Dave Tindall assesses the mood of the players and arms you with the stats that matter for a punt on the Top 5 and Top 10 Finish markets ahead of the 2021 US Open...
"He gained 5.380 strokes on the greens at Memorial and when you put that with his SG: Tee To Green numbers (top five in each of his last four starts), he looks an obvious challenger."
Jon Rahm - Spaniard looking to avenge Memorial blow on course he loves
Rahm had to isolate after his untimely positive Covid test and forced withdrawal when six shots clear with a round to play at Memorial. But he's still had enough build-up. "I played the back nine yesterday," he revealed on Tuesday. "I'll play the front nine today. But it's not a golf course that I haven't played before; that's the good news about it. Tee to green, it doesn't change.
"A little bit more relaxed around here, just trying to get the touch around the greens, feel the speed of the greens, the firmness of the greens, and the thickness of the rough, which it is a little bit more severe than we're used to playing early in the year. Overall, happy to be here and comfortable."
Torrey Pines was the scene of his first PGA Tour win in 2017 and he's played it extremely well since. The difference between the Farmers Insurance and January? "How firm the greens are. When we play early in the year, usually you can hit anything at the pin. It's going to land and stop wherever it lands. With this firmness, I don't think it's going to happen."
Last four events: WD-8-34-MC
Course form: 7-2-5-29-1
Last 50 starts - Win: 10%, Top 5: 32%, Top 10: 56%
Dustin Johnson - DJ has one of best US Open records in the field
DJ had been in something of a slump ahead of last week's Palmetto Championship, failing to register a top 10 since February and missing the cut in both the US Masters and the US PGA. He finally ended that with a tied 10th which threatened to be much better.
He was talking a good game last week. "I'm swinging well, I've got a lot of confidence in everything I'm doing. Still in a really good spot going into the weekend. I'm driving it well, which is a big key. I got a new driver in this week, playing a SIM2 with an LA Golf shaft. I'm driving it really well, hitting the shots I want to hit."
The main problem has been the putter so he would have been heartened to gain 2.045 strokes on the field with the flatstick. His Torrey Pines record is spotty but Johnson has a superb US Open record, registering five top 10s in the last seven editions and four of those are top fives.
Last four events: 10-MC-48-13
Course form: MC-18-MC-51-43-3-MC-19-48-37
Last 50 starts - Win: 12%, Top 5: 30%, Top 10: 44%
Bryson DeChambeau - Defending champ will take similar approach
DeChambeau won at Winged Foot last year but will Torrey Pines yield to the same tactics? Here's what he said on Tuesday: "I feel like it's a little bit similar to Winged Foot, albeit the grass and the rough is a little thicker. It's a different type of grass (kikuyu), so you can't get through it as easily. For the most part, I'm going to be trying to bomb it as much as possible and try to gouge it out when I don't hit it in the fairway."
As for the state of his game compared to last year and when he won at Bay Hill in March: "It's about in the same area. Hopefully, I worked on something today that I feel a lot more confident with. So hopefully, I'm a little bit in a better position than I was at Winged Foot and Arnold Palmer.
And the greens: "You've just got to putt well out here. These greens, I didn't grow up on poa annua, per se; I was in the central valley, played on perfect bent greens. Coming over to the west coast or the coastline, it was always a little more difficult with poa annua."
Last four events: 18-38-55-9
Course form: MC-MC
Last 50 starts - Win: 6%, Top 5: 22%, Top 10: 38%
Brooks Koepka - Double US Open champ deserves full respect
"Obviously, it was nice getting to play this course earlier in the year, just kind of have a refresher on it. I like the place, said Koepka, who managed just a single round after missing the cut. "It's obviously very difficult. The fairways are a lot firmer than what you're used to seeing in February or January, whenever we come.
"The rough's thick, so if you don't hit the fairways, you're going to be in trouble. It will be interesting to see. The greens are a little bit firmer. You've got to be a good ball striker and good putter around here. It will be a good test."
As for the knee which certainly didn't seem to be a problem when he finished runner-up in the US PGA at Kiawah Island: "It feels good. Every day is just getting better and better. I feel very comfortable on it. I can do everything I want to do, and I'm ready to play." As usual in a major, the double US Open champion deserves respect.
Last four events: MC-2-MC-MC
Course form: MC-MC-41
Last 50 starts - Win: 6%, Top 5: 26%, Top 10: 32%
Xander Schauffele - Local man has been prepping hard
The San Diego native has a brilliant US Open record - 5-3-6-5 - and now he gets to play one in his own back yard. He's also coming in showing plenty of good form after a third at the Masters and 11th at Memorial.
On Tuesday, he said: "Since I am local, I did spend the week here prior. I've played the course a lot. I played 64 holes last week starting on Wednesday. I played 18 Wednesday, 18 Thursday, 10 holes Friday, 18 Saturday. I'm trying to make this more of a local place for me.
"Obviously it's changing each and every night. Much firmer and faster greens today. Rough is getting longer each and every day, as well. With the heat wave coming through, I'm assuming the greens will get really firm, and just been preparing all last week and first couple days here. Overall if you look at the rough, it's sort of spotty. You can get either get a really, really bad lie or not that bad of a lie, almost a flier, which is kind of tricky to judge as well."
Last four events: 11-MC-14-3
Course form: 2-MC-25-MC-MC-MC
Last 50 starts - Win: 2%, Top 5: 26%, Top 10: 34%
Rory McIlroy - Northern Irishman expects very different Torrey Pines
This was Rory at the Memorial: "January's very different to June in San Diego. I don't think they're going to set the golf course up super differently in terms of fairway widths or anything like that. The rough is going to be a little thicker, I think the whole course is probably just going to be a little firmer. I don't think it's going to be miles away from what we see every year there."
If so, that's good news for the Northern Irishman as he's played the course well on his three visits, especially the first two when shooting in the 60s on both weekend rounds each time.
Rory bounced back to form with victory in the Wells Fargo Championship but hasn't done much in his last two starts, taking T49 at Kiawah and T18 at Memorial, failing to break 71 in any of those eight rounds. However, his SG: Approach numbers again looked good, a part of the game he's strengthened.
Last four events: 18-49-1-MC
Course form: 16-3-5
Last 50 starts - Win: 10%, Top 5: 30%, Top 10: 52%
Jordan Spieth - Chambers Bay champ in fine form
"It's an incredible golf course. It requires a lot of shot making, a lot of precision. For the US Open, even more so, but also quite a bit more touch around the greens and judging some of these nasty rough lies around the greens.
"Then the rough, it seems like there's some graduated rough on some holes, and even that first cut on 12 and like 14 are the two that come to mind, even the first cut is mowed into you. So there's not a whole lot you can do. You're not really advancing more than a 7-iron for a lot of those lies, just trying to tumble it down the fairway."
Spieth has been one of the form golfers in the first half of 2021, winning the Texas Open and finishing runner-up at Colonial two starts ago. He's done well at Pebble in the past and won the 2015 US Open on the west coast at Chambers Bay although his course form here isn't great.
Last four events: 18-2-30-9
Course form: MC-55-35-MC-19-MC
Last 50 starts - Win: 2%, Top 5: 14%, Top 10: 30%
Collin Morikawa - Elite ball striker ready to thrive
"Prep has been great. Obviously I had a three-week stretch of PGA (8th), Colonial (14th) and Muirfield (2nd), and the game feels good. I love coming into weeks, especially a major, where you're just kind of ready to play golf and try and figure out the course and how you're going to beat it.
"But this course is tough. I've only played here once. I played the 2020 Farmers. I didn't play this year, and it's going to test every part of your game. I think everyone has said that, but it's just a course where it's demanding off the tee, it's demanding with your approach shots, and you've got to hit really good putts, especially with poa greens and a lot of slope to them."
As usual with Morikawa, the putter could be key. Encouragingly he gained 5.380 strokes on the greens at Memorial and when you put that with his SG: Tee To Green numbers (top five in each of his last four starts), he looks an obvious challenger.
Last four events: 2-14-8-7
Course form: 21
Last 50 starts - Win: 8%, Top 5: 18%, Top 10: 36%
Justin Thomas - JT trying to hard to turn form around
JT, who has two top 10s in his last four US Opens, has been relatively poor in recent times so how does he view the state of his game: "It's improving. I've been working harder than I ever have. Really just been trying to just equate some results with how I feel like I've been close to playing. I clearly haven't been playing well and consistent, but I definitely have been playing better than the results have shown, and I think a lot of that is just fighting some things here and there in my golf swing and in my putting that are coming up time to time, but a lot of it is just mental, as well, and being a little bit nicer and easier on myself.
"I don't play in the Farmers just because of scheduling. It doesn't really work out well. I'd love to. I even said yesterday that I don't know why I don't come play this event because I do love the South Course, but it is, it's so different. It's very similar to Pebble, what, a couple years ago that you can't come play it in February and then compare it to how it is in the summer. It's a totally different golf course.
"Yesterday, I came out and played 18 holes, and I played well; everything felt good, my swing was good, and putting and chipping felt good."
Last four events: 42-40-MC-26
Course form: MC-10
Last 50 starts - Win: 10%, Top 5: 24%, Top 10: 36%
Viktor Hovland - Norwegian has recent course form
After missing the cut on his Farmers Insurance debut in 2019, Hovland returned earlier this year and it couldn't have gone much better. After a 70 on the North Course, he fired a brilliant 65 on the South before going on to finish runner-up.
However, that 65 came in rain, hail and wind so he'll experience very different conditions this week. Since then his only other start in California resulted in a top five at Riviera so he's done well on poa annua.
Hovland had back-to-back top threes in the Valspar and Wells Fargo but has dipped a little on his last two starts, his disappointing performance at Memorial due to poor putting. As for majors, he's yet to have a top 10 in six attempts but those half-dozen appearances show a T12 (Low Amateur on his US Open debut), a T13 and nothing worse than T33.
Last four events: 47-30-3-3
Course form: 2-MC
Last 50 starts - Win: 4%, Top 5: 22%, Top 10: 26%
The US Open isn't the place to try and find your game so I'm going to lean on two in-form players.
First up, I'll play Collin Morikawa for a top 10 at 3.55/2.
Playing well tee to green is almost a given for the 2020 US PGA winner: he ranks 1st in SG: Approach and 1st in SG: Tee To Green.
A good putting performance at Memorial is the final piece of the puzzle in terms of his stats and a T21 on his only Farmers appearance in 2020 is reassuring too.
I'll also back a second Californian; in fact, a San Diegan native - Xander Schauffele.
The local man has been putting in a bunch of practice on the course in the last week and that adds another layer to an already extremely strong case.
Schauffle was runner-up here in January and has a stunning US Open record.
With three top fives in this event I'll play him for another. The Schauffele top 5 is 5.69/2.
Get a £5 Free Bet on Multiples - Every Day!
Place £20 worth of Multiples or Bet Builders over the course of a day, and, after the bets have settled, you'll get a free £5 bet to use on Multiples or Bet Builders. Bets must settle before 23:59 on the day they're placed. No opt-in required, T&Cs apply.