U.S. Open 2021 – What to Look Out For

Published on 03/14/2023 · 7 min readGolf expert Luke H. overviews the tournament's favorite golfers, the featured groups to watch, and the holes that will ultimately decide the winner.
Luke H., Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Luke H.

Photo by Ben Grey

The 121st U.S. Open Golf Championship is being held this week at a course that you can play in San Diego, CA. Torrey Pines is an annual PGA Tour stop in San Diego, and, home to the Farmers Insurance Open, it is a municipal golf course run by the community of La Jolla. This is the second time that Torrey has played host to the USGA’s crown jewel golf tournament – The U.S. Open.

The last time the tournament was held here, we had one of Tiger Wood’s greatest moments ever. He made a putt on the 72nd hole to force a Monday playoff with Rocco Mediate and went on to win his third U.S. Open with, essentially, a broken leg. The next week, he would go into surgery, which concluded his 2008 season. Sadly after Tiger’s car crash earlier this year, he won’t be playing this week to defend his win 13 years ago at the course he grew up on.

A Look at Some of this Week’s Favorites

Jon Rahm

There have been so many remarkable storylines this year on the PGA Tour and some unfortunate ones as well. Probably the most tragic was Jon Rahm finding out after his 3rd round at the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago that he had tested positive for asymptomatic COVID and was forced to withdraw. Rahm was holding a 6-stroke lead over the rest of the field and well on his way to defending his 2019 victory at the Memorial Tournament. Not only would he have been only the 2nd golfer (since Tiger in 2000) to win back-to-back tournaments at the Memorial, but Rahm also missed out on the winner’s purse of $1.6 million—ouch.

That is why I have Rahm firmly situated as the number 1 pick for this week’s U.S. Open. He has won the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines before and routinely plays well in that event every January. He has also had a strong spring and solid finishes in the previous 2021 majors (Tie for 8th at The PGA Championship and Tie for 5th at The Masters Tournament). Vegas agrees with me and has Rahm at 10-1 odds for this week.

Phil Mickelson

One other notable golfer to watch out for this week is Phil! The oldest Major Champion in history is one U.S. Open win away from becoming the 5th golfer ever to win the Career Grand Slam. Torrey Pines was his home course as a kid, and he is obviously playing great golf after his win last month at Kiawah Island. Phil has more 2nd place finishes in the U.S. Open (six) than any other golfer, could this be the week he breaks through?

According to Vegas...

It would seem that, outside of Rahm, the oddsmakers really have no clue as to who to pick for this week’s event.

  • Dustin Johnson (16/1)
  • Bryson DeChambeau – the defending 2020 U.S. Open champion (18/1)
  • Brooks Koepka (18/1)
  • Rory McIlroy (20/1)
  • Jordan Spieth (20/1)
  • Xander Schauffele (20/1)
  • Justin Thomas (22/1)
  • Collin Morikawa (22/1)
  • Patrick Cantlay (25/1)
  • Viktor Hovland (25/1)
  • Patrick Reed (25/1)
  • Tony Finau (25/1)

As you can see, there’s not a lot of separation amongst the world’s best golfers. I think besides Rahm, there really is no clear-cut favorite.

I also expect the course to be extremely demanding. Check out the video from Callaway Golf of Xander Schauffele playing from the greenside rough...brutal! Mike Davis, who is the head of the USGA and the person most responsible for the U.S. Open course set, is on his way out. He will be retiring from the USGA this coming October to pursue his dream of designing and developing courses. He has had some questionable course setups over the years and driven course conditions into forcing some questionable outcomes (Chamber’s Bay anyone?). I fully expect Mr. Davis to put together a memorable course layout as he prepares to walk into the proverbially USGA sunset.

Course Preview

Photo by Yuki Shimazu

Speaking of the course, the USGA has a great hole-by-hole walk-through of Torrey Pines. Here are some of the holes that I think will decide this Championship.

Hole 3 South Course – Par 3, 195 yards

This is probably the most scenic hole on the course since it plays straight out towards the Pacific Ocean. Depending on the day and where the tee boxes are set up, players could hit as little as a pitching wedge or as much as a 5-iron into this green. Don’t be long though, there isn’t much between the green and the cliffside!

Flyover Video

Hole 9 South Course – Par 5, 609 Yards

Bombs Away! Straight and narrow par 5 here. This is the longest hole on the course, only the longest players will be able to take a crack at going for this green in two. Some players will have to tee off with a 3-wood to position themselves favorably to be short of the bunker that runs across the middle of the fairway.

Flyover Video

Hole 14 South Course – Par 4, 434 Yards

Another picturesque hole, this par 4 runs alongside the ocean with La Jolla Canyon extending along the entire length of the hole on the left. Sunday’s pin location is sure to be tucked back-right. Players near the lead will need to play aggressively on this hole, but again, like the Par 3 3rd hole, shots long and left will be penalized as there is essentially no room between the green and the canyon.

Flyover Video

Hole 18 South Course – Par 5, 568 Yards

There are sure to be fireworks on the 72nd hole come Sunday, just like Tiger’s putt on this green in 2008. A great finishing hole, this medium length par 5 has a strategically positioned pond just short and left of the green. If you’re down by a shot on the final hole of the championship, do you play for the win and go for the green in two or play for the tie and lay up short of the pond? History WILL be made here come Sunday.

Flyover Video

Keep an Eye Out

Here are some featured groups to pay attention to during the first two rounds (Thursday and Friday).

7:29 am — Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, and Brooks Koepka

  • 6 Major Championships in one group. Justin Thomas is due for another big win, Collin Morikawa is one of the best ball strikers in the world, and of course, Koepka is always in the mix at a major.

7:51 AM — Max Homa, Xander Schauffele, Phil Mickelson

  • 3 Southern California natives and all 3 have played this course extensively. Xander is due for a breakout win and Homa has been having an awesome season–including a win just up the road in Los Angeles Riviera earlier this year. Like I mentioned earlier, Phil just won his 6th major. Can he finish the career grand slam?

1:25 PM — Will Zalatoris, Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth

  • Some of the best young players that America has to offer right now. Jordan Spieth is arguably having the best season of anyone on tour; he won this event in 2015 and has the background and know-how to close out major championships. Will Zalatoris almost won the Masters as a rookie and Scottie Scheffler has two wins to his name this season.

How to Watch

Here is the network coverage and places to follow the action all week long (You can sign up for a trial version of NBC’s streaming service Peacock for free this week just for the U.S. Open).

Television (all times Eastern)

Thursday

  • 7:45 am - 10:30 am (Peacock)
  • 10:30 am - 5 pm (Golf Channel)
  • 5 pm - 8 pm (NBC)
  • 8 pm - 9 pm (Peacock)

Friday

  • 7:45 am - 10:30 am (Peacock)
  • 10:30 am - 4 pm (Golf Channel)
  • 4 pm - 7 pm (NBC)
  • 7 pm - 8 pm (Golf Channel)
  • 8 pm - 9 pm (Peacock)

Saturday

  • 11 am - 9 pm (NBC)

Sunday

  • 10 am - 12 pm (Golf Channel)
  • 12 am - 8 pm (NBC)

Radio (SiriusXM 92)

Thursday

  • 5 pm - 10 pm

Friday

  • 5 pm - 10 pm

Saturday

  • 4 pm - 9 pm

Sunday

  • 3 pm - 8 pm

Stay tuned for our post-tournament coverage and, of course, if you need any help gearing up your own golf bag to play like the pros this week, then make sure to hit me or any of my fellow Golf experts up here on Curated! We are here to help!

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