ESPN predictions: Is it finally Xander Schauffele’s time?

iCrackStreamsJune 16, 2021

There is a hometown story no one can avoid at this U.S. Open: Phil Mickelson, trying to pick off that missing major win, chasing the career Grand Slam at Torrey Pines. But there is another hometown story, one with a greater possibility of happening given how unlikely it would be for Mickelson to win another major. Xander Schauffele grew up in San Diego. He’s played Torrey Pines countless times.

Our experts jumped on that narrative, with a few other choices sprinkled in — including one Mickelson pick.

Matt Barrie, ESPN
Winner: Xander Schauffele
Winning score: 3 under
Why he’ll win: I’m a sucker for a good story. While a Schauffele win wouldn’t surpass that of Phil Mickelson’s at the PGA Championship at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, it would give him his first major. He’s from San Diego. He knows the course, the layout and the area. Sometimes in a major championship, local comfort and knowledge matter. He had a top-5 last year at Winged Foot, so a U.S. Open setup isn’t too much for him.

David Bearman, ESPN Sports Betting
Winner: Patrick Reed
Winning score: 2 under
Why he’ll win: There’s a lot to like about Reed this week. First off, he is the most recent winner at Torrey Pines, with an almost wire-to-wire, 5-shot win back in January. He finished T-6 the year before, T-13 in 2019 and T-23 in 2018. In those 20 rounds, 19 of them were par or better. Over this time frame, when looking at just the South Course at Torrey Pines (where the major will be played), Reed is first in shots gained short game, third in shots gained total, fourth around the green, fourth in putting and 10th tee-to-green. Yes, the course will be set up harder for the U.S. Open, but Reed has the game to get it done.

Michael Collins, ESPN.com
Winner: Phil Mickelson
Winning score:
Even
Why he’ll win: Normally the hardest thing to do is win a “home game” in golf. These aren’t normal times. Mickelson practiced on this course in relative obscurity since it’s been closed to the public. He also turned off his phone, so any “long-lost relatives” with ticket requests are getting ghosted. Thursday will be the first time he’s playing in front of fans at this major — no fans are allowed this week for practice rounds because of California COVID-19 restrictions — and by then he’ll be in the headspace that carried him to the PGA Championship.

Michael Eaves, ESPN
Winner: Xander Schauffele
Winning score: 6 under
Why he’ll win: It’s his time. It’s been his time forever. That’s the easy reason to pick him to finally win his first major. But the real reason is he’s coming home to play a course he knows very well and where he’s had recent success.

Tony Finau
Winning score: 5 under
Why he’ll win: Go ahead and laugh; that’s fine. This will be a grind of an event, and Finau’s even demeanor will be a huge help to his chances. Also helping his chances is his ability to hit the ball a long way and give himself many chances for par at worst. Avoiding the big number is so critical. He’s also been a fixture in the top 10 at Torrey Pines (T-2, T-6, T-13, T-6, T-4 in his past five trips). While that doesn’t guarantee anything with this setup, it certainly doesn’t hurt. We had a shock winner in the last major, so why not another semi-shock here?

Charlotte Gibson, ESPN.com
Winner: Jon Rahm
Winning score:
10 under
Why he’ll win: It’s hard not to root for the 26-year-old Spaniard. Just two weeks ago, while leading by 6 shots after a third-round 64, Rahm withdrew from the Memorial Tournament after testing positive for COVID-19. To call that incident devastating feels like an understatement. I’ve been all-in on Rahm this season. I want him to win a major — what can I say? — but also, he’s second on tour in scoring average and total strokes gained, just to name a few. So why wouldn’t I be? This game remains unpredictable, but Rahm winning the U.S. Open title at Torrey feels like something that might be as predictable as ever.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com
Winner: Xander Schauffele
Winning score: 5 under
Why he’ll win: His game is seemingly built for the majors. He missed the cut at the PGA last month, but I’m still sticking by the guy who, frankly, should have more than four PGA Tour wins. Being from San Diego and having a good understanding of Torrey Pines certainly helps. But check out his record in the U.S. Open — four starts, four top-10s, with three top-5s and nothing worse than sixth. He’s been right there and will be again.

Doug Kezirian, ESPN Sports Betting
Winner: Collin Morikawa
Winning score: 2 over
Why he’ll win: He’s not among the top five betting favorites, but he is the person I envision outlasting the field. His iron play is widely considered among the best, if not the best, and he ranks first this season in greens in regulation. That should keep the 24-year-old out of the penal rough as much as possible and allow him to notch his second career major championship.

Peter Lawrence-Riddell, ESPN.com
Winner: Xander Schauffele
Winning score: 2 under
Why he’ll win: His record in majors, especially the U.S. Open, says he’s probably going to contend and that eventually he’ll break through. So why not this week at Torrey Pines in his hometown? Schauffele has finished T-6 or better in the past four U.S. Opens, so he certainly has the game to win. All those near misses and playing at home could add to the pressure, but I think this is the week he wins his first major.

Anita Marks, ESPN Sports Betting
Winner: Xander Schauffele
Winning score: 10 under
Why he’ll win: Schauffele is a San Diego native, and there is nothing like a little home cooking during a week when you are trying to win a major. He finished second on this track earlier this season. He sports an impressive top-10 record in each of his past four U.S. Open tournaments. His scrambling and strokes gained: greens in regulation should keep him at the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.

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Andy North, ESPN
Winner: Jon Rahm
Winning score: 4 under
Why he’ll win: He is playing great and has played this course well.

Nick Pietruszkiewicz, ESPN.com
Winner: Rory McIlroy
Winning score: 1 under
Why he’ll win: The attention, for a change, won’t be on him. Hey, look, there’s Phil Mickelson, chasing the career Grand Slam. Over there, it’s Brooks and Bryson and the feud to end all feuds. And that’s Xander Schauffele, trying to win that first major — and trying to do it at home. This is a perfect time for McIlroy to sneak in. He just has to get past that first round, avoiding a big number that takes him out of it before it really gets started.

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com
Winner: Xander Schauffele
Winning score:
4 under
Why he’ll win: It’s well past time for him to win a major. Where’s a better place for him to do it than in his hometown of San Diego? He has finished in the top six in each of his previous four starts in the U.S. Open, and he always shows up ready to compete on golf’s biggest stages. It’s the finishing part that has been his problem. He was second in the Farmers Insurance Open in January, the first time he looked comfortable at Torrey Pines in his pro career. Since his last victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January 2019, Schauffele has finished in at least a tie for second a maddening eight times. That includes a tie for runner-up at the 2019 Masters and two seconds at the Tour Championship. Finally, he gets it done this week.

Curtis Strange, ESPN
Winner: Patrick Cantlay
Winning score: No idea. Weather-dependent.
Why he’ll win: Because winners of the Memorial historically do well in the U.S. Open.

Tom VanHaaren, ESPN.com
Winner: Collin Morikawa
Winning score:
5 under
Why he’ll win: I’m big on momentum with a golfer riding a wave of good play over a period of time. There are so many ups and downs in golf. I feel like Morikawa is riding a good wave right now. He finished T-8 at the PGA Championship, was T-14 at Charles Schwab, took second at the Memorial and hasn’t finished outside the top 20 in a tournament since the Players back in March. He’s playing good golf right now, and he has won on the biggest stage before — he won the 2020 PGA Championship — so he knows what it’ll take to win this one.

Scott Van Pelt, ESPN
Winner: Jon Rahm
Winning score: Not being on-site makes it impossible for me to say. So, I’m not going to guess, because that’s all it would be.
Why he’ll win: I try to avoid taking the most obvious pick, but sometimes you have to just let common sense prevail. Rahm has won at Torrey. The last time we saw him, he was 6 up after 54 holes at the Memorial, and he’s going to be a major champion sooner or later. So, we’ll go obvious and say sooner.

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Kevin Van Valkenburg, ESPN.com
Winner:
Viktor Hovland
Winning score: 2 over
Why he’ll win: This feels a bit foolhardy on my part because Hovland loves to fire at every pin and that is a recipe for disaster at the U.S. Open, but I’m convinced he’s going to win multiple majors and be a Ryder Cup menace. So why not start now? He has a decent record at Torrey Pines (having finished T-2 at the Farmers Insurance Open this year). He’s improved his short game considerably this year. He hits it long enough and makes enough birdies (third most per round on the PGA Tour) that he can erase mistakes and make runs. In two previous U.S. Opens, he’s finished inside the top 15, proof to me that he has the mental game to get in contention. Americans have dominated their own national championship since Martin Kaymer won in 2014, winning six straight, but I think Hovland, from Norway, might be the right man to end that streak.

Josh Weinfuss, ESPN.com
Winner: Brooks Koepka
Winning score: 4 under
Why he’ll win: Koepka would love nothing more than to win the U.S. Open the year after Bryson DeChambeau given their feud that’s taken on a life of its own. It’d be Koepka’s “take this” moment. There are few players in the world who are better equipped to win a major with so much non-golf conversation swirling. He’s as strong mentally as he is physically, and that’ll help him to focus even more than he already does during majors. After the four cuts he’s made in 2021, he’s either won or tied for second in three of those tournaments. So, if he gets to Saturday at Torrey Pines, make sure you’re by a TV on Sunday afternoon.

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