US Open Confidential: Our team tackles the top Torrey talking-points

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The 121st US Open is shaping up to be one to remember, with storylines every bit as abundant as the rough framing the Torrey Pines fairways.

With so much to chew over, the bunkered team joined a Teams call – Zoom is so last year - and talked over everything we expect to see happen in San Diego this week.

Picks to win? First round leader? Outside bet? You’re about to get all this and much, much more.

Who's who?

BR - Bryce Ritchie; MM - Michael McEwan; DC - David Cunninghame; RC - Ryan Crombie; CA - Cameron Adam

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Who’s your pick to win?

DC - I can’t see past Brooks. The man knows how to seriously up his game when it matters most. I was shocked to see him fall away during the final round at Kiawah Island, it was so unlike the ruthless Koepka we know in the majors. If he’s in with a shout come Sunday at Torrey Pines then I fully expect to see the 31-year-old lifting his third US Open trophy.

BR - Collin Morikawa. Leads SG: Approach and SG: Tee to Green so he’ll have more chances than most. Only suspect part of his game is his putting, though he’ll likely have to rely on it least compared to those who aren’t finding fairways. Isn’t scared, either. I’ve also put my money where my mouth is FYI.

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CA -Jon Rahm. Before having to surrender a six-shot lead due to a positive COVID test, Rahm was clearly the man on form last week at Memorial. The bookmakers also seem to agree and, well, when did you last see a poor bookie?

RC -Daniel Berger. The man already has a win on the west coast of America this season. All-in-all he’s having a good year on the Tour – five top-10 finishes tell you that. You’ll need a fantastic all-round game to come out on top at Torrey and with Berger currently ranked 19th in the overall Strokes Gained category, he’ll do well.

MM - Jon Rahm or Shane Lowry. Both are phenomenal from tee to green so they’re going to give themselves plenty of chances, and both are in good form coming into the week. Gun to my head, I’m going for Rahm – the perfect redemption story after the unfortunate scenes at the Memorial.

Who’s your outsider?

RC - Max Homa. He’s been blowing hot and cold this season, but when he’s hot, he’s good. A win at the Genesis Invitational this year, along with a decent top-20 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open – also held at Torrey Pines – will stand Homa in good stead.

CA -Garrick Higgo at 66/1. The 22-year-old South African has won three times on the European Tour since September. He’s now proven himself on the PGA Tour by winning last weeks Palmetto Championship. I’d start betting on this lad for every major. It’s only a matter of time.   

MM -At 55/1, Webb Simpson is a bit of steal. He’s crazy straight off the tee, hits greens in regulation like it’s nobody’s business, and scrambles phenomenally. He’s tidy with the wand, too, and, most importantly, he’s a past champion.

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DC -Cameron Smith at 50/1 is a great each-way bet. His short game and putting stats for the 2021 season are mightily impressive, ranking inside the top-20 for Strokes Gained in both categories. If he can have a decent week off the tee then I fully expect him to be in the mix come Sunday.

BR - Scottie Scheffler at 40/1 is good value to me. Hasn’t won yet but has bagged two top-20s at Augusta and two top-10s at the PGA in a short career, so likes the big stage. Don’t let his mid-40s look fool you, this is his first US Open as a pro, and he finished as low am in 2017. Each-way all day long.

Patrick Reed

Who’s your first round leader?

BR - Scheffler likes a first round lead, but I’m going with Patrick Cantlay.

CA -Higgo, again. Even if he doesn’t win, I fancy him for a fast start.  

MM - Paddy Reed. Loves the course, loves the majors, loves the fight.

RC - Patrick Reed. He likes a linger at the top of the leaderboard.

DC - Reed for me, too. He won at Torrey Pines earlier this year and I expect him to have a strong showing.

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What do you think the winning score will be (to par)?

CA -Patrick Reed was 14-under when he won the Farmers Insurance Pen back in January, but we know it will be a tougher set-up for the US Open. I’m going to say somewhere around five-under.  

RC - Six-under. These players are good. There’s only so much you can do to a golf course to stop the low scoring. Look at Olympic Club for the US Women’s Open. That was meant to be about as difficult as it could get and four-under only got you into a playoff. 

DC - This question is why I rank the US Open as fourth on my list of favourite men’s majors to watch. The USGA’s absurd fascination with achieving a winning score as close to par as possible has ruined far too many a tournament for my liking. I hope beyond hope that they have seen the errors of their ways, but I won’t be surprised if we all start moaning about the ridiculousness of the course set-up. 1-over wins it.

MM - People rarely speak about this but only five times in the last 40 years has the US Open been won with an over-par score. Granted, all of those instances have come since 2006… but so, too, have winning scores of 16-under (twice), 13-under, nine-under. It’s not necessarily the war of attrition many make it out to be. It’s just tougher than the rest. So, on that basis, I’m going for four-under.

BR - -3.

What one thing are you most looking forward to seeing this week?

MM - Adam Scott.

DC - ‘Lefty’ teeing it up in a home US Open, of course. The San Diego native and newly-crowned PGA champ is bound to have a boisterous crowd right behind him as he chases that ellusive grand slam.

BR - Twitter grandpas deleting their tweets when they realise US Open courses had mental rough in the 1950s.

RC - More of Brooks v Bryson.

CA -Rory McIlroy is a fascinating watch at the moment. After his win in May, we know his best golf isn’t too far away and I'd imagine the tweaks made by Pete Cowen will feel pretty comfortable at this point, so I can wait to see him try and navigate Torrey Pines. Rahm is my winner for the week but I reckon Rory might find himself within range on Sunday.  

Phil Mickelson

What’s your favourite US Open memory?  

CA - Tiger at Torrey Pines in 2008. That whole week was incredible. Tiger battling injury, pulling off seemingly impossible shots; an inspired veteran in Rocco Mediate putting up the fight of his career – entertaining to the last shot.  

BR -I enjoyed the carnage of Winged Foot in ‘06 and loved watching Retief Goosen win at Shinnecock, but I could probably watch Tiger hole that putt on the 72nd hole at Torrey in ‘08 for hours and never get bored. Incredible. 

MM - Tiger on one leg in ’08 takes a fair bit of beating but DJ winning at Oakmont in ’16 – and sticking it to the USGA's Poindexters – was pretty special.

RC - Martin Kaymer blasting away the field and picking up the trophy in 2014. What a sensational four rounds of golf from the German. He became the first non-British European golfer ever to win the US Open, too. Pretty cool.

DC - Tiger’s putt to get into the playoff at Torrey Pines 13 years ago. Has there ever been a louder roar on a golf course? Probably not. 

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Phil Mickelson: he couldn’t… could he?

DC - No. No he couldn’t. I really hope I’m wrong on this one, but I just can’t see it happening. Two majors in a row at the age of 50 just seems too outrageous to be possible.

RC - For me, no. The PGA Championship at Kiawah Island was the perfect storm for Mickelson. Storms pass, though. 

BR - He probably could but I suspect that might be one fairytale too many.

MM - Of course he could. But he won’t. A 50-year-old man makes history by becoming the oldest ever major champion, then, a month later, breaks his own record by winning yet another major, becoming just the sixth player in history to complete the career grand slam? In his home town? Nah.

CA -Aye, why not. The only person who doesn’t know Mickelson is 51, is Mickelson himself. If he’s up for it, he’s always a threat.  

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