It’s Torrey Pines this week, but not as we know it. The San Diego muni is the annual host of the Farmers Insurance Open and, as such, provides us with plenty of course form ahead of the 121st U.S. Open. But beware. The regular PGA Tour stop includes one lap of the North Course and the Open will spend all week on the South. Moreover, the U.S.G.A. set-up is as tough as you might expect and the track also plays faster in summer than in the middle of January. Other than that proviso? Enjoy. What’s not to like about a major championship with a Pacific Ocean backdrop? Perhaps the lack of Tiger Woods in the field, but no matter. We’ll always have 2008.
Torrey Pines (South Course)
The South Course at Torrey Pines was designed by William Bell Jr. and opened in 1957 but, like so many U.S. Open hosts, it was given a recent revamp by ‘Open Doctor’ Rees Jones, in Torrey’s case ahead of the 2008 championship. He’s also added a few more tweaks ahead of this week. An absolutely key feature is the grass on the greens. In theory they were changed to bent grass, but the poa annua keeps creeping through. The bumpiness this creates late in the day infuriates some golfers: beware fellows with long-term difficulties on Californian poa greens. It will play as a par 71 at 7,643 yards.
Another factor to bear in mind is the rather straight nature of the holes. It is not without doglegs, but they tend to be shallow. Perhaps this explains why the Farmers Insurance is famed for being vulnerable to big hitters – and Tony Finau is on record as saying his long fade is the perfect shape for the course. But also beware that Rocco Mediate (obviously, he very nearly bettered Tiger) and Miguel Angel Jimenez got in the mix in 2008 using veteran wiles and making the most of the fast-running, summer-hardened turf.
There’s another “course” element to consider: the Open moves around the world, but there are golfers who copes with the U.S.G.A. test, and others who don’t. It’s a long examination with (typically) gnarly rough. The 10 winners were all youthful (35 or under) and all had a top 25 in the championship before they won (six had a top 10). All 10 had also all played between one and eight championships: they knew what faced them, but they were not yet battered into submission by it.
The weather for San Diego, California is just about perfect. It will be occasionally cloudy through the practice days before breaking out into clear, sunny skies from Friday onwards. There’s little chance of rain and the temperatures will be in the high 70s, maybe hitting 80 on Saturday. Thursday’s wind will be SW and will move to WNW over the weekend, but it’s unlikely to be more than 10mph.
Past Champions in the U.S. Open
There was once a time when this championship was said to suit the short and the straight-hitters, but that is long past. Some seem to believe that Bryson DeChambeau was the first to execute a bomb and gouge policy yet accuracy from the tee has not been a factor for decades: players know it’s better to have a modern wedge in hand from the rough than a 6-iron from the fairway (and have also noted that short hittters often miss the narrowing fairways so you might as well miss high up the hole).
Woods claimed his first and probably last U.S. Open at Torrey Pines 13 years ago and he was succeeded by Lucas Glover before Irishman Graeme McDowell won at Pebble Beach, followed by Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy’s success at a damp Congressional.
Webb Simpson triumphed at the San Francisco Olympic Club in 2012 before Justin Rose negotiated his way around tight and tricky Merion, and then Martin Kaymer enjoyed the shaved run-offs at Pinehurst in 2014.
Since then, it has been non-stop home success. Jordan Spieth thrived at Chambers Bay in 2015, Dustin Johnson excelled at Oakmont a year later, then Brooks Koepka went back-to-back at Erins Hills and Shinnecock Hills. Gary Woodland bullied Pebble Beach before Bryson DeChambeau beat up Winged Foot. We will hope for an exciting tournament, but three of the above witnessed absolute field thrashings: McIlroy and Kaymer won by eight blows, DeChambeau by six.
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|E. Van Rooyen
Brooks Koepka ($10,100) Worried that he missed the cut last week? Don’t be. “I just have a harder time focusing in regular PGA Tour events,” he said afterward. “Majors, I’m locked in from the moment I hit the first tee shot. Even walking from the first tee shot to the ball, my head is still going on what I need to do. Out here I kind of lose focus for a little bit.” His last six U.S. Opens? Top 20 every time, winner twice, second last time he played it. The majors? 28 starts, 20 top 25 finishes. His last 14 starts in them? 10 top seven finishes, seven of them tied second or better. Koepka plays majors well. Very, very well.
Louis Oosthuizen ($8,100) The nearly man of major championship golf, with five second-placed finishes to sit alongside victory in the 2010 British Open. One of those came last time out at the PGA Championship and he can roll off that. He’s 8-for-11 in the U.S. Open and seven of those weekends reaped top 25 finishes. He’s also on a run of 19-for-20 so playing lots of golf when he needs to.
Shane Lowry ($7,600) The 2019 British Open champion left Kiawah Island rueing an inability to read the greens. “I delighted with the fourth,” he said. “But I was disappointed because it’s a tournament I could have won.” He added: “I’m playing the big events really well. I’m finding my A game or somewhere near my best in them I know what happens. You have tough runs, you deal with them.” He’s made the weekend in nine of his last 10 major starts and in five of his last six championship appearances. He also has three top 10s in his last four starts.
Stewart Cink ($7,200) Anything Rocco Mediate and Miguel Angel Jimenez can do, Stewart Cink can do too. He’s a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, he’s won the British Open on that tournament’s only cliff-top venue (Turnberry), and he’s made 12 U.S. Open top 40 finishes. True, not for a while, but he’s Cink 2.0.
Erik Van Rooyen ($6,700) The South African might be overlooked this week. His fellow South Africans, Garrick Higgo and Wilco Nienaber, are gaining the plaudits. Deservedly so, but it’s added pressure; EVR can fly under the radar. He’s 6-for-7 in the majors and he takes them seriously: he prepares. He lost his head recently, but it proved corrective and he bounced back with T–10 last week at Congaree.
Sergio Garcia ($7,500) There’s no value in the Spaniard’s price. A good week is possible. Of course it it. He’s a superb golfer and he has thrashed some low scores recently. But he’s also throwing in big numbers: he’s taken 75 or more blows to circuit the course in each of his last five tournaments. And he’s made only two cuts in his last 13 major championship starts. Two!
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Tony Finau ($8,900) In general I’m swerving big Farmers Insurance Open fans, but Big Tony gets a shot. He’s visited seven times and never ended the week outside the top 25; this year he was second. But his consistency goes deeper. He’s 17-for-20 in the majors, 10 of those 20 starts earned top 10s. In his 18 starts this season he has missed three cuts and made the top 40 every time he made a weekend. He’s stellar value.
Garrick Higgo ($7,200) How often have you seen a guy with three wins since the Masters ended available to buy at the U.S. Open for less than $7,500? How about, probably never? There’s absolutely no doubt his European Tour wins were on flimsy resort tracks against average fields, but he was superb when winning the Palmetto last week. He’s a future star, apparently unfazed by just about everything, and he has Gary Player to talk to for advice.
Charley Hoffman ($7,200) The Hoff is a local and will be desperate to show what he’s made of this week. He’s landed three top 10s in the Farmers, but has generally struggled in that week. However, as a local, he will know how the course plays in summer and his form is just wonderful: a run of 13 cuts made, eight of them ended with a top 20 finish.
Matthew Southgate ($6,200) At first glance it is easy to see a European Tour journeyman who is yet to win. But there’s a secret about Southgate: he loves the big occassion, he adores fast-running golf, and he plays well by the sea. He’s a member at Carnoustie, he’s finished T–12 and T–6 at the British Open, was second in the 2019 Dunhill Links Championship, and he’s in great nick, almost winning two weeks ago in the European Open.
Sahith Theegala ($6,400) Need a low wage? Like really low? Theegala might be your man. He’s been playing Torrey Pines since he was a kid – and winning there too. He logged four wins in college, and three were in his home state of California. He was a standout amateur star and he’s made six of seven cuts on the Korn Ferry Tour this season. It’s wild, but not without a little sense.
Bubba Watson ($7,400) The two-time Masters champ is a winner at Torrey Pines and does have six top 25 finishes there, but he hasn’t made a U.S. Open top 30 since 2009 and has only twice ended one of those week inside the top 50. Also, other than the Masters, he hasn’t made a major championship top 20 since 2012.
Tiger clearly had a stunning Torrey Pines record ahead of his victory in 2008, but that was not really the case elsewhere in the top 12 finishers. Brandt Snedeker loves the place as well and Carl Pettersson has been a Farmers runner-up, but the rest? Ordinary, verging on the awful, Farmers Insurance Open records. I won’t entirely discount Torrey form, but championship records are my go to.
Other Player Options For the U.S. Open
• Xander Schauffele has played four U.S. Opens and finished top six in all of them. Another local, he struggled in the Farmers, but was second there in January.
• Phil Mickelson thrilled everyone with victory in the PGA Championship and he dearly wants to win a U.S. Open after six times ended the week runner-up. But he confesses the changes to Torrey Pines have messed with his local knowledge (he’s another San Diego man) and he has a championship best of T–48 in his last five starts.
• Marc Leishman is a course form versus championship petri dish: he’s 11-for-13 at Torrey with two seconds and a win, but he has one top 25 (and that a mere T–18) in nine U.S. Open tilts.
COVID-19 and Injury Warning:
Pro DFS players know it makes sense to stay up-to-date on Twitter, DraftKings, FanDuel and-or subscribe to any number of email feeds and whatever to remain up to speed with injuries or COVID-19 withdraws. Players that don’t make the cut are tough enough. Players that don’t play all four rounds (even when pulling out at the last minute) make for a pretty weak lineup.
Go win your lineups and then tell us how you did. Twitter (@FantasyDFSX) is a good place for that.
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