The big day has arrived. Round one of the U.S. Open is set to kick off today at 7 am. The list of contenders include the top 60 players from around the world along with 30 other exemptions, Monday qualifiers and European invitees. Phil Mickelson, fresh off his PGA victory, is back in his hometown and hoping for a repeat performance in this Major. He has been putting in a lot of time on the course with Xander Schauffele and we are looking forward to seeing how the home town boys stack up against some the stiffest competition in the world. John Rahm, the odds on favorite to win, who was forced to leave the Memorial Tournament due to a positive Covid test is poised to pick up right where he left off. At the time of his departure, he was 6 under and looked to be a sure bet to win Jacks Tournament (The Memorial) . Golfers everywhere are curious to see if he can pull off some magic this week at one his favorite venues. Finally, what will become of the old’ Brooks and Bryson drama? Let’s be honest, they are the closest thing we have to the Kardashians of the golf world lately. We are hoping that all of the media attention surrounding their feud didn’t diffuse their focus from prepping for what is sure to be a battle to the very end. Picture them in the final pairing, on Sunday, coming down the last few holes with 1 stroke between them. That just might break the internet not to mention the TV ratings would be off the charts!
We asked our ClickitGolf family to weigh in and make some BOLD predictions. Check out our breakdown below and be sure to tell us what you think in the comments below!
The winning score will be…
Jason: (-5) under. Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate finished tied at 1 under par the last time the national championship was played on the South Course in 2008. Even given the advances in technology it won’t be far from that this time. Any player who gets to (-5) under will like their chances in the clubhouse.
Cam: (-8) under. A heat wave has given the USGA every opportunity to nail a firm, fast setup. The greens are springy, the rough is grabby, and anything in the 60s (it’s a par 71, not 72, this week) will be a strong score.
Jess: (-4) under. Just like the price is right, Jess bid the proverbial Price is Right “$1 dollar” on Jason’s pick. The greens are already firm, and it’s not like the USGA will water them much this week. The first round should be a shock for players who typically play this layout in January. I was there earlier in the week, the rough around the greens is simply brutal, making scrambling next to impossible. I overheard some players saying the rough along the fairways were a bit “spotty,” that could lend itself to plenty of flier lies and unpredictability instead of simply just hack-and-hope. I am guessing it may be more of a spray and pray this go around.
Sleepers to watch:
Jason: Let’s be honest, for the foreseeable future the answer to this question will be Will Zalatoris. He finished runner-up at the Masters this spring to make his major statement. Lets face it, he really doesn’t have enough experience at Torrey Pines to seal the deal in what would assuredly be a surprising victory, but he has more than enough game to contend. And contend he will. Actually, forget about contending – how about the W? I know what you are saying “Is this guy for real”? Yes, I am and Yes so is Zalatoris. Breaking News – We both are! His last three major results: T6, 2, T8. How does he play on the Pacific Ocean gem you ask? His most recent result at Torrey in January: T7. Any other choice here is suspect at best. Don’t sleep on Will.
Brock: I am taking the local SD boy, Charley Hoffman. I loved Hoffman at the PGA, and he tied for 17th. I love him again this week in his hometown. I used to watch him play at Stoneridge Country Club in the late ‘90’s. Not only does he have a U.S. Open-type game, he’s also in nice form with seven top-20s, including two top-3s, in his last nine starts worldwide.
Don’t be surprised if this player “Bombs”…
Jason: Sorry to burst your bubbles… but it’s a hard pass on Phil Mickelson. In fairness, the expectations are entirely driven by others, but no matter, it’ll still be a disappointing week for Mickelson. After the emotional high of becoming the oldest player to win a major last month at the PGA Championship, a storybook finish at his hometown course just isn’t in the cards. Nor will playing on the weekend. Lefty misses the cut and falls back down to earth…
Brock: Rory McIlroy. Sure, he played well here the last two years at the Farmers, but this course is a different beast entirely. Combine that with the facts: he’s not using the driver as a weapon like he was then and he is amidst some swing changes with coach Pete Cowen. Typically, one of the game’s preeminent drivers, McIlroy has been outside the top 40 in strokes gained: off the tee in his last two starts – OUCH! That alone on this layout and in these conditions, torpedo’s his chances in the wrong direction on a U.S. Open track that features long, tangly rough.
Jon: Bryson DeChambeau. It won’t be because he’s distracted by this Brooks Koepka drama. I honestly think he is self-absorbed enough to let that water run right off his back. I just don’t think he will be able to replicate what he did at Winged Foot. Mainly because Torrey’s fairways are wider and not everyone will be hacking it out of the rough like they did last year. DeChambeau’s length will help, don’t get me wrong, but when he misses, he’ll actually be at a disadvantage to shorter hitters sitting back with clean lies in the fairway. That rough is NASTY, and you would be hard pressed to see the color of your shoes standing in that shag carpet.
And your winner is…
Jason: Unless he and Bryson DeChambeau come to blows in the middle of the 18th fairway, which I am secretly rooting for, this is Brooks Koepka’s championship to lose. He’s finally healthy, hungry and after a tough couple of weeks in the public eye keen to change the narrative. Not to mention that guy doesn’t miss inside 10 feet in Majors. Combine his game, his major tournament resume, and his desire to shut down the hulk. I like Koepka to take home the U.S. Open Trophy on Sunday at (-5) under par.
Brock: Jon Rahm. Too chalky? Whatever. It makes so much sense, what with world No. 3’s record at this course and coming off what he described as arguably the best performance of his career at the COVID-shortened Memorial. Cleared to return last Saturday, he’s had plenty of time to get Open-ready.
Jon: Jon Rahm? Nah, my gut tells me I have to pick someone else because this one is too obvious. If it looks too good to be true, it usually is. Now, hear me out, just because he missed time recently with COVID-19 doesn’t take away that Rahm was playing some of the best golf of his career right before that. He will most likely pick up right where he left off. Then add in that he is back at a place he loves – well, kind of (this is where I throw my curve ball at you). Expect a slow start before he turns it on over the weekend. He will finish in 3rd place and on the lower podium box below local San Diegan Xander Schaufele. You heard it here first folks, Xander breaks through and claims his first major in his young career.