After the unusual site of a US Open being played in September last year, the tournament returns to its traditional June slot in 2021
Torrey Pines South - set on the spectacular Californian coastline - plays host again and it's a familiar venue.
Regular golf punters know it well due to the venue's annual hosting of the Farmers Insurance Open. Those who only get involved in majors may recall that it was the scene of one of the most memorable US Opens in history when Tiger Woods won there virtually on one leg in 2008, beating Rocco Mediate in an 18-hole Monday playoff. More on that tournament later.
The annual US Open media day was held back in late April when, as usual, the defending champion was put in front of the media.
This time it was Bryson DeChambeau answering the questions following his brilliant victory at Winged Foot in 2020.
So what did we glean? For starters, he wasted no time in recalling Tiger's win while also noting his own early history at the course.
"Well, first off, it's an honour to be the defending champion," said DeChambeau. "And second, I love Torrey Pines. I played Junior Worlds, and ever since I played Junior Worlds I've loved that golf course.
"One of the most impressive things that I remember is the fact that Tiger, being Tiger, having fractured a leg and all that, literally still going after it and playing the full 72 holes and then going out and playing another 18 holes after that.
"It's inspired me to almost say, hey, if he can win off a broken leg pretty much, what can I do if I work hard. It's inspired me to a whole other level."
DeChambeau's PR guff mode was quickly halted by a rather abrupt opening statement from a press member.
Q: This course has not been terribly kind to you, at least recently, missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open in 2017 and 2018. But what we learned back in 2008 you can be successful in the US Open Championship having not been successful in the Farmers.
DeChambeau babbled something about finishing second in the World Junior and that his game wasn't right in 2017 and 2018.
But he did make this valid point. "Look, the golf course will play completely different when the US Open comes around. The golf course is going to be really firm, fast, long enough, I'm sure, and I think that the Farmers plays a little bit different."
Let's got back to that 2008 US Open and look at how the top finishers had fared at the course in past Farmers Insurance Opens and also how they performed in subsequent years.
Tiger had an amazing course record at Torrey Pines but how about everyone else?
(Form at Torrey Pines. Finish in 2008 US Open is bolded up)
Rocco Mediate 54-57-MC-2-48-MC-MC-WD
Lee Westwood MC-3-47
Robert Karlsson 4-68
DJ Trahan 42-MC-MC-4-MC-MC
Miguel Angel Jimenez MC-MC-6
John Merrick 60-6-MC-MC-33-MC-47-MC
Carl Pettersson 2-MC-30-43-MC-19-6-50-MC-77-49-MC
Eric Axley MC-MC-MC-9-WD-MC
Geoff Ogilvy 67-MC-MC-MC-9-50-MC-MC-MC-MC-MC
Heath Slocum 70-37-9-MC-MC
Brandt Snedeker 3-MC-9-42-2-9-1-2-MC-19-1-9-45-62-3-32
Camilo Villegas MC-MC-13-9-3-44-22-MC-MC-27-MC-54-77-WD
Not a lot needs to be said! Most of the top 10 at the 2008 US Open had poor/dreadful course records or went on to have lousy form at the track. If evidence were needed that the course plays differently in June, this is it.
2021 US Open facts
When: June 17-20
Where: Torrey Pines, San Diego, California
The Course: Torrey Pines (South), Par 71, 7,643 yards
Total Prize Money: $12.5 million
Winner Prize Money: $2.25 million
How to watch: All four days on Sky Sports. Get ready for some weird sleep patterns as California is eight hours behind the UK.
Torrey Pines (South)
The South stages all four days, unlike the Farmers Insurance which takes in one lap of the easier North. The South was originally designed by William Bell, Sr in 1957 but has been renovated and redesigned by Rees Jones (2001 and 2019).
Fairways: Kikuyu overseeded with Rye
Greens: Bentgrass with Poa Annua
Waters hazards: 1 (in front of the 18th)
Torrey Pines South - What They Say
Quotes from the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open
Justin Rose: "I think second shot-wise this is a really key golf course. It's well bunkered, you've got those little sort of tongues where they can stick the pins. You have to be smart with your iron play, strategising the second shot. There are certain times you can use the slope and other times you want to be putting up the hill."
Jason Day: "It's so demanding on the driver, you have to get yourself in position. If you're not and with how the greens are starting to bounce, it's very difficult to get yourself back into position leaving yourself in the right spot to get up and down."
Quotes ahead of the 2008 US Open
Pat Perez: "I used to work at this golf course, I started when I was 13 and worked all the way through high school. The greens are going to be so much harder than anyone is ever used to here."
Sergio Garcia: "Obviously it's a US Open so it's going to be a little bit different, some of the fairways are probably a little bit narrower, and the rough obviously is going to be a little bit thicker. But we're playing at a different time in the year. We play early in the season, it's usually never too dry, always seems to be a little bit wet and the greens soft and stuff. It's definitely going to be playing different."
Bart Bryant "I think the fairways are going to be firm enough that a guy who hits the ball straight, keeps it down, gets it running is going to be able to play this course well. In fact, it sounds really strange, but it almost reminds me a little bit of a British Open in the fact that you can get the ball and keep it rolling, and they're going to shave the front of these greens and there are some places where you can run the ball on the green. I think a lot of guys are going to be in the mix. I don't think it's just going to be the big hitters."
Bryant's comments are interesting as runner-up Mediate was a short hitter, as was Jimenez, who posted tied sixth. Tiger was a lengthy driver back then but the leaderboard had a mix of long, medium and short hitters.
No stat really stood out in 2008 although five of those who finished tied sixth or better were ranked in the top six on the All-Around. As with so many US Opens, "do everything well" is a good mantra.
Current betting and storylines
There's a feeling that this year's event is completely wide open.
Jon Rahm helped by sensational course form of 1-29-5-2-7, Rahm is the clear favourite at 13.012/1 but his preparations have suffered a double blow. Being forced to withdraw from Memorial due to a positive COVID test when six clear with 18 to play hurt him in the pocket but also meant he has to isolate until June 15, just two days before the tournament starts. It's a complication he didn't need as he chases a first major.
Brooks Koepka has been the man for the majors in recent years and many will be happy to pull the trigger at 16.015/1. He's streets ahead of everyone else in terms of scoring in the majors since winning the first of his back-to-back US Opens in 2017 and almost added a fifth trophy at this level before finishing runner-up to Phil Mickelson in the US PGA at Kiawah Island. Course form of 41-MC-MC seems a negative although Farmers Insurance results, as we've seen, can mean very little.
Jordan Spieth has three missed cuts and nothing better than T19 in six visits to Torrey Pines but, once more, how important really is that? He's another man for the majors and will be seeking a second US Open after winning at another West Coast venue, Chambers Bay, in 2015. He's also been one of the PGA Tour's form players over the last few months so is sure to attract money at 18.017/1.
Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau will be very aware that his (cartoon?) arch enemy Koepka won back-to-back US Opens but recent form doesn't inspire confidence. He's hitting too many wild shots and it seems unlikely his bomb and gouge tactics at Winged Foot will work as well out of the Kikuyu at Torrey Pines. He's a drifting 19.018/1.
World No.1 Dustin Johnson continues to be way below his best and has a patchy course record too. He finished T48 in that 2008 US Open although is obviously a far better player now. However, his lacklustre recent efforts make him only joint-fourth favourite at 19.018/1; an in-form DJ would surely top the betting.
There's a host of top talent at 20/1 or above.
That includes Rory McIlroy (5-3-16 at Torrey Pines), Justin Thomas (10-MC), both at 22.021/1, local man Xander Schauffele (runner-up in this year's Farmers) at 23.022/1 and January's Farmers winner Patrick Reed at 34.033/1.