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The world's top golfers will converge next week at Torrey Pines Golf Club near San Diego, and the 2021 U.S. Open has a bevy of storylines to follow.

Can Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy break out of their funks? Can Bryson DeChambeau defend his title over a talented 2021 U.S. Open field? Will six-time Open runner-up and San Diego native Phil Mickelson finally break through down the road from his childhood home and become one of the top 2021 U.S. Open contenders? Fans also will be watching closely to see how Jon Rahm responds after being forced to withdraw from the Memorial with a six-shot lead after the third round due to COVID-19.

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William Hill Sportsbook lists Rahm as the 10-1 favorite in its latest 2021 U.S. Open odds. Thomas, Johnson, McIlroy and DeChambeau are in a group at 14-1 along with multiple major champions Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth. Mickelson is a 50-1 longshot to win his second straight major after his stunning PGA victory. Before locking in any 2021 U.S. Open picks or PGA Tour predictions, you need to see who golf insider Sal Johnson is backing.

A media legend and consummate golf insider, Johnson has a strong feel for when a player's momentum will make a difference. Before last week's Memorial, the golf expert had Rahm and Collin Morikawa listed among his best bets, citing both as players who were coming in with momentum.

Both were in contention all week, and Rahm had a six-stroke lead at 18 under par following his third round as he attempted to defend his title. Then, the Spaniard received word that his pre-round test had come up positive for COVID-19 and had to withdraw.

That left the door open for Patrick Cantlay and Morikawa, and they battled with clutch putts all day in the final round. Both reached 13 under, with Cantlay prevailing with a par on the first playoff hole.

Johnson also knows how the players' games fit the courses. Before Phil Mickelson shocked the golf world at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, the golf guru made it a point to include Louis Oosthuizen among his contenders. Johnson told SportsLine that Oosthuizen excels on links-style tracks like the Ocean Course and said he is "always a good pick in majors."

The South African came in as a 60-1 long shot, but was right in the middle of the action all weekend and went four-under to tie for second.

Johnson also knows when surging players are poised for a breakthrough. He tabbed Sungjae Im as a top contender before his first Tour win at the Honda Classic last season and then touted Tyrrell Hatton before he registered his first tour victory the following week. Anyone who has followed Johnson's advice has cashed in huge.

Now Johnson, the first producer of "Inside the PGA Tour," a longtime ABC Sports golf producer who worked with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Greg Norman, and the founder of the world's top golf stats database, has released his highly confident 2021 U.S. Open picks, and they will surprise you.

Top 2021 U.S. Open expert picks

Shockingly, the golf expert is fading Justin Thomas at the U.S. Open 2021, despite the fact that he won the Players Championship and is the No. 2 player in the world. The 27-year-old is among the group at 14-1 but has not been playing well recently and has avoided Torrey Pines most of his career. He has a top-10 finish and a missed cut in two tries. "His game has only been sharp once in the past six months, and that was in his win at the Players," Johnson told SportsLine.

On the other hand, Johnson knows Spieth has been playing the best golf on tour for months. The 27-year-old tied for 18th at the Memorial last week after a tough opening-round 76, but that was just his second finish outside the top 10 in the past seven events. He won the Valero Texas Open in April and has three other top-three finishes since his hot streak started in February. The three-time major champion is 14th on tour in total strokes gained and 21st in scoring average (70.178). He is eighth in both strokes gained around the green and overall putting average.

The golf expert also knows Rahm has been on a scorching run and should come out hot after having to withdraw from the Memorial. The world's No. 3 player had a six-shot lead at Muirfield Village after the third round before his COVID-19 test came back positive. He has finished in the top 10 in 10 of his 17 tournaments, including the PGA Championship (eighth), Players Championship (ninth) and Masters (fifth, seventh). He leads in scoring average (69.768), is second in total strokes gained and fourth in greens in regulation (71.25 percent).

How to make 2021 U.S. Open predictions

For the U.S. Open 2021, Johnson is touting a major long shot who comes in at well over 50-1 odds. This veteran has a strong track record at Torrey Pines and is well-positioned to make surprising run. You can only see who it is here.

Who wins the U.S. Open 2021? Where do Spieth and Rahm finish? And which huge long-shot is a must-back? Check out the odds below, then visit SportsLine to see Sal Johnson's full leaderboard, picks and analysis, all from the insider who was all over his best bets last week. 

2021 U.S. Open field, odds, contenders

Jon Rahm 10-1

Justin Thomas 14-1

Dustin Johnson 14-1

Rory McIlroy 14-1

Jordan Spieth 14-1

Bryson DeChambeau 14-1

Brooks Koepka 14-1

Collin Morikawa 18-1

Xander Schauffele 18-1

Patrick Cantlay 22-1

Viktor Hovland 25-1

Hideki Matsuyama 28-1

Webb Simpson 33-1

Patrick Reed 33-1

Daniel Berger 33-1

Tony Finau 33-1

Will Zalatoris 33-1

Tyrrell Hatton 40-1

Louis Oosthuizen 40-1

Justin Rose 40-1

Scottie Scheffler 40-1

Tommy Fleetwood 40-1

Paul Casey 50-1

Matthew Fitzpatrick 50-1

Shane Lowry 50-1
Sung-Jae Im 50-1

Cameron Smith 50-1

Phil Mickelson 50-1

Rickie Fowler 50-1

Abraham Ancer 60-1

Corey Conners 60-1

Joaquin Niemann 60-1

Marc Leishman 66-1

Sam Burns 66-1

Adam Scott 66-1

Lee Westwood 66-1

Jason Day 66-1

Sergio Garcia 66-1

Gary Woodland 70-1

Jason Kokrak 70-1

Harris English 80-1

Branden Grace 90-1

Max Homa 100-1

Brandt Snedeker 100-1

Bubba Watson 100-1

Matthew Wolff 100-1

Christiaan Bezuidenhout 100-1

Si-Woo Kim 100-1

Robert Macintyre 125-1

Brian Harman 125-1

Sebastian Munoz 125-1

Billy Horschel 125-1

Cameron Champ 125-1

Carlos Ortiz 125-1

Garrick Higgo 125-1

Kevin Streelman 125-1

Russell Henley 125-1

Matt Wallace 125-1

Stewart Cink 125-1

Kevin Na 150-1

Victor Perez 150-1

Ryan Palmer 150-1

Zach Johnson 150-1

Alex Noren 150-1

Kevin Kisner 150-1

Thomas Pieters 150-1

Brendon Todd 150-1

Matt Kuchar 150-1

Francesco Molinari 150-1

Bernd Wiesberger 150-1

Ian Poulter 150-1

Matt Jones 150-1

Mackenzie Hughes 200-1

Ryo Ishikawa 200-1

Henrik Stenson 200-1

Chez Reavie 200-1

Lanto Griffin 200-1

Kyoung-Hoon Lee 200-1

Erik Van Rooyen 200-1

Martin Kaymer 200-1

Wade Ormsby 250-1

Johannes Veerman 250-1

Wilco Nienaber 250-1

Paul Barjon 300-1

Jimmy Walker 300-1

Graeme McDowell 300-1

Brad Kennedy 300-1

Yosuke Asaji 300-1

Eric Cole 300-1

Joe Long 500-1

Ty Strafaci 500-1  

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Tags: the world’s top golf world’s top golf the world’s top the world’s top the world’s the world’s world’s top top golf the pga championship players championship bryson dechambeau at torrey pines patrick cantlay collin morikawa phil mickelson his first tour tyrrell hatton dustin johnson his first tour jordan spieth justin thomas brooks koepka rory mcilroy been playing has a strong golf insider the players the players in the past

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Top-heavy field for Olympic golf still missing some stars

Four of the top 10 men in the world golf ranking are not going to Japan for the Olympics, only one of them by choice.

The 60-man field was set Tuesday based on the world ranking with a half-dozen late withdrawals, a list that included U.S. Open runner-up Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Tyrrell Hatton of England and Sergio Garcia of Spain.

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Dustin Johnson, the No. 2 player in the world, had already said he would not be going because the Tokyo Olympics on July 29 through Aug. 1 are crammed into an already busy golf schedule.

Even so, it was a strong turnaround from Rio de Janeiro when golf returned to the Olympic program for the first time in a century and the world's best stayed home.

Five years ago, with concerns over the Zika virus and security, men's golf was missing the top four players in the world who had combined to win six of the past eight majors.

There are restrictions on athletes' movement and where they can stay during the Tokyo Olympics because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The men's field still has four of the top five in the world ranking, and five of the past six major champions. That includes Hideki Matsuyama, the first Japanese player to win the Masters.

The women's field will be set next week.

Jon Rahm of Spain, who returned to No. 1 in the world with his U.S. Open victory, led the qualifiers. He was followed by four Americans — Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau.

Three other Americans — Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed — are among the top 10 in the world and didn't qualify. Countries can have up to four players provided they are among the top 15 in the world. Otherwise, the limit is two until the 60-man field is set.

Garcia, who tied for eighth in Rio Olympics, posted to social media on Monday that his priority to Spain on an international stage was the Ryder Cup. Garcia is six spots out of automatic qualifying for the Ryder Cup through world ranking points. His spot in the Olympics went to Rafa Cabrera Bello.

Oosthuizen, who flew from San Diego to Germany to compete on the European Tour, said on Twitter that he wanted to focus on a strong finish to the PGA Tour season and to honor family commitments. He is preparing for farm life after buying an 86-acre ranch in Ocala, Florida.

Garrick Higgo, the dynamic 22-year-old who won on the PGA Tour two weeks ago, represents South Africa along with Christiaan Bezuidenhout.

Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick and Lee Westwood each turned down spots for Britain. Hatton is No. 11 in the world and was the top qualifier. Fitzpatrick narrowly lost out on what would have been the second qualifying spot to Paul Casey at the U.S. Open. Westwood had said earlier he was not planning to go.

That left Casey and Tommy Fleetwood from England to wave the Union Jack.

Adam Scott of Australia has been opposed to golf in the Olympics and was never planning to go. The Aussies will have Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman. Also withdrawing were Bernd Wiesberger of Austria and Martin Kaymer of Germany.

The field does not include the three medalists from Rio.

Justin Rose, who won the gold medal in 2016, has fallen to No. 44 in the world and would have needed one more British player to withdraw. He was No. 14 in the world when the pandemic shut down golf in March 2020, and ultimately postponed the Olympics.

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Silver medalist Henrik Stenson is mired in a slump. He was the British Open champion when he played in the previous Olympics. Now he is No. 155 in the world, and Sweden's two spots went to Alex Noren and Henrik Norlander. Matt Kuchar won the bronze. He now is the 31st-ranked American.

Only nine of the top 100 in the world turned down their Olympic spots.

The men's field will be represented by 30 countries, with newcomers such as Poland (Adrian Meronk) and Slovakia, which has Rory Sabbatini. The South African-born Sabbatini became a naturalized citizen in December 2018 through his wife.

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