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U.S. Open 2021 picks: Why our experts are betting on Brooks—not Bryson—to win another U.S. Open

KIAWAH ISLAND, SC - MAY 17:  Brooks Koepka smiles during practice for the PGA Championship on The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort on May 17, 2021, in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. (Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Another week, another winner for the Golf Digest expert panel—with Lee Aldrick hitting on rising South African star Garrick Higgo at 40-1 to win the Palmetto Championship. We can’t stop, won’t stop.

The only way to back it up, though, is by coming up big again on one of the biggest weeks of the year: U.S. Open week. And this isn’t just any U.S. Open week, it’s U.S. Open week at Torrey Pines, where Tiger Woods famously won on one leg in 2008. Thirteen years later, we’re back in San Diego, and the South Course promises to be an extremely difficult test once again, just like it was in ‘08, when the winning score was one under and six over made the cut.

A test like Torrey should limit the potential pool of winners considerably. The Brooks Koepka philosophy, if you will. That should, in theory, make picking a winner easier for those of us trying to do just that. The best of the best will likely be there late Sunday evening, which is why the likes of Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele are two of the most popular picks this week. Surprisingly, our experts aren’t on either guy.

Read on to see who our expert panel—which includes an anonymous caddie—like this week at the 2021 U.S. Open.

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U.S. Open 2021 picks: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions (Odds from William Hill)

Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Brooks Koepka (18-1) — I understand why Jon Rahm is the favorite. But Koepka—a four-time major champion and two-time U.S. Open winner—is almost double the price? Rahm hasn’t gotten there, and hell, he has seemed to struggle when the stress is turned up a notch. I’m shocked Koepka and Rahm aren’t closer on the odds board—take advantage of the generous pricing.

Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Brooks Koepka (18-1) — The MC at Palmetto was a blessing for those of us betting Koepka this week, keeping his odds higher. Despite going home early, Brooks was excellent with the driver and with his irons. His struggles chipping and putting were probably due to a lack of interest. Now he gets a daunting USGA setup that we know suits his game, as evidenced by his T-2/win/win track record in his past three U.S. Opens.

Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Brooks Koepka (18-1) — Koepka never really looks good in my betting model, but this is a major, and Koepka is dominating with his ball-striking and simply struggling with the putter. I don’t think you can ever really regret betting on Koepka in a major -- particularly at odds like these.

Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Collin Morikawa (22-1) — No matter how you slice it, Morikawa is the best tee-to-green player on tour. He leads the category for everyone in the field in the last 12 rounds, last 24 rounds, last 36 rounds and even in the last 100 rounds, per the RickRunGood.com golf database. He is a prolific ball-striker who enters with four consecutive top-15 finishes, including a playoff loss at the Memorial in his last start. The question for Morikawa is his putter, but that’s always been the question. Here we are four wins (including one major) later, so I’d say he’s answered that question well enough.

Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Patrick Cantlay (25-1) — Torrey Pines requires two essential skills: being long off the tee and super precise on approaches. Cantlay combines that skill set better than anyone. He’s seventh in strokes gained/off the tee; 14th in driving distance and fifth in SG/approach in this field over the past 24 rounds, per Fantasy National. And isolate the past two events when most of the best players were there—the PGA and Memorial—and he hit his irons as good as anyone.

Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Justin Thomas (22-1) — I won’t try to tell you he’s coming in under the radar as World No. 2, but the bulk of the pressure does seem to be on other players. Namely, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Bryson and Brooks, and Rory, who will always face pressure at the majors until he wins another. For some reason, JT doesn’t get that same scrutiny (yet) for not knocking down the door again. That could free him up to let it rip this week, and hopefully, for the love of god, maybe he can make a few putts. The good news: he’s still arguably the best tee-to-green player in the field right now, and he’s actually solid on poa greens.

Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Patrick Reed (25-1) — Reed ranks top three in the field this week for total strokes-gained over the last two years, total strokes-gained at Torrey Pines and SG/putting on bent/poa greens over the last two years. There could not be a better set up for him. His form is also good with three top-10 finishes in his last six events.

Results from last season: Golf Digest's betting panel has been red-hot the past two seasons. Our experts have now predicted seven of the past 17 winners—after going up 225.30 units last season. Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports called Garrick Higgo’s victory at the Palmetto Championship (at 40-1)! Stephen Hennessey predicted Jason Kokrak’s victory at the Charles Schwab Challenge a few weeks ago (at 45-1)! He also picked Jordan Spieth (11-1) at the Valero Texas Open. That continued a strong 2021—at The Players, Christopher Powers and Rick Gehman called Justin Thomas’ victory (18-1). That was each of their second accurate predictions of 2021, with Powers hitting Koepka (50-1) and Gehman calling Daniel Berger at Pebble Beach (14-1). Pat Mayo nailed Collin Morikawa at the WGC-Workday three events ago at 33-1 in addition to Koepka at the WMPO. And Brandon Gdula also called Berger’s win at Pebble Beach. We’ll stop there! Be sure to check this column every week for picks from the hottest betting panel in golf!

U.S. Open 2021 picks: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win (Odds from William Hill)

Caddie: Branden Grace (100-1) — Gracey has the U.S. Open pedigree (should’ve won at Chambers Bay) and is playing great golf at the moment, so this feels like a mis-price. He also played great at Memorial, one of the toughest tracks of the year, so his game should suit a difficult Torrey Pines.

Mayo: Shane Lowry (40-1) — Always better on long and difficult tracks, Lowry is coming in with three top 10s in his past four starts—and actually led all players at the PGA Championship in strokes gained/off the tee. But the big difference in his great play has been his irons. Usually wildly inconsistent, Lowry has gained strokes on approach in seven straight, the best stretch of his career.

Gdula: Louis Oosthuizen (45-1) — Oosthuizen is a plus poa putter and ranks in the 76th percentile in my adjusted SG/tee-to-green data. He’s historically fared well at majors with nine top 10s, and he’s in great recent form with the irons and putter.

Gehman: Sam Burns (80-1) — Burns seemingly has everything it takes to contend at a U.S. Open. He’s long off-the-tee (ranked 26th on tour), hits his approaches well (14th) and he putts better than most of his peers (26th). The last time he played Torrey Pines, he finished T-18 in January, which was actually much better than the result indicates. He played in the final group on Sunday that week before shooting a 75. Since then, he has a PGA Tour victory and has flashed incredible upside on a near constant basis. Since the start of the 2021 season, Burns has gained 4+ strokes in a single round 13 different times. That’s the most on TOUR, tied with Charley Hoffman, Bryson DeChambeau and Viktor Hovland.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Jason Kokrak (60-1) — Kokrak’s game should be built for U.S. Opens. He’s eighth in driving distance; eighth in SG/off the tee; and 18th in SG/approach over the past 24 rounds. Plus, Kokrak is third in this field in bogey avoidance over the past 36 rounds, per Fantasy National. He’s one of just four players to win twice on tour this year (Bryson, Cantlay, Cink are the others)—it’s time for the big-hitting Kokrak to contend in a major.

Powers, Golf Digest: Max Homa (80-1) — His majors record leaves a LOT to be desired (seven starts, six MCs), but if there was ever a place to change that for him it’d be Torrey Pines, which should suit his game. He just finished sixth at Memorial, won at Riviera and has won the Wells Fargo, three other big, difficult ballparks to play in. He’s also had back-to-back top-18s at Torrey Pines after starting his career with three MCs there and he’s a plus-poa putter.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Will Zalatoris (35-1) — Zalatoris has gained over nine shots on the field in all three of his last three majors. He likes Torrey Pines too, recording a seventh-place finish here at the Farmers in January. Zalatoris is a big-game hunter, and the game don’t come much bigger than the US Open.

U.S. Open 2021 picks: Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)

Caddie: Jon Rahm (9-1) — I’ve made my point in my write-up on my outright pick. But to reiterate: A player who hasn’t won in nearly a year—and has never won a major—has a single-digit price at a major. That’s tough to get behind, as good as Rahm’s history at Torrey is.

Mayo: Justin Thomas (22-1) — So much needs to go right for JT to win. He can, sure, but if either his driver and putter don’t cooperate, which they tend not to do, the U.S. Open setup will be too much to overcome.

Gdula: Jon Rahm (10-1) — My betting model has Rahm as the favorite at Torrey Pines, but at 10-1 and with everyone else’s odds substantially better, I see no reason to bet him for an outright win. I’ll anchor some FanDuel lineups around Rahm but will be betting farther down the card.

Gehman: Justin Thomas (22-1) — It’s always terrifying to fade someone this talented, but there are a few things that concern me about Thomas at Torrey Pines. He ranks 154th in driving accuracy and playing out of the thick Kikuyu rough makes Torrey Pines even more difficult. His putter often fails to cooperate and that can be magnified on these tricky Poa annua greens. He’s only played here twice in his career and hasn’t made the trip since 2015, so I also worry about his lack of experience compared to his peers.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Dustin Johnson (16-1) — Amazingly, last week at Congaree was the first tournament since the 2020 Masters that DJ gained strokes in the four major SG categories for the week. A few blow-up holes cost him a win. I just go back to his record at Torrey Pines. Even before he was doing the Middle East trips, he has a bunch of mediocre finishes and missed cuts. I’d prefer the other elites—who have more consistent form not just recently but also at Torrey.

Powers, Golf Digest: Jordan Spieth (20-1) — I think we see him strike again at Royal St. George’s, where he can be extremely creative around the greens and think his way around the golf course. At Torrey Pines, which will demand long and straight off the tee, he’ll likely struggle like he always has here.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Jordan Spieth (20-1) — Spieth has never recorded a finish at Torrey Pines higher than 35th. Also, barring his win in 2015, Spieth has never finished top 15 at the US Open.

U.S. Open 2021 picks: Matchups

Caddie: Brooks Koepka (+138) over Jon Rahm (William Hill) — I’m fading Rahm at the price and taking the discount on Koepka. I’ve said enough.

Mayo: Carlos Ortiz (-125) over Christiaan Bezuidenhout (DraftKings) — Ortiz’s length and scrambling are a big advantage in this matchup. C-Bez is a fine player, but a quality driver he is not. Unless he leads the event in putting, this is Ortiz’s to run away with.

Gdula: Xander Schauffele (-118) over Rory McIlroy (FanDuel) — Xander holds the edge virtually everywhere here, and even if we look only at Rory’s recent surge, Xander has fared better. He’s got a new putting grip, and holds a substantial short-game advantage over McIlroy.

Gehman: Max Homa (-125) over Sungjae Im (DraftKings) — These are two golfers that are headed in seemingly opposite directions. Im has missed three of his last five cuts and doesn’t have a top-10 finish since the Honda Classic. Homa is coming off a T-6 at the Memorial, his second T-6 in his last four starts. He was victorious at Riviera this year which is another difficult West Coast course with Poa annua greens.

Hennessey: Louis Oosthuizen (-120) over Matt Fitzpatrick (PointsBet) — Sure, Fitz is coming off a top 10 last week. But he ranks poorly in two stats critical to success here: driving distance (96th in this field, last 24 rounds) and SG/approach (116th). Oosthuizen is average for distance but his irons are much better (23rd in the field)—and Oostie ranks first in SG/par 4s between 450-500 yards, a crucial distance this week at Torrey, over the past 24 rounds, per Fantasy National.

Powers: Patrick Cantlay (-114) over Tony Finau (DraftKings) — If it wasn’t a major week on bumpy Poa greens, I’d say maybe Finau’s putting could flip. But I’d rather rely on Cantlay, who gained in every area at Memorial including putting, and has shown the ability to actually win on the PGA Tour.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Will Zalatoris (-110) over Scottie Scheffler (Bet365) — As noted above, this setup is perfect for Zalatoris. Scheffler on the other hand ranks just 101st in the field this week for SG/putting on bent/poa greens over the last two years and has missed the cut both times he has played an event at Torrey Pines.

Matchup results from the Palmetto Championship: Caddie: 1 for 1 (Brice Garnett (-120) over Rory Sabbatini); Everyone else: 0 for 1.

Matchup Results this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Hennessey: 18-13-2 (up 4.13 units); Gdula: 19-15-1 (up 2.74 units); Alldrick: 19-15-1 (up 2.43 units); Powers: 15-16-4 (down 2.08 units); Gehman: 15-18-2 (down 2.88 units); Caddie: 13-18-4 (down 4.92 units); Mayo: 14-18-2 (down 5.14 units).

U.S. Open 2021 picks: Top 10 (Odds from William Hill)

Caddie: Erik Van Rooyen (+1400) — The South African played solid last week at Congaree. And he has played well on long, tough major tracks in the past—he was in the mix at Bethpage Black at the ‘19 PGA.

Mayo: Taylor Pendrith (+4000) — The big-bombing Canadian from the Korn Ferry Tour actually has the perfect game for the U.S. Open. He ranks second in the field for driving distance, and even though his irons are a disaster, his short game is excellent. He already posted a T-23 at the US Open in 2020, so make a few more putts and it wouldn't be insane to think he can get there. +800 as the Top Canadian is in play as well.

Gdula: Max Homa (+700) — Homa has historically been elite in California, including a win at Riviera. His best putting surface is Poa. The only real issue is a poor major record, but playing in familiar territory should help.

Gehman: Tyrrell Hatton (+275) — Hatton could have very easily won the Palmetto Championship last week. He gained a staggering 14.55 strokes from tee to green, by far the best mark in the field. He lost 3.2 strokes/putting and finished one shot behind Garrick Higgo. We’ve seen Hatton play well on difficult golf courses and if he hits it anywhere close to that this week, he will be dangerous.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Gary Woodland (+600) — Woodland has now gained on approaches in four straight events, the first time he’s done that since early 2020. He’s got a great history on West Coast Poa greens (like Pebble) and has five top-25 finishes at Torrey Pines during the Farmers. It wouldn’t be a shock if Woodland hangs around the lead all week.

Powers, Golf Digest: Will Zalatoris (+320) — I’ll be betting Willy Z to finish top 10 in a major until he doesn’t finish top 10 in a major as a pro.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Jason Kokrak (+600) — Of those that have played Torrey Pines five or more times over the last five years, Kokrak has the eighth-lowest scoring average in the field this week. He also ranks top 40 for every stat this week and he comes in off of a first-place finish last time out.

Top-10 results from the Palmetto Championship: Everyone: 0 for 1.

Top-10 results from this season: Gehman: 7 for 32 (up 9.85 units); Powers: 5 for 32 (down 4.5 units); Hennessey: 5 for 31 (down 4.5 units); Gdula: 3 for 32 (down 13.5 units); Tour caddie: 5 for 32 (down 13.85 units); Mayo: 2 for 32 (down 17 units); Alldrick: 2 for 31 (down 21 units).

U.S. Open 2021 picks: One and Done

Gehman: Brooks Koepka — It’s the U.S. Open so you’ve likely been saving someone for this week. I’ve been saving Koepka and I’m going to have to look past some of his recent performances. The good news is that even in his missed cut last week, he gained strokes off the tee and on approach. That’s a positive takeaway from a short week. Obviously Koepka has been able to find another gear at this event in his career—in seven starts he has six top 20s, including four top-four finishes and two victories.

Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Joel Dahmen; U.S. Open: Jon Rahm; Corales: Denny McCarthy. Sanderson: Sebastian Munoz. Shriners: Matthew Wolff. CJ Cup: Xander Schauffele. Zozo: Bubba Watson. Bermuda: Rasmus Hojgaard. Houston: Lanto Griffin. Masters: Rory McIlroy. RSM: Webb Simpson. Sentry TOC: Patrick Reed. Sony: Abraham Ancer. AMEX: Patrick Cantlay. Torrey: Jon Rahm. Waste Management: Webb Simpson. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis Invitational: Rory McIlroy. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. The Players: Bryson DeChambeau; Honda Classic: Sungjae Im. WGC-Match Play: Patrick Reed. Valero Texas Open: Jordan Spieth. The Masters: Dustin Johnson. RBC Heritage: Daniel Berger. Valspar: Paul Casey. Wells Fargo: Viktor Hovland. AT&T Byron Nelson: Sam Burns. PGA Championship: Collin Morikawa. Charles Schwab Challenge: Charley Hoffman. Memorial Tournament: Billy Horschel. Palmetto Championship: Lucas Glover.

Hennessey: Jon Rahm — You’ve likely been saving him all year to use him here. So have I.

Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Phil Mickelson; U.S. Open: Hideki Matsuyama; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Harris English. CJ Cup: Kevin Na. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Doc Redman. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Tyrrell Hatton. RSM: Brian Harman. Sentry TOC: Justin Thomas. Sony: Ryan Palmer. AMEX: Scottie Scheffler. Torrey: Sungjae Im. Waste Management: Daniel Berger. AT&T Pebble Beach: Francesco Molinari. Genesis Invitational: Tony Finau. WGC-Workday: Xander Schauffele. The Players: Jordan Spieth. Honda Classic: Adam Scott. WGC-Match Play: Patrick Reed. Valero Texas Open: Chris Kirk. The Masters: Dustin Johnson. RBC Heritage: Webb Simpson. Valspar: Charley Hoffman. Wells Fargo: Max Homa. AT&T Byron Nelson: Will Zalatoris. PGA Championship: Xander Schauffele. Charles Schwab Challenge: Abraham Ancer. Memorial Tournament: Collin Morikawa. Palmetto Championship: Matt Fitzpatrick.

Powers: Bryson DeChambeau — Likely not betting him outright this week, but will definitely use him here, possibly in a few DraftKings lineups and pools, too. He’s poised to contend in U.S. Opens for years to come.

Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Brendan Steele; U.S. Open: Louis Oosthuizen; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Jason Kokrak. CJ Cup: Daniel Berger. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Denny McCarthy. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Bubba Watson. RSM: Brian Harman. Mayakoba: Corey Conners. Sentry TOC: Harris English. Sony: Zach Johnson. AMEX: Matthew Wolff. Torrey: Tony Finau. Waste Management: Sungjae Im. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis: Hideki Matsuyama. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. The Players: Tommy Fleetwood. Honda Classic: Adam Scott. WGC-Match Play: Matt Fitzpatrick. Valero Texas Open: Chris Kirk. The Masters: Jordan Spieth. RBC Heritage: Kevin Kisner. Valspar: Patrick Reed. Wells Fargo: Patrick Cantlay. AT&T Byron Nelson: Will Zalatoris. PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy. Charles Schwab Challenge: Joaquin Niemann. Memorial Tournament: Jon Rahm. Palmetto Championship: Harold Varner III.

By The Numbers:

Courtesy of Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com:

71 The par of the South Course for this week. The Farmers Insurance Open usually plays to a par 72 but the sixth hole has been converted from a par 5 to a par 4 for this major.

0.74 — The average strokes gained putting for Patrick Reed on poa annua greens since 2015, the most of anyone in this field with at least 50 rounds.

2.46 — The number of strokes gained per round for Xander Schauffele at both the Farmers Insurance Open and the U.S. Open since 2015, the second-most behind … Brooks Koepka.

$2.25 million — The amount awarded to the winner of the U.S. Open, one of the largest paydays in golf.

About our experts

Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, owner of the Mayo Media Network and host of The Pat Mayo Experience. (Subscribe for video or audio. Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.

Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year *(congrats, Brandon!)*. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.

Rick Gehman is the founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.

Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.