US Open golf 2021: What time is it, what TV channel is it on and who are the contenders?

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US Open golf 2021: What time is it, what TV channel is it on and who are the contenders? - AP
US Open golf 2021: What time is it, what TV channel is it on and who are the contenders? - AP

The US Open is now golf's third major championship of the season and this year the tournament returns to Torrey Pines on the California coast.

The San Diego course was the scene of Tiger Woods' famous 2008 triumph, when he holed a birdie putt on the 72nd hole to earn a play-off against Rocco Mediate who he finally vanquished on the Monday. All this, while suffering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and a fractured tibia.

The USGA like to set up the tournament as the most difficult test in golf, with baked greens and heavy rough sometimes leading to an over-par winning score. Woods and Mediate were the only players under par in 2008.

When is it?

The first round of the US Open is on Thursday 17 June. The final round will be on Sunday 20 June.

What time will it start?

Local time in the US is Pacific Time, which is eight hours behind British Summer Time. That means the early starters will begin their first rounds somewhere between 3pm and 4pm in the afternoon UK time. The full field may not complete their rounds until the early hours, possibly around 2am.

What TV channel is it on?

Sky Sports' exclusive live coverage will begin at 3pm on Thursday on Sky Sports Golf. It will then be available on Sky Sports Main Event from 6.45pm, with coverage scheduled to last until 3am on Friday morning. With the field reduced after the 36-hole cut, the finishing time for the final two rounds should be a bit earlier.

What do we know about Torrey Pines?

The course hosts the Farmers Insurance Open, formerly known as the Buick Invitational, on the PGA Tour every January so there is plenty of course form to consider.

That tournament is split between Torrey Pines' South Course and the far more lenient North Course, but the US Open will consist of 72 holes around the testing South.

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The layout stretches to 7,652 yards, at more or less sea level, and will play as a par 71 with the sixth hole converted to a par four. There are two par fives on the back nine, including the 18th hole which also features the course's only serious man-made water hazard.

As ever with the US Open, it is a stringent examination of ball-striking and accuracy. Wayward drives will be penalised by lush rough, from where players will need to rely on their scrambling skills.

The agronomy of the greens is poa annua grass, which is not to the liking of all players. It can get quite mossy and putts are known to deviate and bounce when the greens become marked later in the day. Expect to see some short-range misses.

Who are the leading contenders?

Jon Rahm: The strong pre-tournament favourite. The Spaniard is a fantastic driver of the ball which is a key US Open indicator, was in sumptuous form before his positive Covid test at Memorial and has an excellent Torrey Pines record. It was the scene of his first PGA Tour victory in 2017 and since then his Farmers Insurance finishes read: T29, T5, 2 and T7.

Dustin Johnson: The World No 1 and two-time major champion, including the 2016 US Open at Oakmont. Has been off colour since the turn of the year though, missing the cut at the Masters and USPGA Championship, but did finish T10 last time out at the Palmetto Championship.

Brooks Koepka: The major specialist himself with four of these big titles on his mantelpiece already, including consecutive US Opens in 2017 and 2018. Has struggled with injury over the last year, but there were signs of the old magic when he contended at the USPGA at Kiawah Island. Missed three cuts either side of that event though. All eyes will be on his feud with Bryson DeChambeau.

Bryson DeChambeau: The defending champion having won at Winged Foot last autumn in impressive fashion. His prodigious distance off the tee does not need restating, but DeChambeau's key advantage at US Opens is his ability to gouge the ball onto greens from rough. Won earlier at Bay Hill in March but quiet since.

Bryson DeChambeau with the US Open trophy - AP
Bryson DeChambeau with the US Open trophy - AP

Jordan Spieth: Inching closer to his best form with some far more encouraging results in 2021. Returned to the winners' circle in his home state of Texas in April and finished T3 at the Masters. The odd destructive shot still lurks, but has the short-game skills to keep him in touch on a US Open leaderboard. Recent finishes at Torrey Pines are not good though.

Rory McIlroy: Still searching for consistency under the guidance of swing coach Pete Cowan. There have been some positive signs, not least a victory at the Wells Fargo at Quail Hollow. That win was largely due to McIlroy's short game and putting though, with his long game uncharacteristically errant. Ranks 173rd for driving accuracy on the PGA Tour this season, which does not bode well for a US Open.

Xander Schauffele: The bridesmaid at so many majors in recent years with no real weaknesses, apart from his ability to get across the winning line perhaps. Finished runner-up at Torrey Pines in January and ranks third on the PGA Tour for Strokes Gained Total.

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Collin Morikawa: One of the best iron players in the world and won the USPGA Championship on a coastal course in San Francisco last year. Has three top 10s in his last five outings and leads the PGA Tour for Strokes Gained on Approach.

Patrick Cantlay: Plays well on traditional, ball-strikers courses as evidenced by two wins at Muirfield Village. Difficult to pick any holes in his game and is expected to contend.

Justin Thomas: When he is hot, he is red hot but Thomas has not had his best golf for a while. Without a top 10 since winning the Players Championship in March and wayward driving could well prove his downfall.