2021 U.S. Open: Xander Schauffele’s consistency set to collide with uneven performances at Torrey Pines


The U.S. Open is unlike every other major championship in the world. Sure, other majors go to different courses just like the U.S. Open goes to different courses, but from a course setup perspective, you almost always know what you’re getting at the USGA’s biggest event.

In that sense, one could argue that the U.S. Open is more like the Masters, which obviously never changes locale. While there is certainly more variety in golf course at U.S. Opens (Winged Foot is much different than, say, Shinnecock), for the most part the USGA applies the “high rough, narrow fairways” template across the board.

This is probably less true today than it was 30 years ago, but it’s almost certainly more true of the U.S. Open than it is other major championships. Because of that, the U.S. Open has become maybe the second-easiest major championship to handicap. Or rather, past history seems to matter more at U.S. Opens than it does at PGA Championships and Open Championships.

With that in mind, I wanted to look at who has had success over the last decade of U.S. Opens. Over 700 golfers have teed it up at least once over the last 10 years at places like Pinehurst and Pebble, but only two of them have never finished outside the top 10. The first one is a bit of a caveat. Matthew Wolff has only played in one U.S. Open, and he finished runner-up to Bryson DeChambeau at Winged Foot last September.

The other one, though, has played in four straight — Erin Hills, Shinnecock, Pebble Beach and Winged Foot — and finished in the top 10 every single time. That’s extraordinarily difficult to do, but Xander Schauffele is 4-for-4 in top 10s, though he has yet to win a major championship.

In some ways, this makes sense. Schauffele is maybe the most complete player in the world (Patrick Cantlay is also in the conversation), and the U.S. Open purports itself as the most complete examination of any golf tournament in the world. That may or may not be true, but Schauffele’s history here is instructive for next week. Interestingly, though, it coincides with a history at Torrey Pines — near where Schauffele was born, raised and went to school — that is not very impressive.

Though Schauffele finished T2 at this year’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, he has four missed cuts in six total appearances there (he also has a T25). Torrey will have changed a lot between January and next week’s U.S. Open, though. So much so that Schauffele said recently that he’s been avoiding playing it.

“In terms of recently I haven’t played it much,” said Schauffele at the Memorial Tournament last week. “I’ve been kind of waiting for the course to get into tournament shape for the U.S. Open to not get too acclimated to the wrong conditions.”

Schauffele is not alone in thriving at the U.S. Open. Here’s a look at the other golfers who have finished in the top 10 at least 40% of the time (minimum 3 appearances).

Xander Schauffele

4

4

100%

Brooks Koepka

7

4

57%

Dustin Johnson

10

5

50%

Jason Day

10

5

50%

Rory McIlroy

10

4

40%

Louis Oosthuizen

10

4

40%

Tommy Fleetwood 5 2 40%
Tony Finau 5 2 40%

There are several implications regarding this information from a wagering, winning and contention perspective (four of the last 10 champions are on this list). But the big takeaway for me is that Schauffele could miss the next six U.S. Open cuts and still be included here. That’s wild, and it’s one of the great starts to a U.S. Open career in history.

The only thing that matters next week, of course, is whether it leads to a victory. At this point in Schauffele’s career, he’s about picking off wins and trying to collect major championships. If past history at the U.S. Open is any indication (and I believe that it is), he’ll be in contention to do that once again next week at Torrey.





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