the rough and hit greens. Rahm is also fifth on tour in greens in regulation. The knock on Rahm has been that he hasn't won the big one yet and that his temperament can get the best of him. Here's hoping last week's unfortunate events cause him to focus on the task at hand -- winning his first major title.
Fallica: There really isn't any handicap here, other than he has played great out West, has a great scoring average on the South Course, and if COVID-19 doesn't knock him out, he'll be right there on Sunday. If you want to play it safer, sit the pre-tourney bet out, take in the first round and then decide if you want to hop in live.
Xander Schauffele 20-1Marks: Schauffele goes back home and tries to win his first major on a course he grew up playing. He shines on the big stage, with four top-6 finishes in his past four U.S. Opens. Schauffele ranks 26th in driving distance, 21st in total driving and 11th in greens in regulation this season. I also have Schauffele and Jon Rahm to finish 1-2 (+165 at DraftKings) and Schauffele over Jordan Spieth (-137 at DK).
Schauffele 20-1; top-5 finish (+350), top-10 finish (+175)Bearman: It would probably be easier to just cut and paste from past columns here. It's rinse and repeat for Xander until he wins one. I just don't want to miss it when he does. Even with the surprising missed cut at the PGA Championship, Schauffele still has seven top-6 finishes in his past 16 major appearances. That includes a T-5, T-6, T-3 and a fifth in his four career U.S. Open appearances. This time, he is home in San Diego, playing a course he is very familiar with and one on which he finished runner-up to Patrick Reed in January. The metrics back up his solid play this season, as Schauffele is third in shots gained total, eighth in putting, 18th tee to green and 22nd on approach. He is also 11th in hitting greens, which will be important at Torrey Pines. Will he continue to not be able to close the deal? That's why we have a hedge on top-5 and top-10 finishes. If he does take home the crown, we win all three bets.
Collin Morikawa 22-1; top- 10 finish (+250)Fallica: The winner of the 2020 PGA at Pebble Beach has been a fixture atop the leaderboard this year, finishing T-18, T-7, T-8, T-14 and second in his past five individual stroke-play events. With an unforgiving rough this week, there probably isn't a "safer" pick to find the fairway at a higher rate than Morikawa (12th in driving accuracy) and putting the ball on the green in regulation (first in greens in regulation and strokes gained on approach). That's a recipe for success any week -- and especially in a week like this.
Morikawa 22-1Kezirian: What's not to like? His iron play is widely considered among the tour's best, if not the best, and he ranks first this season in greens in regulation. That should keep him out of the rigorous U.S. Open rough as much as possible. His recent form is extremely desirable; he finished in the top 20 in five of his past six tournaments. That includes a runner-up finish at the Memorial. He likely would have won a playoff after his drive landed in the middle of the fairway, but a mud clump prevented him from an easy approach shot. Regardless, the 24-year-old also already has demonstrated an ability to deliver on the big stage, winning last year's PGA Championship.
Tony Finau 25-1; top-10 finish (+188), top-20 finish (-110)Fallica: Go ahead and laugh, that's fine. This is going to be a grind of an event, and Finau's even demeanor will be a huge help to his chances. Also helping his chances? His ability to hit the ball a long way and give himself many chances for par at worst -- avoiding the big number is so critical. He has also been a fixture in the top 10 at Torrey Pines (T-2, T-6, T-13, T-6, T-4 in his past five trips). His scoring on the South Course is right there with Rahm. While that doesn't guarantee anything with this setup, it certainly doesn't hurt. We had a shock winner in the most recent major, so why not another semi-shock here? But at the very least, hit that plus money on a top-10 finish.
Patrick Reed 25-1; top-10 finish (+240), top-20 finish (-110)Bearman: There's a lot to like about Reed this week. First off, he is the most recent winner at Torrey Pines, with an almost wire-to-wire, 5-shot win back in January. He finished T-6 the year before, T-13 in 2019 and T-23 in 2018. In those 20 rounds, 19 of them were par or better. Over that time frame, when looking at just the South Course at Torrey Pines (where the major will be played), Reed is first in shots gained short game, third in shots gained total, fourth around the green, fourth in putting and 10th tee to green. Yes, the course will be set up harder for the U.S. Open, but Reed has the game to get it done. For those who remember the U.S. Open setup in 2008 (and usually for the Farmers Insurance Open), the rough is very tough here, so approach to the green and work around the greens will be incredibly important.
For the season, Reed is 47th on tour in approach, 17th around the green and fourth in putting. He is also seventh on tour in total shots gained and 32nd tee to green. In addition to his win here in January, Reed finished T-8 at the Masters, T-6 at Wells Fargo, T-17 at the PGA and fifth two weeks ago at the Memorial Tournament. He has one major win on his resume and will be a serious contender for No. 2. here.
Will Zalatoris 35-1Kezirian: Zalatoris hasn't been as consistent as many have hoped after his second-place finish at Augusta, but he sure knows how to turn it on for majors. He finished T-6 at last fall's U.S. Open, then came his magical weekend at the Masters, and he recently finished T-8 at the PGA Championship just a few weeks ago. Zalatoris thrives on the big stage, and it's easy to see why he's among the favorites this weekend. He sits 23rd on the tour in strokes gained overall, including elite numbers in strokes gained approaching the green and tee to green, where he ranks third and seventh overall, respectively. He has the powerful drives to handle this course's length and the finesse to make consistently solid approaches and scrambles. His putting is his biggest vulnerability -- he ranks outside the top 100 in strokes gained in that area -- but it didn't stop him at Augusta, where he nearly won a green jacket. You can also find longer odds elsewhere.
Jason Kokrak 60-1; first-round leader 66-1Bearman: I kept looking at this price all week, trying to figure it out. The more I researched, the more I loved it. Kokrak isn't going to blow you away with metrics and stats, but at 60-1, he doesn't have to. He needs to be solid and playing well at this price. He won two weeks ago at Colonial, a tight track comparable to Torrey Pines. He is one of three two-time winners on tour this season, having also won at Shadow Creek in October. He went T-9, T-8, T-9 at Concession, API and The Players, respectively, three of the tougher events on tour, and was hanging around the Masters and PGA before final-round 77s pushed him back. He is 22nd in driving distance, which means he can keep up with the bombers, and he is 25th in greens hit, which will allow for some birdie opportunities. He is 12th in shots gained total and fifth in putting, a huge turnaround for him, as this was his liability coming into the season. I'm going to play him to get out to a hot start and hopefully stick around to keep the 60-1 in play.
Max Homa 80-1Kezirian: The past several weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster for Homa, who has two cuts sandwiched between two sixth-place finishes in his past four outings. He'll look to get back on track at Torrey Pines this weekend at a place where he has finished in the top 20 in his past two trips, though this weekend's course will be much more difficult than what he saw at the Farmers Insurance Open early this year. His top-50 driving distance will help him on this 7,600-yard-plus course, and he knows how to get out of rough situations later in holes, with a 30th-ranked scrambling percentage from over 30 yards around the green. Homa is a solid pick who enters the weekend with the tools and confidence to handle this tricky course.
Carlos Ortiz 150-1Kezirian: Ortiz is hanging under the radar but has a chance to make some noise at Torrey Pines this weekend. He has made the cut in five consecutive tournaments and is coming off one of his better results of the season with a T-16 at the Memorial. His average driving distance of 303.6 yards has him in the top 40 on the tour and checks a critical box in regard to this course's length, and while his numbers aren't dazzling, he's a solid overall player. He sports a 45th-ranked hit percentage when going for the green, is 36th in strokes gained around the green and is 33rd in putting percentage. This course will throw everything at these players this weekend, and with Ortiz as well rounded as he is, he's worth a look.
Charl Schwartzel 150-1Kezirian: While he would like to forget his past two performances, Schwartzel was on an upward trajectory the past couple of months after a strong T-26 performance at the Masters. He rattled off four consecutive top-30 finishes after Augusta, including two top-5s. The veteran hasn't caught much attention for the weekend but can certainly use his experience to remain in contention. Overall, he has decent stats for someone who is this much of an underdog, ranking in the 70-90 range for his strokes gained off the tee, approaching the green and around the green. Where he falters is on the green, where he has -.103 strokes gained putting. However, looking back to his play at the Farmers Insurance Open on this course in January, he excelled on the greens, gaining 1.057 strokes putting that weekend. The greens will undoubtedly be tougher for the U.S. Open, but if he can do that well before the changes, it is reasonable to expect that there won't be such a drastic drop-off this weekend. Put it all together for Schwartzel, and he becomes a solid sleeper pick at Torrey Pines this weekend.
Francesco Molinari 175-1; top-10 finish (14-1), top-20 finish (6-1)Fallica: If you're trying to throw a dart, pinpoint "The Next Mickelson" and put some pocket change on a lottery ticket. Why not take a chance with this guy? He fits the mold of Phil Mickelson -- a former major winner who hadn't won on tour for a while but played well out West this year, finishing in the top 10 at the AMEX, Genesis and at Torrey in the Farmers Insurance Open. He's also in the top 10 this year in scrambling from the rough. His past four starts since have been awful, but maybe the shift out West will give him a better chance to succeed.
Jon Rahm top-5 finish (+250)Marks: Rahm comes in with a chip on his shoulder after having to withdraw from the Memorial because of a positive COVID-19 test following his third round. Rahm's first tour victory was on this track, and he has had a lot of success at Torrey Pines. Rahm ranks 23rd in driving distance, is second in total driving, fifth in greens in regulation and ninth in bogey avoidance this season.
Rory McIlroy top-10 finish (+200), top-20 finish (-133)
Bearman: You aren't going to believe me -- and will probably double-check it -- but McIlroy hasn't won a major since 2014. It has been almost seven full seasons since Rory lifted the Wanamaker Trophy at Valhalla. He is 0-24 since, but 12 of them have been top-10 finishes, third most over that time (Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka have 13 each). The easiest way to describe Rory this season is "consistently inconsistent." On one hand, he started the year with six consecutive (and eight of nine) top-25 finishes, which included top-10s at the rescheduled U.S. Open and Masters in late 2020. But he also missed the cut badly at the Players and most recent Masters, while finishing T-49 at the PGA last month. The poor performance at the PGA was surprising, since it was two weeks after his win at the Wells Fargo, where everyone thought he was back. So what's the angle here? In half of the majors since his last triumph, he has finished near the top and has had success at Torrey Pines, with T-16, T-3 and T-5 finishes. He has been too all over the place to take the 20-1, so I am looking at the 2-to-1 top-10 market to cash some on McIlroy.
Reed top-10 finish (+200), top-20 finish (+100)Fallica: Reed has been a staple on the leaderboard in majors, posting six straight top-20s with three top-10s in that span. That doesn't even take his great 2017-18 into account with a win, runner-up and T-4 finish. This guy shows up for every big tourney, grinds and makes big putts. Oh, he also won at Torrey Pines earlier this year.
Tony Finau top-10 finish (+225), top-20 finish (-110)Bearman: It wouldn't be a picks column without a Finau top-10 play. The guy hasn't won since 2016, as documented weekly, but his 39 top-10s over that time is third most on tour. That's twice as many as any other player without a win, for what it's worth. More importantly, he has five top-10s in the past six majors -- two more than anyone else. His metrics scream at you: sixth in tee to green, 13th in total shots gained, 12th on approach, seventh around the green, but he's also 133rd in putting and 162nd in accuracy, which is all I needed to not pick him to end the five-year drought. He has been great on this course, with a runner-up this year to Reed as well as two other top-6 finishes. His 21-under total on the South Course is second to Rahm. I expect him to be right there on Sunday and just hope he holds up to cash the top-10.
Abraham Ancer top-10 finish (+300), top-20 finish (+138)Fallica: He's about as balanced of a player as there is on tour -- top 25 in strokes gained off the tee and strokes gained total. He is among the top 35 in strokes gained on approach and tee to green and is third in driving accuracy, 12th in greens in regulation and fourth in scrambling from the rough. All of the ingredients for a successful week are there. He has been in the top 15 in two of the past three majors, hasn't been worse than 18th in his past five tour events, and I'd expect him to play well again this week.
Collin Morikawa top-20 finish (+100)Marks: If it wasn't for his subpar putting, I'd have Morikawa winning this event. He is one of the best iron players in the game and is first in strokes gained tee to green this season. Morikawa is 12th in driving accuracy, 15th in total driving and first in greens in regulations this season.
Paul Casey top-20 finish (+138)
Marks: Casey always brings his A-game to big tournaments, finishing in the top five in both the PGA Championship and the Players this season, and he has almost a dozen top-10 finishes in his major appearances. Casey ranks fifth in total driving and is top 40 in both driving distance and scrambling this season. I also have Casey over Matthew Fitzpatrick (-110 at DK).
Abraham Ancer top-20 finish (+138)Marks: Ancer's game is so dialed in this season that, if he can bring it all together, he is due for a win. His metrics scream top 20; he is third in driving accuracy, 13th in greens in regulations, second in bogey avoidance and seventh in scrambling this season.
Webb Simpson top-20 finish (+188)Marks: Simpson is one of my favorite players this week, and to get him at +188 to finish in the top 20 is my favorite bet heading into Thursday. He is eighth in driving accuracy, 20th in total driving, 13th in greens in regulations and first in scrambling this season. I also have Simpson over Daniel Berger (-110 at DK).
Adam Scott top-20 finish (+275)Bearman: One of the few guys who was around back in 2008, Scott finished a respectable T-26. In his two appearances at the Farmers Open here, he has a runner-up and T-10, which occurred this past January. Unfortunately for the Aussie, it's his only top-10 of the season, so I am not playing much more than a top-20 and some matchups. He does have three career top-10s at U.S. Opens.
Charley Hoffman top-20 finish (+300)Bearman: I would love to see the 44-year-old win his first major here in his hometown, but that's not likely going to happen. However, he has played this course 22 times, more than anyone else in the field. He has mixed results, but he was T-9 last year before having to withdraw this past January. Hoffman hasn't had overwhelming results in majors, with only two top-10s, but he has finished in the top 25 in eight of his 34 major appearances and made the cut in six of seven U.S. Opens. I'm more impressed with him being sixth on approach, 17th tee to green and 18th in strokes gained overall -- all good metrics for a course he is very familiar with. Before a disastrous third-round 80 at the Memorial a few weeks back, Hoffman had recorded six consecutive top-20 finishes on tour, which this week would net us three times our money.
Jordan Spieth to miss cut (+240)Bearman: I know I am going to get hammered for this pick, but I am playing the history and odds here. In six career appearances at Torrey Pines, Spieth has three missed cuts, a T-55, T-35 and T-19. In 12 rounds at the South Course, Spieth has averaged a 73.1, breaking par only twice. And the course will be set up even harder for the U.S. Open. But it's a major, so he should be fine, right? He won the U.S. Open in 2015, more known for how DJ lost it. Since then, Spieth's U.S. Open results have been T-37, T-35, cut, T-65, cut. The national championship is usually set up on tight courses that require long, accurate drives to avoid thick rough and hard approach shots. Spieth is 120th on tour in shots gained off the tee, which combines distance (83rd) and accuracy (184th). That wasn't a typo; Spieth is 184th on tour in driving accuracy, which contributes to him being 106th in hitting greens. Not a recipe for this course. Can he win a second U.S. Open? Absolutely. But unless those driving numbers vastly improve, it'll be a short week for him.
Collin Morikawa (-105) over Spieth (-118)Bearman: I gave my "War and Peace" about Spieth above so, to me, this is an easy one. Morikawa is someone I was considering taking at 22-1 to win to begin with, as he is first on tour in approach, tee to green and in hitting greens. Spieth is not. The only thing stopping me from picking Morikawa to win is how short he is off the tee (125th) and his work on the greens (167th). Still, it's safe to play him vs. Spieth.
Fallica: It's hard to compete in golf tournaments when you miss the fairways and wind up in deep rough. Spieth likes to hit his tee shots in the rough. He has never played the South Course particularly well, and since the win at Chambers Bay he has been a nonfactor in the U.S. Open. I'd be fading Spieth in a lot of matchups this week and would look at him to miss the cut at +240.
Patrick Reed (-137) over Hideki Matsuyama (+110)Bearman: I have Reed winning this thing, so I have no issues laying 37 cents vs. Matsuyama. Since his Masters win, Matsuyama is T-39, T-23 and T-62. The victory lap is fun.
Fallica: Matsuyama has been a mixed bag at Torrey Pines and hasn't played very well since winning the Masters, with finishes of T-62, T-39 and T-23. Reed won here earlier in the year, and the U.S. Open is the type of major that fits his grinding ability.