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U.S. Open Top 10 Players to Watch

For the first time in 14 years, the U.S. Open is going back to one of America’s classic courses, Shinnecock Hills, which opened in 1891 in the Long Island town of Southampton, just east of New York City.

This links-style course has played host to four previous U.S. Opens – 1896, 1986, 1995, and most recently 2004 when Retief Goosen held off Phil Mickelson for a two-shot victory and his second U.S. Open title.

Since 2004, the USGA has widened the fairways a bit and added 500 yards to the course. After experimenting with new venues like Chambers Bay and Erin Hills, the USGA has brought the Open back to a classic track that already has the players giving rave reviews.

Historically, the U.S. Open is the toughest of the four majors with a premium put on all aspects of the game – from driving length and accuracy to placing the ball in the proper position on approach shots to precision, creativity, and touch on and around the greens.

Weather also tends to play a role at the U.S. Open with rain softening the course and making it easier to score well, while windy conditions make it difficult to control the ball. At last year’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills, a lack of expected wind made the course play significantly easier and scores showed it, with the winning score being 16 under par.

With so many top-ranked players seeing success this season and a classic course that suits many eyes, this U.S. Open is primed to be one for the ages. Let’s take a look at the Top 10 Players to Watch.

 

Dustin Johnson

No golfer brings more momentum into the season’s second major than newly crowned #1 player Dustin Johnson, who is fresh off a dominating performance and win at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis. DJ’s hole-out eagle on the 18th sealed the deal in style and was his second win of the season, propelling past Justin Thomas to regain the #1 ranking in the OWGR.

Dustin’s unparalleled combination of power and precision coupled with a hot putter make the 2016 U.S. Open champion the odds-on-favorite. However, it should be noted that no player in Open history has ever gone on to win after winning the previous week, and no player has won a major championship as the #1 ranked player in the world since Tiger Woods’ epic victory over Rocco Mediate in 2008. Still, it’s hard to imagine DJ won’t be in contention come Sunday afternoon.

What’s in the Bag

 

Justin Thomas

After getting a small taste of being World #1, Justin Thomas (now #2 in the OWGR) is sure to be hungry to regain that #1 spot and claim his second major championship. The former Alabama Crimson Tide standout broke through last year at the PGA Championship to claim his first major, and he’s kept that momentum going into the 2018 season with a win at The Honda Classic and a runner-up finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

JT’s record-setting performance (-9 – the lowest score in relation to par) at last year’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills proves he has the physical and mental attributes to compete in golf’s toughest championship. His performance on the greens this season has been inconsistent, but if he can straighten out his putting woes, Justin could be on the brink of securing America’s national open as well as the #1 ranking back.

What’s in the Bag

  • Driver: New Titleist TS2 or TS3 (8.5 degrees) Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana BF 60TX
  • 3 Wood: Titleist 917F2 (15 degrees) Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Blue 80TX
  • 5 Wood: Titleist 915 Fd (18 degrees) Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 9.2 Tour Spec X
  • Irons: Titleist 718 AP2 (4 iron), Titleist 718 MB (5-9 irons) Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100
  • Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM5 (56-14F), Vokey SM6 (46-08F, 52-12F, 60-12K) Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue (46-60), Nippon N.S. Pro Modus 3 (60)
  • Putter: Scotty Cameron Circle T X5 Grip: SuperStroke Pistol GT Tour
  • Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

 

Tiger Woods

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since Tiger last won a major, but since then, a myriad of injuries has plagued the 14-time major winner, including most recently, fusion surgery to fix a nagging back injury. Two top-5 finishes, including a T-2 finish at the Valspar Championship, and more importantly, a healthy Tiger, have highlighted this comeback.

Tiger’s recent struggles with the driver are nothing new, but if he wants to contend at Shinnecock, he’ll have to either straighten it out or rely on his famous stinger shot to keep the ball in the play. A shaky putting performance over the weekend at the Memorial is a bit of cause for concern, so we’ll have to wait and see if he can match the lines with the notoriously slick U.S. Open putting surfaces.

If Tiger can keep the ball in play and find his rhythm on the greens, we could see one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.

What’s in the Bag

 

Rory McIlroy

After switching to the TaylorMade TP Black Copper Collection Soto putter, Rory ended an 18-month winless drought in March to capture the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The 4-time major winner has continued his good play with a second place finish at the BMW PGA and a T-8 at the Memorial.

Rory is notoriously long off the tee and loves hitting his driver, so if the Northern Irishman can keep the ball in play and is feeling it with the putter, he has the potential to separate himself from the field and claim his second U.S. Open.

What’s in the Bag

 

Rickie Fowler

After Sergio’s win at last year’s Masters, Rickie is arguably the owner of the title, “best player to not win a major.” He’s had close calls – including a second place finish at this year’s Masters – and seems primed to shed that pesky moniker and breakthrough for his first major.

Rickie is sneaky long and accurate off the tee, and has a short game and putting stroke that are second to none – prime ingredients for a U.S. Open champion. After having gotten engaged to girlfriend Allison Stokke this past weekend, perhaps the motivation to capture his first major championship has never been greater.

What’s in the Bag

 

Justin Rose

Rose is fresh off a win at the Fort Worth Invitational and his game is trending in the right direction. At 37, Rose has started to pare down his schedule in order to focus on the majors. Earlier this season, he was struggling with his approach play, which could prove problematic at a U.S. Open venue where greens are usually small and firm. However, it should be noted that the last three U.S. Open winners at Shinnecock Hills were 35 or older and that the last two were ranked in the top 10 in the world, two criteria Rose, a former U.S. Open champion at Merion, meets.

What’s in the Bag

 

Jason Day

A former World #1 and PGA Champion, Day has regained that form this season with wins at the Farmers Insurance Open and the Wells Fargo Championship, on two notoriously tough courses. Jason’s brilliant short game and putting have been back on display this season, and the current 8th ranked player in the world thrives on challenging course set-up conditions.

If he can stay healthy throughout the week and combine his power with accuracy, look for Jason to be right there in contention on the back 9 on Sunday.

What’s in the Bag

 

 

Jordan Spieth

Another former World #1, the current 4th ranked player in the world has seen a bit of an up-and-down season without a victory yet. He does, however, have two top-3 finishes and his ball striking has been a strong point this season, a vital tool at any U.S. Open.

The 2015 champion at Chambers Bay has also scrambled well around the greens. Yet, it’s his normally reliable putting that has let him down this season. He currently ranks 190th in strokes gained-putting. It’s hard to imagine a U.S. Open champion ranked that low winning, but if Jordan can find his 2015 magic, he may very well be hoisting his second U.S. Open trophy come Sunday.

What’s in the Bag

  • Driver: Titleist 915D2 (9.5 degrees) Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD IZ-6X
  • 3 Wood: Titleist 915F (15 degrees) Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI-7X
  • Hybrid: Titleist 818 H2 (21 degrees) Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI-95X Hybrid
  • Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (3, 4), 718 AP2 (5-9) Shafts: Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 95X (3)True Temper Project X 6.5 (4-9)
  • Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (46-08, 52-08F, 56-10S, 60-04L) Shafts: True Temper Project X 6.0 (52, 56, 60) True Temper Project X 6.5 (46)
  • Putter: Scotty Cameron Circle T 009 Grip: SuperStroke Flatso 1.0
  • Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

 

Brooks Koepka

The defending U.S. Open champion is coming off a second-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational after sitting out much of the season with a wrist injury he acquired in January. However, the 9th ranked player in the world has shown few signs of rust in his comeback, and the big hitter is bombing it as far as ever.

If he can shake off a few rust issues with his putter and find the pace on Shinnecock’s fast greens, Brooks could become the first player since Curtis Strange in 1988 to win back-to-back U.S. Open titles.

What’s in the Bag

 

Bryson DeChambeau

Riding high from a win at the Memorial, Bryson has once again proven that his scientific approach to the game works for him. He has consistently added distance off the tee and his short game and putting are in fine form at the moment.

However, his driving performance at the Memorial is a cause for concern. He rarely found the fairway off the tee and had to scramble far too much to save pars. Despite the driving inaccuracies, Bryson managed to hold off an excellent field for his second PGA Tour win. If he can work out the kinks with the driver at Shinnecock, Bryson’s energy, putting, and short game could propel him to his first major victory.

What’s in the BagDriver: Cobra King LTD Pro (8.5 degrees) Shaft: Project X HZRDUS T1100 75 grams 6.5-flex Length: 45.5 inches (tipped 1 inch)

 

Dark Horse PickTony Finau

Tony went viral this season after dislocating his ankle in a freak accident during the Masters’ Par-3 Contest at Augusta. Despite that gruesome injury, he went on to compete and finish T-10. He’s also had five Top-10 finishes this season, including a second-place finish at the Safeway Open and a T-2 at the Genesis Open.

Tony is a bomber off the tee, but also utilizes precision and artistry around the greens. If he takes a liking to Shinnecock Hills, he could be primed for a major breakthrough performance.

 

Notables:

Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama, Branden Grace, and Louis Oosthuizen.