2021 U.S. Open Primer: History, TV, Field, Odds

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson reacts to a tee shot on the 11th hole during the first round of the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 13, 2019 in Pebble Beach, CA. Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

The third major of 2021 is upon us, as the U.S. Open gets underway this week at Torrey Pines in San Diego, California.

The iconic public golf course, which sits on the coastal cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, will host its second U.S. Open championship.

A field comprised of the game’s biggest names, including home favorite Phil Mickelson, who enters off a sixth major championship at last month’s PGA, will be teeing it up at the William F. Bell-designed layout.

Lefty will be joined by a bevy of top-ranked stars including all of the top-10 (in order): Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, and Rory McIlroy.

Other familiar names who are considered serious threats include Webb Simpson, Daniel Berger, Viktor Hovland, Tony Finau, Hideki Matsuyama, Louis Oosthuizen, Scottie Scheffler, Matthew Fitzpatrick, and Tyrrell Hatton, among others.

U.S. Open Skinny

Name: United States Open Championship
Debut: 1895
Dates: June 17-20, 2021
Where: La Jolla, CA
Course: Torrey Pines GC
Distance: Par 71, 7698 yards
Architect: William F. Bell
Format: Stroke, 72-holes, 36-hole cut
Purse: $12,500,000
Winning Share: $2,250,000
Winner’s Pts FEC/OWGR: 600/100
Defending Champion: Bryson DeChambeau

How to Follow the U.S. Open

TELEVISION: Thu: 9:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Peacock), 12:30-7 p.m. (GOLF), 7-10 p.m. (NBC); Fri: 9:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (Peacock), 12:30-6 p.m. (GOLF), 6-9 p.m. (NBC); Sat: 8-11 a.m. (GOLF), 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (NBC); Sun: 10 a.m.-12 p.m. (GOLF), 12-8 p.m. (NBC);

LINKS: Website | Instagram | Facebook

U.S. Open History

Jack Nicklaus US Open
Jack Nicklaus at the microphone after winning the US Open Golf Championship held at the Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey on June 15, 1980. (Photo by Phil Sheldon/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

It is now one of, if not the, grandest show in golf, but at its beginning, the U.S. Open was just an ancillary tournament to the highly regarded U.S. Amateur.

That inaugural event occurred in 1895, making the U.S. Open the second oldest of the four majors, and was held at the opulent Newport Golf Club in Newport, R.I., the “in” summer hideaway of America’s wealthy and social elite at the time.

Played on Newport’s nine-hole course, the first U.S. Open was held in one day, with each of the 11 golfers in the field playing the course four times. Horace Rawlins, a 21-year-old from England, posted 91-82 to win the tournament by two strokes. He was awarded a $150 share of the $335 purse.

Over time, the tournament developed a reputation for being the most challenging event in golf, allowing it to draw in the best of the best.

Tiger Woods 2000 U.S. Open
Tiger Woods left the field in the dust at the 2000 U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach. (Photo By Pete Pappas USGA via Getty Images)

The U.S. Open boasts perhaps the most prestigious list of winners of any tournament. That list includes Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Brooks Koepka.

Hogan, Jones, Nicklaus, and Willie Anderson all share the tournament record for most wins with four apiece. Tiger and Hale Irwin are next with three victories, followed by two apiece by Alex Smith, John McDermott, Ralph Guldahl, Cary Middlecoff, Julius Boros, Billy Casper, Andy North, Curtis Strange, Ernie Els, Lee Janzen, Payne Stewart, Retief Goosen, Trevino, Hagen, Sarazen, and Koepka.

A testament to just how difficult the U.S. Open has played historically: In 120 editions of the tournament just four players have finished double-digits under par, Tiger Woods (-12) at Pebble Beach in 2000, Rory McIlroy (-16) at Congressional Country Club in 2011, Brooks Koepka (-16) at Erin Hills in 2017, and Gary Woodland (-13) at Pebble Beach in 2019.

Even that 2000 event was brutal, as the two runner-ups, Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez, finished at 3-over, 15 strokes behind Tiger’s unforgettable one-man show.

U.S. Open History: Recent Winners

2020: Bryson DeChambeau (-6)
2019: Gary Woodland (-13)
2018: Brooks Koepka (+1)
2017: Brooks Koepka (-16)
2016: Dustin Johnson (-4)
2015: Jordan Spieth (-5)
2014: Martin Kaymer (-9)
2013: Justin Rose (+1)
2012: Webb Simpson (+1)
2011: Rory McIlroy (-16)

U.S. Open History: Records

(268) – Rory McIlroy (2011)
(-16) – Rory McIlroy (2011), Brooks Koepka (2017)

(4) – Ben Hogan (1948, 1950, 1951, 1953)
(4) – Bobby Jones (1923, 1926, 1929-30)
(4) – Jack Nicklaus (1962, 1967, 1972, 1980)
(4) – Willie Anderson (1901, 1903-05)
(3) – Tiger Woods (2000, 2002, 2008)
(3) – Hale Irwin (1974, 1979, 1990)

2020 U.S. Open Lookback

Bryson DeChambeau Wins 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot
Bryson DeChambeau walks past a leaderboard on his way to the 17th green during the final round of the 120th U.S. Open Championship on September 19, 2020 at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Bryson DeChambeau was absolutely brilliant over the four days of the U.S. Open, winning his first major by six strokes over U.S. Open rookie Matthew Wolff.

DeChambeau shot a final-round 3-under 67, the only under-par round in the Sunday field. He was also the only player to finish under par: he was 6-under, 11 strokes better than the winning score the last time the event was held at Winged Foot.

The SMU product from California got into contention at Winged Foot immediately with an opening round of 1-under 69. He was a stroke better on Friday, finishing with an eagle. An even-par third round had him as one of just three players going into Sunday under par.

He was at 3-under, two strokes back of the 21-year-old Wolff, who nabbed most of the Saturday headlines. His Sunday 67 meant four rounds of even-par or better. Nobody else had more than two.

Final Top 5: 2020 U.S. Open

Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Bryson DeChambeau -6 (-3)
2. Matthew Wolff E (+5)
3. Louis Oosthuizen +2 (+3)
4. Harris English +3 (+3)
5. Xander Schauffele +4 (+4)

The Course: Torrey Pines

Jimmy Walker hits a shot during the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines GC in La Jolla, CA. Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Torrey Pines Golf Course is a 36-hole municipal public golf facility owned by the city of San Diego, California. It sits on the coastal cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the community of La Jolla, just south of Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Opened in 1957, it was built on the site of Camp Callan, a U.S. Army installation during World War II.

Torrey Pines has two 18-hole golf courses, North and South, both designed by William F. Bell (son of noted course architect William P. Bell). The South Course was redesigned by Rees Jones in 2001, and is now 7,802 yards in length from the back tees with par at 72. For the U.S. Open the course will play to a par 71 stretching 7,698 yards.

The North Course was redesigned by Tom Weiskopf in 2016, switching the front nine with the back nine so that the famous ocean views are now enjoyed by golfers finishing their rounds.

Since the late 1960s, Torrey Pines has annually hosted a PGA Tour stop (currently the Farmers Insurance Open). Contested in January or February, the tournament uses both courses for the first two rounds and the South Course for the final two rounds.

Tiger Woods 2008 US Open
Tiger Woods birdies the 18th hole and celebrates to send it to a playoff round against Rocco Mediate during the final round of the US Open Championship at Torrey Pines South in San Diego, CA. (Photo by Charles Baus Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Torrey Pines hosted the 2008 U.S. Open on the South Course, won by Tiger Woods in sudden-death.

Woods won this U.S. Open over Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole Monday playoff. After completing the 18-hole playoff on the South Course tied at even par 71, they went to sudden-death on the 91st hole, played on the par-4 7th hole. Mediate had trouble off of the tee and made bogey, while Woods made par to gain his third U.S. Open and 14th career major title, which put him just four behind Jack Nicklaus at the time. He birdied the final hole on Sunday to force the playoff and again on Monday to extend it.

Woods, then 32, won while playing with a stress fracture and torn ACL. This would be his last major title until his 2019 Masters victory.

The course is named for the Torrey Pine, a rare tree that grows in the wild only along this local stretch of the coastline in San Diego County and on Santa Rosa Island. The logo features a salt pruned representation of the tree.

The Course Skinny

Name: Torrey Pines Golf Course
Course: South Course
Established: 1957
Where: La Jolla, CA
Owner/Operator: City of San Diego
Architect: William F. Bell (1957)
Redesigner: Rees Jones (2001)
Par: 35-36-71
Yards: 7,698
Par 3s: 4 (3, 8, 11, 16)
Par 5s: 3 (9, 13, 18)
Par 4s: 11

U.S. Open Field

Dustin Johnson Justin Thomas
Dustin Johnson reacts to his putt as Justin Thomas looks on during the first round of The Northern Trust on Aug 23, 2018 at the Ridgewood Championship Course in Ridgewood, NJ. (Photo by Gregory Shamus via Getty Images)

Who plans to seize the moment this week?

More than any other time in recent history, there is no clear favorite, as many of the top-ranked names all enter with some kind of question mark.

World Nos. 1 and 2, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, have struggled for much of the season. The top-ranked pair are still listed as top-10 betting favorites yet have not posted a single top-10 finish between them since March and enter in relatively poor form.

Of course, there’s Jon Rahm, who is easily the best player in the world without a major title. The 26-year old Spaniard enters as the world No. 3, and in solid form having built a six-shot lead after 54 holes at the Memorial only to be DQ’d with a positive COVID test.

Xander Schauffele continues to shine on the big stage, and is considered (behind Rahm) as the second best without a major. The 27-year old San Diego native would be one of the least surprising winners this week.

Collin Morikawa
Collin Morikawa tees off on the second hole as Patrick Cantlay looks on during the final round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club on June 6, 2021 in Dublin, Ohio. (Photo by Chris Condon PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Collin Morikawa is a 2020 major winner and is also considered a top-betting favorite. The 24-year old is probably in the best form of the top-ranked names. The Cal-Berkeley product enters off five straight top-20s – three of which were top-10s, highlighted by a playoff loss to Patrick Cantlay at the Memorial.

Speaking of Cantlay – he’s another top player in questionable form despite a recent big win. Before his victory at Muirfield Village, the UCLA alum had not posted a top-10 since mid February, and had missed four cuts in his previous six starts. Still, as a world-class player, a win will surely give him the confidence to contend for his first major.

Patrick Reed is ranked No. 9 in the world, and has enjoyed a solid season. Yet the 30-year old enters totally under the radar, having posted three top-8s in his last six starts as well as a T17 finish at the PGA.

Rory McIlroy is another question mark. He famously broke his winless streak in early May but then failed to contend at either the PGA (T49) or the Memorial (T18).

One player we shouldn’t worry about regarding form is Brooks Koepka. His PGA Tour results are almost meaningless when it comes to gauging preparedness for a major. He simply has no desire to battle it out for the xyz insurance championship or the acme mortgage classic. He’s almost guaranteed a top spot on the leaderboard come the weekend.

With all that said, so many eyes will be focused on home favorite Phil Mickelson.

Phil Mickelson Wins 2021 PGA Championship
Phil Mickelson raises his arms and celebrates his two stroke victory on the 18th hole green during the final round of the PGA Championship on The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort on May 23, 2021, in Kiawah Island, SC. (Photo by Keyur Khamar PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Could his home course be the one that finally rewards Phil with the missing piece to a career grand slam? Most fans are familiar with the fact that he’s finished in second place an excruciating six times in previous national Opens. But the 45-time tour winner enters off his most unlikeliest of wins yet: a sixth career major at the PGA.

Can Phil, who will turn 51 on June 16 – the day before the opening round, make it two straight majors and write the ultimate storybook ending to an historic career? Not many fans would argue with that storyline.

Finally. What about defending champion Bryson DeChambeau? After a win at Bay Hill, followed by a T3 at Sawgrass, the big bomber has mostly struggled (T42, T46, T9, T55, T38, T18) – even his top-10 was after he’d thought he missed the cut at the Wells Fargo. Ranked No. 5 in the world, with confidence that is never lacking, DeChambeau has the talent to easily bounce back this week.

U.S. Open Odds To Win

Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas TOUR Championship
Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas get ready to hit on the 6th tee box during the final round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on Sep 7, 2020 in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Jon Rahm (11-1) is the slight favorite to win his first career major trophy. The Spaniard is favored just ahead of Dustin Johnson (13-1), who will be seeking his second U.S. Open title.

Major savant Brooks Koepka is offered at 15-1 along with his rival Bryson DeChambeau, the defending champion.

A resurgent Jordan Spieth rounds out the top-5 favorites at 16-1.

Rory McIlroy (17-1), Collin Morikawa (18-1), Justin Thomas (18-1), and Xander Schauffele (18-1) were the only other players with odds better than 20-1.

Top-5 Betting Favorites

1. Jon Rahm (11-1)
2. Dustin Johnson (13-1)
3. Brooks Koepka (15-1)
3. Bryson DeChambeau (15-1)
5. Jordan Spieth (16-1)

Credits: Carey Hoffman, Joel Cook, USGA, Getty Images, PGA Tour Media


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