9 Players to Watch at the US Open
The West Course at Winged Foot is ranked among the most difficult venues in the United States, a fitting stage for the US Open, where low scores have long been a rarity, setting the challenge for the 120th edition of America's national championship.
Gary Woodland defends the title he brilliantly won at Pebble Beach, but who could etch their name into history this week? Golfshake's Derek Clements picks out a group of players, a mixture of favourites and outsiders, who you should be looking out for as the event progresses.
Unflappable American who, inexplicably, got through the 2019-20 season without winning. But it is worth noting that he had the lowest aggregate score at the Tour Championship, losing only because Dustin Johnson had such a large head start on the field. He has no weaknesses.
What is there left to say about the Dustinator? Well, we could start by asking why he still has only one major title to his name? It is difficult to fathom. Has just completed the most astonishing season, finishing second at the US PGA and BMW Championship, while winning the Travelers Championship, Northern Trust Open, Tour Championship and FedEx Cup.
Full of confidence, and quite rightly too.The Englishman won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and was a model of consistency when the lockdown finished, playing some glorious golf. Yes, he has a fiery temperament, but he is able to move on. Hatton is now England’s top-ranked golfer, sitting just outside the top 10.
Has just enjoyed another wonderful season, with three victories and a bucketload of top 10 finishes. Goes about his business in a quiet and efficient manner. Hits the ball a mile, is one of the best fairway wood players in the game. And has a short game to die for. Ready to add to his solitary major title.
It is not just the fact that he won the US PGA under such intense pressure that impresses. Morikawa is an absolute model of consistency. He finds lots of fairways and is a sensational iron player, coupled with a wonderful temperament. A proven winner and a man who looks like he is living the dream.
In any other season he would have finished as Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour, but was pipped by Scottie Scheffler. Hovland’s only weakness is his chipping and that could be a problem at Winged Foot. But he does everything else quite beautifully and is a major champion in waiting.
The 19-year-old enjoyed a sensational season on the European Tour and, along with Hovland, is a shoo-in for Padraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup team. He is mature way beyond his years. Already a proven winner who relishes tough courses - and they don’t come much tougher than Winged Foot.
The key to playing Winged Foot well is to find fairways and nobody is better at that than Fitzpatrick. He is one of the shorter hitters on the European Tour but has learnt to live with that. Another great iron player who has a glorious short game. A brilliant strategist who will relish the challenge.
The Scot’s pedigree has never been in doubt and he enjoyed a glorious run on the European Tour after the lockdown finished. He seemed to contend every week without quite being able to finish off the job. Has a fantastic temperament. Spent a lot of time in America and will not be overawed by Winged Foot - or the quality of the field.
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