RENOWNED for being the toughest of the four Majors, the US Open this week will be no different.
It is being held at Shinnecock Hills which will be the fifth time the course it has had this honour.
The last time the US Open was played here the organisers were on the hop when the wind had dried out the greens on the Sunday and made a few of them unplayable.
Notably the 7th had to be watered in between every group on the final day. In the last eight years six of the winners were winning their first Major, with Jordan Spieth (2015), who won the Masters earlier that year, and Martin Kaymer (2014) the only two who had already banked one. Could there be another newbie’s name on the trophy this year?
- Course: Shinnecock Hills, Long Island, New York, 7445 yards, Par 70.
Defending champion Koepka has been in my thoughts for a while for Shinnecock and he seems to be hitting form just in time. Koepka is aiming to be the first man since Curtis Strange in 1988-89 to win back-to-back US Opens. Can he do it? I think he can.
In 2012 in his first appearance in the US Open he missed the cut but since returning in 2014 he has gone T4-T18-T13 and of course won it last year. In that victory he hit nothing worse than a bogey and romped home by four shots. I have a lot of faith in the Floridian and expect him to win again this week.
South African Grace has definitely got pedigree for links-type courses. At the infamous Chambers Bay in 2015 he finished T4 behind the man who could do no wrong that year, Jordan Spieth.
The following year he finished T5, four shots behind Dustin Johnson who won his first Major with such style. A T6 in The Open last year and winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2012 shows he can handle links golf.
In that Open at Royal Birkdale he also became the first man to hit a 62 in a Major. I just get the feeling the guy from Pretoria is warming up just in time for both the US Open and The Open.
Every time I look at the field for this year’s US Open Rose stands out. I’ve always felt his putting is a bit suspect but every other stat is solid.
He has won twice on the PGA Tour this season and like most of the top players seems to be honing his game to all the Majors. I still feel the defeat to Sergio Gracia in the Masters last year knocked the stuffing out of him a bit but he rebounded at the end of the season with three T10s and a T2.
He continued that form in the new season with a wins at the WGC-HSBC Championship and the Turkish Airlines Open and four top 10s from five outings. We all know he is comfortable on links courses and although he has missed the cut in the last two years he is a past winner (2013) and can’t be overlooked.
What can I say about Rickie Fowler that hasn’t already been said. Every time a Major comes around I think “it’s Rickie-time” then he is either a gallant loser or nowhere near the top of the leaderboard.
He hasn’t won on Tour since his the Honda in February last year. In his last five outings he has a second place at the Masters, a T14 at Fort Worth and T8 at The Memorial so it shows he is in good form.
Last year at Erin Hills he couldn’t sustain that level of golf after a brilliant first round. He has three top-10 finishes in the US Open since 2013 and I’m giving him another chance get that elusive Major.
Over the past few years Matsuyama has really impressed in the Majors but been unable to become the first Japanese man to win a Major championship. Two top-10s in this event (T2 in 2017) and three top 20s in The Open shows me he can play links golf.
Last year he finished four shots behind Brooks Koepka at Erin Hills and that was after a disastrous 74 in the first round. A 65 and a 66 in the second and fourth rounds were his highlights from that weekend. He’s been struggling over the past year with a wrist injury but it’s his putting that has let him down. He will win a Major but the question is when.
I was torn between two Swedes for my final choice. I really like Alex Noren and I’ve been beating the drum about him over the past few months but Stenson seems well suited for this.
We know he can play links golf, winning The Open in 2016 and second in 2013. He also has two top-10 finishes in the US Open.
There is the downside where he missed the cut in the last two years but his form this year is good and with three top 10s in Europe and four on the PGA Tour including a T5 at the Masters he is good form.