The US Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
WINGED FOOT hosts the delayed US Open Championship - and it promises to be a cracker. The last time the tournament was played there was in 2006 when Geoff Ogilvy won after Colin Montgomerie and Phil Mickelson threw it away on the 72nd hole. It was the best chance that Monty ever had to win a major but, after a perfect drive, he hit a dreadful approach and walked off with a double bogey. Mickelson saw his hopes vanish when he hit a wild drive at the 18th that gave him no chance of securing the par he required.
This is a proper US Open course and anybody who can finish 72 holes around par will be there or thereabouts. So we are looking for somebody who hits the ball straight and enjoys a strategic approach. In a normal world, it should be made for Justin Rose, but the Englishman has suffered since the lockdown ended and failed to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs. He is a man who enjoys tough golf courses and Winged Foot may yet bring out the best in him, but don’t bet your mortgage on it.
Collin Morikawa wasn’t quite at his brilliant best during the playoffs but that is hardly surprising. He may well have been suffering something of a hangover after his incredible efforts during the summer, which culminated in his victory at the US PGA Championship. In this day of big hitters, Morikawa proves that you do not have to hit the ball 340 yards to win on a consistent basis. He is a wonderful iron player, has a fabulous short game, drives the ball straight and has a wonderful temperament. He is most definitely a US Open champion of the future.
Bryson DeChambeau will be looking to improve upon his miserable record in the majors but, as strong and powerful as he has become, it would be a huge surprise if he wins this week. He is now beginning to learn that you simply cannot overpower every golf course. The greens are going to hard and fast and it is impossible to get close to the hole from the rough - and the field will be facing proper rough and lightning-fast run-off areas.
(Jon Rahm Searches For First Major)
Jon Rahm will be disappointed that he was unable to win the FedEx Cup but his two victories in 2020 came at two of the toughest courses on the PGA Tour - Muirfield Village, where he picked up The Memorial, and Olympia Fields, where he won the BMW Championship in such dramatic fashion against Dustin Johnson. In much the way that Tiger Woods was able to produce the most unlikely shots when he needed them most, Rahm has developed an uncanny habit of holing dramatic putts and chips that break the hearts of opponents. He did it when he won for the first time, at the Farmers Insurance Open, and he did it again when he drained that incredible 66-foot putt to defeat Johnson in the BMW.
We all know about the fact that he operates on a short fuse but that is what makes him the player he is. The danger is that it just might get the better of him at Winged Foot, where patience is going to the key.
And that brings three players firmly into the picture - Johnson, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele.
Johnson would be the first to admit that he is not the deepest thinker but the beauty of that is it means he is able to shrug off bad shots and dreadful rounds and bounce back. And boy, has he been sensational in 2020. Yes, there have been one or two dreadful weeks but, in the main, he has played like a machine since golf returned and will definitely be the man to beat as he attempts to finally land the second major of his career. He won the Northern Trust, the Tour Championship, the Travelers and the FedEx Cup - that is some body of work in anybody’s book.
And winning never seems to take anything out of Johnson. Many golfers follow a victory with a missed cut, but Johnson just seems to be hungry for more and he will surely start as a warm favourite.
But Thomas may have something to say about that. The 27-year-old American is a winning machine, with 13 PGA Tour victories and counting. Thomas had three victories plus a further seven top-10 finishes in 2019-20. And, like Rahm, he tends to perform at his best on tough golf courses. He has a US PGA title to his name and it surely won’t be long before he secures a second major.
Schauffele finished joint second at the Tour Championship but actually had the lowest aggregate score - Johnson won the tournament because he began the week on 10 under par. Schauffele has no weaknesses. Surprisingly, he went through the 2019-20 season without a victory, but it wasn’t for the want of trying. He is as consistent as just about anybody on the PGA Tour and will surely the relish the challenge at Winged Foot.
(Dustin Johnson Ready to Continue Blistering Form)
Mickelson will be the sentimental favourite. He has finished runner-up six times and, even at 50 years of age, is desperate to win to complete the career grand slam. He missed out on the FedEx Cup Playoffs but promptly headed off to the Champions Tour, where he made a spectacular winning debut.
Tiger Woods goes for his 16th major but has played little or no tournament golf throughout 2020 and will surely struggle even to make the cut. Success for Woods will be a top-20 finish.
And who knows what we should expect from Rory McIlroy, six years on from his last major victory? The Northern irishman has endured a miserable time of it since the action resumed at the PGA Tour. There have been flashes of his old brilliance but there have also been far too many loose shots, too many missed fairways, too many three putts and too many lacklustre rounds. There were moments during the Tour Championship when he once again looked close to his best but he was unable to sustain it for 72 holes at East Lake, where he won 12 months ago.
Gary Woodland returns to defend the title he won so well at Pebble Beach. Woodland beat Brooks Koepka by three shots, having never before finished in the top 20. Koepka was in the middle of a purple patch, during which he had won four of the past nine majors and was attempting to become the first man to win three straight US Opens since 1905. A joint record 31 players finished under par for the tournament - that is highly unlikely to be repeated this time.
It was won in 2015 by Jordan Spieth, in 2016 by Dustin Johnson, in 2017 and 2018 by Brooks Koepka and in 2019 by Gary Woodland.
Xander Schauffele. Did everything but win in 2019-20
Collin Morikawa. On the crest of a wave
Dustin Johnson. Incredible run of form
Xander Schauffele. His game is made for Winged Foot
Collin Morikawa. Brilliant iron player
Dustin Johnson. Can he maintain his unbelievable run?
Rory McIlroy. Finally showed some flashes at East Lake
Daniel Berger. Has become super consistent
Justin Thomas. If he drives the ball well he will be hard to beat
Hideki Matsuyama. Major victory long overdue
Gary Woodland. Underrated
Viktor Hovland. A champion of the future
How You Can Watch the US Open at Winged Foot
Thursday, Sky Sports Golf, Sky Sports Main Event, 12.30pm
Friday, Sky Sports Golf, Sky Sports Main Event, 12.30pm
Saturday, Sky Sports Golf, 2pm
Sunday, Sky Sports Golf, 1pm
BBC Radio Five Live Coverage is available on Sunday from 9pm
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