8 Outsiders to Track at the US Open
This year's U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach for a sixth time, bringing American's national championship to the most visually spectacular of venues. From Jack Nicklaus to Tom Watson and Tiger Woods, the list of winners on the Monterey Peninsula is striking, underlining the iconic nature of this course, which possesses a rich history and is regarded as a must play by many.
Measuring just over 7,000 yards, this venerable layout is not lengthy by modern standards, contrasting with the power paradise of Bethpage Black that we saw at the PGA Championship. That should widen the spectrum of potential champions, with straight hitting and precise iron play being paramount, such is the density of the rough, and the comparatively miniscule size of the greens.
Attention has rightly been placed upon two-time defending Brooks Koepka, who is seeking history, former winner Dustin Johnson, the great Tiger Woods, returning to the site of his most dominant triumph, and the in-form Rory McIlroy. However, beyond the favourites, who could secure the title and join the legends of Pebble?
Here are eight names to watch out for.
Twice a winner of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the 38-year-old is looking for his first major victory, and comes to California on the back of a tied-fourth place at the Canadian Open. The former FedEx Cup champion has a liking for these Poa annua greens, ideal for holing those crucial par putts and converting rare birdie opportunities.
Additionally, Snedeker finished in a tie for fifth at The Players Championship in March, illustrating that he still has the game to compete against the strongest of fields, such as the one he will contend with this week.
Finishing in a tie for third at the PGA Championship was another career milestone in the determined path of the 29-year-old Englishman, and the confidence from that display should set him up for Pebble Beach. The key thing with Wallace is his unrelenting self-belief, a helpful trait to have in a U.S. Open.
Since the 1920s and the days of Jim Barnes, only Tony Jacklin and Justin Rose have carried the English flag to glory in this championship, but the young man from Hillingdon has the air of someone who thrives on the grandest stages, especially with greater experience now behind him.
It's been five years since the likeable German added the U.S. Open to his collection of titles, completing a dominant win at Pinehurst, but remarkably that was his most recent success on tour. However, the 34-year-old has quietly shot back to form lately, including his strong display at the Memorial Tournament, in addition to a top ten at the British Masters.
Winning another major may not yet be in his immediate radar, but Kaymer is returning to his best, and that makes him a potential factor in the biggest events.
Nine years ago at Pebble, Graeme McDowell spearheaded the astonishing run of Northern Irish major winners, followed by Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy. Returning to the site of past glories, the 39-year-old has enjoyed a resurgence this season, winning again on the PGA Tour and last week qualifying for the Open Championship in his hometown of Portrush.
This is a good time to be McDowell, who has risen from 238th in the world to the fringes of the top 100, and that positivity could reflect itself with a strong showing at Monterey.
The experienced Englishman has been relatively quiet since he contended in the Masters, but over the past two years, the 43-year-old has played some of the best golf in his career. Pebble should play into his strengths, with his fearless attitude being another credible attribute to have when tackling the stringent USGA examination.
Odds would suggest that his time has likely passed for winning a major, but don't tell Ian Poulter that.
Recent winner at Colonial, the Korean American displays many of the classic battling traits required at the US Open, and he has made the cut in each of his last five appearances, including a seventh place at Oakmont three years ago.
Venues like Augusta National or Bethpage may not suit the 35-year-old, but Pebble Beach is the sort of place you could see him playing well at, potentially elevating his already lengthy career to the next level with a major title.
16 years have passed since Furyk won the U.S. Open, but last year's Ryder Cup captain hasn't drifted towards a late career malaise, instead returning to completive form, most notably a runner-up behind Rory McIlroy at Sawgrass. The 49-year-old would be the oldest major champion in history - suggesting that a triumph at Pebble is unlikely - but it won't come a shock if the veteran American plays well here, as he typically does in this championship, with seven top five finishes in 24 appearances, including a runner-up three years ago.
2013 PGA champion, Dufner's precise iron play should prove advantageous with regards to finding these small greens, and he is coming into this week after recent top ten finishes at the Memorial and Wells Fargo, two demanding events. The 42-year-old's US Open record is impressive, including strong places in 2012, 2013 and 2016, with improved form providing extra reason for optimism. Quite whether his nerve over the putts will hold should he find himself in contention is another question, but the former Ryder Cup player has the game for Pebble.
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