The US Open will return to Torrey Pines in June for the first time since Tiger Woods' playoff success in 2008 and Steve Rawlings' is back with his early thoughts on the third major of 2021 here...
"In addition to winning this event seven years ago, Rose has another four top-tens in the US Open, including a tied third in 2019 at another coastal Californian track, Pebble Beach, and he’s already a course winner at Torrey Pines."
The 2021 US Open
South Course, Torrey Pines, California
All four days live on Sky Sports
The 2021 US Open will be staged at a very familiar venue - the South Course at Torrey Pines in California. Torrey Pines has hosted the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour each January for more than 50 years - although all the competitors in that event also play their first or second round around the North Course.
The South Course at Torrey Pines also hosted the memorable 2008 US Open when Tiger Woods beat Rocco Mediate in the championship's last ever 18-hole playoff. The pair were the only two to finish the week under par (-1) and Lee Westwood finished alone in third, one behind the playoff protagonists and two strokes ahead of Robert Karlsson and DJ Trahan.
Playing just months after arthroscopic knee surgery, Woods had looked more likely to withdraw than he had to win as he struggled on in obvious pain with what transpired to be a stress fractures in his left leg and just nine days after the win, he was back under the knife to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
No moment encapsulates Woods' incredible will to win than his birdie putt on the 72nd hole to tie Mediate and it's one that's well worth revisiting.
Given he had already won six times at Torrey Pines, Woods winning the US Open there wasn't a surprise and the obvious place to start is the Farmers Insurance Open but I'm not convinced we can give the form in that event too much credence. The last four editions have all been won with a double-digit under-par total and Justin Rose won the 2019 edition in 21-under-under! Marc Leishman won the 2020 edition back in January in -15 and that was after Rees Jones had been back to toughen up the course again ahead of this event.
There's a big difference between how the course plays in January to how it plays in June and the USGA always set their US Open venues up tough. The South Course is traditionally a par 72 but in 2008 they played the long sixth hole as a par four, reducing the overall par to 71, and we can probably expect much the same in June 2021 as we experienced in 2008.
Length off the tee has always been fairly important at the Farmers Insurance Open but short hitters can and do win the event and after the last lot of changes, Leishman won in January ranking only 34th for Driving Distance. Course-specialist, Brandt Snedeker, finished third ranking 73rd for DD and Tom Hoge finished fifth ranking 61st and it was a similar tale at the US Open in 2008. Only Dustin Johnson, who finished way back in a tie for 48th, hit it further than Tiger but Mediate only ranked 61st for DD and the average DD ranking of the top-nine and ties was a lofty 36.46.
I certainly wouldn't ignore form at the Farmers but it's well worth noting that Mediate had a poor South Course portfolio going into the event in 2008 and except for Carl Pettersson, who had finished second on debut back in 2003, the other players in the top-eight places either had poor or no previous form at Torrey Pines.
Tiger had won a couple of US Opens previously and both Mediate and Westwood had been placed in a couple of US Opens so if 2008 is anything to go by, previous US Open form is going to be a better pointer than previous course form.
The most recent major played in California was this year's US PGA Championship at Harding Park and that could be a good angle in too. It was noticeable how many Californians contended that week and I suspect the locals could figure again here. Those that have only played Torrey Pines in January in the Farmers Insurance Open are going to be at a disadvantage to those that grew up in the state playing Torrey in all conditions, as well as other coastal Californian tracks (like Harding Park) and two of my fancies fared well in that event when backed at 25.024/1 and 300.0299/1 respectively - Xander Schauffele and Cameron Champ. I like both of those here too.
He's never played well in the Farmers here but Schauffele has an excellent US Open record and the big-hitting Champ, has already won the Safeway Open in his home state. I've put bets in at 22.021/1 and 200.0199/1 respectively on that pair and I'm also trying to back the 2013 US Open winner, Justin Rose at 70.069/1, who despite being out of form, finished ninth at Harding Park in August.
In addition to winning this event seven years ago, Rose has another four top-tens in the US Open, including a tied third in 2019 at another coastal Californian track, Pebble Beach, and he's already a course winner at Torrey Pines. He missed the cut here in the 2008 US Open but the damage was done in round one when he shot 79. His 72 on Friday was competitive enough and if he's in any sort of form come June, I expect him to contend.
I'm happy to leave those wagers in and see if they get matched on the exchange as the market matures but I have struck one bet on the Sportsbook, on recent European Tour winner, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, at an industry-wide best of 200/1.
I've long since held the opinion that he has a strong enough game and the correct temperament to win a major championship so given he's just won back-to-back on the European Tour, 200/1 is a cracking price for the world number 34.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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