The 120th U.S. Open is fast approaching with the key question being the same one everyone is asking across the golf world: Who are you picking to win at Winged Foot? With a tremendous field featuring most of the best golfers in the world, the first major of the 2020-21 season should be an epic ride from Thursday’s first round onward.
The storylines are plentiful this week. Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm are looking to continue their incredible play. Tiger Woods and especially Phil Mickelson are hoping to tap into the fountain of youth as Woods seeks to conquer a course he’s struggled playing and Lefty again efforts toward the lone major that has eluded him. We also have Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and a bevy of other star golfers looking to stake a claim at the first of six majors we will see before the season is out.
So what is going to happen later this week in New York? Let’s take a look at a full set of predictions and picks from our CBS Sports experts. Check out a full set of odds via William Hill Sportsbook along with the tee times for Thursday’s first round.
2020 U.S. Open expert picks, predictions
Kyle Porter, golf writer
Winner — Jon Rahm (10-1): The two toughest golf tournaments of 2020 have both been won by Rahm. He took the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village and the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields, both impressively against loaded fields. Those tournaments serve as facsimiles for this U.S. Open, and Rahm has the short game to stand up even if he doesn’t have his best tee-to-green package at Winged Foot.
Sleeper — Adam Scott (50-1): Scotty has a world-class short game and the iron play Winged Foot demands. He has not played as much as most of the other stars in this field, but his top 25 finish at TPC Harding Park a month ago was impressive given that it was his first tournament in five months. He’s finished in the top 20 in four of his last six U.S. Opens.
Top 10 lock — Dustin Johnson: I think he’ll fall back a bit from the heater he’s been on, but the heater has been so hot that even if he falls back it will likely be into the top 10 somewhere. He’s finished in the top five in four of his last six U.S. Opens, including that win at Oakmont in 2016.
Star who definitely won’t win — Bryson DeChambeau: His style just is not going to work this week. It will work a lot over the next 10-15 years, and he’ll win a lot of tournaments. But his short game is not where it needs to be, and he won’t be able to decimate Winged Foot like he has other courses on the PGA Tour.
Top 5 in order: Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed
Surprise prediction: Tiger Woods will miss the cut. Maybe this is not surprising to some who have been following closely, but it will be to a broader audience that only tunes into the major championships. His game is not sharp and not where it needs to be to contend at a U.S. Open. He won’t miss the cut by a lot, but he’ll be on the line all week long and ultimately fall on the wrong side of it come Friday evening.
Lowest round: 67 (-3)
Winning score: 285 (+5)
Winner’s Sunday score: 72 (+2)
Chip Patterson, writer
Winner — Jon Rahm (10-1): For most of the PGA Tour season after the restart, professional golf was a scoring bonanza. Whoever could get hot and roll off the most birdies would be in contention to win, and then on Sunday, the absence of fans helped alleviate some of the pressure that came from those late afternoon tee times. But two tournaments stood out where the combination of course design and tournament-week maintenance provided a unique challenge to the field: the Memorial and the BMW Championship. Rahm won both those events because he’s got world-class form that separates him from the rest when faced with a course that demands all of the shots. His well-rounded game and continued maturity as a star on this stage sets up perfectly to win his first major championship and keep this hot streak going into the fall.
Sleeper — Matthew Fitzpatrick (60-1): Applying the same system here, Fitzpatrick finished third at the Memorial and tied for 6th at the BMW Championship making him the only other player (with Rahm) to log a top 10 at both events. You’re also betting on some championship history as the USGA has not been the menace to Fitzpatrick like it is for some young stars. He’s made the cut in all five of his career starts at the U.S. Open, was the low amateur in 2014 and logged 12th place finishes at Shinnecock Hills in 2018 and Pebble Beach in 2019.
Top 10 lock — Xander Schauffele: There’s just no holes in his game. Schauffele doesn’t quite keep up with the distance of the bombers, isn’t so dialed in that he pulls away from the field on approach shots and has been known to struggle with his putter from time to time, yet the 26-year-old is top 10 in strokes gained tee-to-green, top 10 in strokes gained total and had seven top-10 finishes on the season. And these are big stage top 10s, too, finishing as the runner-up at the Tour Championship, tied for 10th at the PGA Championship and a tied for 6th at the WGC in Memphis. Schauffele succeeds on the game’s biggest stages because he can hang in there even when he doesn’t have his fastball, and that kind of resilience will be a key at Winged Foot.
Star who definitely won’t win — Justin Thomas: I like J.T. more at events where you’re going to be able to go on a run of birdies and not only is that not the U.S. Open in principle, but it’s definitely not the case at Winged Foot. His best U.S. Open finish was in 2017 at Erin Hills when a record 31 players finished the tournament under par, coming in at T9 after a rollercoaster weekend with a white-hot 63 on Saturday and then a course-correcting 75 on Sunday. He’s playing well enough that he could definitely finish top 10, but it’s not the right fit for him to be the winner.
Top 5 in order: Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson
Surprise prediction: Phil Mickelson flirts with the lead on Thursday. He’s too amped up and loose after dominating his first Champions Tour start and spending all week talking about his 2006 choke, the huge bet on him to win and — oh yeah — the annual U.S. Open and grand slam talking points. It’s his first U.S. Open after turning 50, and I think he comes out with stellar stuff, sending the golf world into a frenzy. He’ll probably fade the background and might even miss the cut, but I think we get some Thursday thrills from Phil.
Lowest round: 66 (-4)
Winning score: 278 (-2)
Winner’s Sunday score: 71 (+1)
Who will win the U.S. Open, and which long shots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine to see the projected leaderboard, all from the model that’s nailed six golf majors (including Gary Woodland’s win last year) and is up over $8,000 since restart.
Kyle Boone, writer
Winner — Collin Morikawa (18-1): That’s right, back-to-back majors for the rookie. He’s a monster with his irons and always plays with control, which will be crucial to success at what’s sure to be a week filled with carnage at Winged Foot. If he can shape his irons with sauce like he always does and get by around the greens, he’ll be in the mix to win his second consecutive major championship after taking home the PGA Championship last month.
Sleeper — Phil Mickelson (80-1): At some point, karma has to take Phil’s side, right? He’s finished second or T2 in the U.S. Open on six different occasions throughout his career, some of which include some close-but-not-quites of haunting proportions. It feels like the world owes him at least one — and there’s no better year to do it than this one. He just turned 50 and has had some brilliant moments of late, including a win on the Senior Tour and a T2 finish at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
Top 10 lock — Dustin Johnson: Generally, I have less confidence in D.J. than most of golf’s stars, but I just can’t fade him this week. He’s coming off a Tour Championship win and a FedEx Cup Playoff win, and he has finished T2 or better in four consecutive outings dating back to the PGA last month. This is the best and most consistent D.J. we’ve ever seen, and I expect it continues with a top-10 finish this week.
Star who definitely won’t win — Rory McIlroy: Since winning the U.S. Open in historic fashion in 2011, Rory’s been unable to recapture the magic with four missed cuts in eight U.S. Open outings in the years since. McIlroy has played well in his last two outings, but it’s hard to ignore how pedestrian his outings were in the previous seven since the pandemic, six of which he finished outside the top 30.
Top 5 in order: Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele
Surprise prediction: Rahm holds the No. 1 spot on the leaderboard at the conclusion of at least two rounds. He’s an artist off the tees and has a way of rising to the occasion when the course turns tough, which should play into his favor this week.
Lowest round: 67 (-3)
Winning score: 276 (-4)
Winner’s Sunday score: 68 (-2)
Adam Silverstein, deputy managing editor
Winner — Justin Thomas (14-1): After a tremendous effort at majors in 2017-18, J.T. has not had much success over the last four events with no top 10 finishes and a missed cut in his last four. Despite that, he’s been playing quite well in every phase of his game except with the putter. He is absolutely going to be in contention at Winged Foot. The question is whether he can push past guys like D.J. and Rahm. I’m not sure, but at 14-1, I’ll take one of the best players in the world.
Sleeper — Rickie Fowler (55-1): Look, I get it. Fowler always gets close but never gets the job done. He has 11 top 10s at majors over the last nine years and two in 2019 alone. Even recently he’s played well but fallen apart over the weekend. Here’s the thing. He’s going to spend the first two days at Winged Foot surrounded by fellow former Pokes as an Oklahoma State trio of Fowler, Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff will be pushing each other. All three are among the top 50 golfers in the world. You know what? Wolf (60-1) is a pretty good long shot, too. I like one of these three guys to be in the top 10 entering the weekend, which puts them in contention for the whole U.S. Open.
Top 10 lock — Dustin Johnson (17/2): D.J. is not someone I would normally consider a lock for anything, but considering the way he’s been playing, thinking he will not contend for the U.S. Open would be foolish. You could also slot Rahm in here. My normal “lock” in this space is McIlroy, the king of backdoor top 10s, but he’s not at the top of his game right now.
Star who definitely won’t win — Tiger Woods: I am of the belief that Tiger has more majors to win, but he is not going to take Winged Foot. Woods has not finished better than T21 at the U.S. Open since 2010. That’s a decade. Outside of his Masters victory, which is nothing to thumb one’s nose at, he’s finished no better than T21 in his last four majors, missing two cuts. He’s the biggest star out there, and he’s definitely not going to win — this week.
Top 5 in order: Justin Thomas, Webb Simpson, Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Dustin JOhnson
Surprise prediction: Phil Mickelson is in contention entering Moving Day. Lefty knows what it takes to win at Winged Foot (despite not doing so in 2006) and has a lot of internal and external motivation to exorcise his demons and not only go hard to win the U.S. Open but do so at this course. He’s not going to do it. But can he play well and be a handful of strokes off the lead through the first two rounds? You bet.
Lowest round: 67 (-3)
Winning score: 282 (+2)
Winner’s Sunday score: 70 (E)