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Fantasy Golf Picks — 2021 U.S. Open Picks, Preview, Predictions

Pat Mayo makes his 2021 U.S. Open picks while previewing the course, key stats and trends for this week’s PGA TOUR event.

Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2021 US Open Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from Torrey Pines. Also, Tim Andercust joins to reveal his MOST CURSED plays of the 2021 US OPEN.

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Mayo’s Monday Free US Open Newsletter - Research & Cash Giveaways

2021 U.S. OPEN — Picks & Preview | Course + Research | Bets | Stats/Tools

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2021 U.S. OPEN — DraftKings Picks | All Player Profiles | Own Projections

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2021 U.S. Open: Field

156 Players | Top 60 & Ties Make The Cut
First Tee: Thursday, June 17
Defending Champion: Bryson DeChambeau

Ready for some prime time golf on Father’s Day weekend? No? Well, no one cares what you think anyway. West Coast majors are awesome, and eventually you’ll feel that way, too. Trust the science.

Torrey Pines South is back as the host course for the first time since Tiger Woods outlasted Rocco Mediate after an extra 18 holes, with no knee, in 2008. It’s not like Torrey has been out of our life. We see it every season at the Farmers Insurance Open at the end of January. It’s not exactly the same, though. The Farmers splits between Torrey Pines North and South the first two rounds before playing the final rounds on the South Course. Then, the biggest difference, the 2021 U.S. Open is a USGA set up. That means the course is converting hole six from a Par 5 into a Par 4, dropping it to a Par 71, yet the course is still stretched to around 7,650 yards. And that’s before you factor in the typical USGA daunting rough, narrowed fairways and firm, insanely fast greens.

Many will look to the Farmers for guidance this week in terms of course history, but with this set up, it may not be very instructive. Extra reps on site won’t hurt, but it won’t come close to telling the same story. When Marc Leishman won the Farmers in 2019, he barely hit any fairways in the final round. Don’t think a performance like that is going to be achievable with a U.S. Open set up. Especially with the thicker kikuyu grass becoming more prominent in the rough in June versus January. Oh, and don’t forget about the wind. Torrey Pines is a coastal course, and we’ve seen enough examples of wind gusts wrecking havoc on the field.

It’s going to be the best test of the year. When Woods won in 2008, he was -1 after 72 holes. Expect a winning score a little better this time, but not by much.

Speaking of Woods, he and Mikko Korhonen are both eligible to play this week but are not in the filed. It appears betting favorite Jon Rahm, who was forced to withdraw from the Memorial two weeks ago after a positive COVID-19 test after he’d dominated for three rounds, will be out of protocol and in search of his first major.

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Then there’s last year’s runner up, Matthew Wolff. He pulled out of last month’s PGA Championship and has played very little golf the past four months. The expectation is he will be in the field this week, but keep an eye on his status since it seems like it can change on a dime. Since his pair of top-four finishes at the PGA Championship and U.S. Open in 2020, followed by a runner up at the Shriners in October, his biggest weapon has been a disaster. Wolff had been elite off the tee at every point of his career until the past after year. After gaining nearly three strokes per event through the Shriners in 2020, he’s now losing an average of three strokes off the tee in his five weighted starts since. And that doesn’t include his WD at Farmers, DQ at The Masters and two poor outings at the Match Play and Zurich team event.

In all, there will be 156 players in the field with only the top 60 and ties making it through to the weekend. Making it the toughest Major to make the cut, so expect the perfect six-for-six lineups on DraftKings to be at a premium this week. And that’s just based on the pure math of number of players in the field against the number of players who make the cut. When the difficulty is factored in, it’s becomes even worse. The U.S. Open annually sends top players home in time for some weekend yard work. Avoiding those, with a bit of luck, is going to be the determining factor for your lineups this week.

2021 U.S. Open: Key Stats

Driving Distance Gained
Strokes Gained: Approach
Strokes Gained: Around The Green
Par 4s Gained: 450-500 Yards

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2021 U.S. Open: Course

Course: Torrey Pines South
Par: 71
Yardage: 7,643
Greens: Poa

2021 U.S. Open: Farmers Insurance Open Winners

2021: Patrick Reed -14
2020: Marc Leishman -15
2019: Justin Rose -21
2018: Jason Day -10
2017: Jon Rahm -13
2016: Brandt Snedeker -6

2021 U.S. Open: 2008 Leaderboard

1st Tiger Woods -1 (Playoff Winner)
2nd Rocco Mediate -1
3rd Lee Westwood E
T4 Robert Karlsson (a) +2
T4 D.J. Trahan +2
T6 Miguel Angel Jimenez
T6 John Merrick
T6 Carl Pettersson

2021 U.S. Open: US Open Champions

2020: Bryson DeChambeau -6
2019: Gary Woodland -13
2018: Brooks Koepka +1
2017: Brooks Koepka -16
2016: Dustin Johnson -4

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2021 U.S. Open: Notes

I can yammer on about the different types of skills required to win a U.S. Open, but frankly, it has become a pretty standard template. Be among the leaders in driving distance, be better than average in greens in regulation and don’t bleed the championship away on the greens. That’s not to say the shorter hitting, quality long iron players don’t have a chance. It’s just the path to victory is so much harder.

Webb Simpson has three consecutive top-20 finishes in U.S. Opens, but he’s never really challenged for the win. To find a champion who doesn’t fit that profile, you have to go back to 2015 when Jordan Spieth won at Chambers Bay. It is worth noting, the next nine players on the leaderboard at year gained with their distance off the tee on the field. Since, it’s been even more pronounced.

Using Fantasy National’s database, you can sort this information pretty easier. Let’s take a look at the last U.S. Open.

US OPEN 2021

This list is sorted by the top players in driving distance gained. Of the top 10 in that category, nine of 10 made the cut, and included the winner, runner-up, five top-10 finishers and no finish worse than T23.

Maybe that’s a one-off. What if we look a year previous when the shorter Pebble Beach hosted the 2019 U.S. Open…

It’s not as pronounced as 2020, but it’s still pretty telling. One missed cut of the top 10 biggest drivers (and Bubba Watson is always horrible at U.S. Opens — since finishing in fifth in 2007, Watson has missed seven U.S. Open cuts and has no finish better than T18), and the winner, runner-up, third place and another top-10 finish in the bunch.

Obviously, there needs to be more than just distance as a part of the game to propel up to the top of the leaderboard, but it’s most certainly the starting point this week. So, here are the driving distance gained leaders over the past 75 rounds in the field at the 2021 U.S. Open:

2021 U.S. Open Picks

Brooks Koepka $10,100

Hopefully the missed cut at Palmetto throws people off Koepka’s scent. Finishing position is great and everything, but looking one level deeper at the underlying numbers tells a better story. The two-time U.S. Open champ gained over two strokes per round with his driver and irons and gave it all away on and around the greens. Considering he rarely loses in either category, I’m good chalking it up as an outlier. If he keeps striking the ball the same week at Torrey Pines, he’ll be making a run at his third national championship.

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Shane Lowry $7,600

The reigning Open Champion meets the threshold for driving distance, having gained on the field with the driver in seven straight starts, including leading the PGA Championship in SG: Off the Tee by a full two strokes. It’s the return of his irons that separate him from the mid-priced players however. He’s gained on approach in seven straight, too, resulting in four top-10 finishes over that stretch, including three of last four. The around the green is always solid, so it just comes down to his putter. And, in the two U.S. Opens with Strokes Gained data, he’s cracked the USGA code on the surfaces gaining an average +3.2 strokes putting the last two years. Overall, he has made five of his last six cuts at the U.S. Open with two top-10 finishes.

Taylor Pendirth $6,500

If you desperately need the salary savings, the big-hitting Canadian could be this year’s Will Zalatoris. He’s made both cuts in his two U.S. Opens and can legit challenge the biggest hitters in the world with his driver. The chipping and putting has been above average on the Korn Ferry TOUR, he just needs his irons to be OK — not so debilitating that he’s backing his bags Friday night. At $6.5K on DraftKings, you have to inherit risk since no one has a complete game, hence why they’re in the $6K range, but Pendirth has the essential skills for U.S. Open golf. Just pray his downside doesn’t show up along with them.

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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (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 a 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 has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at and the best will be addressed on the show.

I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.

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