6 Outsiders to Follow at the US Open
Located in Westchester County, New York, the revered Winged Foot is set to complete another chapter in its rich US Open history, a story that began way back in 1929 with the great Bobby Jones and has later seen Billy Casper, Hale Irwin, Fuzzy Zoeller and Geoff Ogilvy claim America's national championship.
The West Course - particularly when dressed by the USGA - is considered to be among the most challenging layouts in the United States, a characteristic most famously displayed in 1974 during the aptly coined 'Massacre' at Winged Foot.
It's certainly not for the faint of heart, but that is typical of the US Open, which this year takes on a somewhat different complexion without the feature of qualifying assembling half the field. Organisers sought to replicate that dynamic by inviting international players, amateurs and elite club professionals, but it's not quite the same this time.
However, that doesn't mean we couldn't see an outsider surprise the favourites, potentially stunning those fancied names like Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa. Looking at players currently placed outside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, here are some of those possible contenders.
Champion at Pinehurst in 2014 - his last official tour victory anywhere - the popular German has shown encouraging form lately, coming agonisingly close to winning events at The Belfry and the formidable Valderrama, which should provide optimism for the week ahead.
Leading the European Tour in Strokes Gained: Total and Strokes Gained: Approach, the 35-year-old is hitting the ball beautifully, something that will offer a foundation to compete at Winged Foot, although his inconsistent scrambling around the greens could be a hurdle to overcome when those crucial recoveries are needed.
Boasting a solid short game, the South African has won around the world and comes to the State of New York in decent fettle, notably finishing third at Valderrama, the most difficult course on the European Tour. The 34-year-old will be hoping to draw on the success of his compatriots - Gary Player, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen - all US Open winners.
Sentimental pick you say, definitely, but wouldn't it be a story. Now 50, Mickelson returns to the site of one of his most painful losses, 14 years after making double bogey on the 72nd hole to finish one behind Ogilvy. Famously a six-time runner-up in the US Open, this could be his last, albeit distant, chance at getting his hands on the trophy. A second place at the WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational shows that he can still contend with the youngsters, and he would be the oldest major champion in history.
Making his major championship debut, the teenage Dane is already twice a winner on the European Tour, including the recent UK Championship at The Belfry. He also finished third at the English Championship and second at the British Masters. While this week is an experience beyond those moments, it's hard to ignore someone this impressive and playing this well.
Last year's Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, the young man from Oban made his American major debut at the PGA Championship and finished T-66th and will be hoping to build on that result at Winged Foot. Yet to fully hit top form since the restart, the Scot shot two rounds under par at Valderrama and showed during The Open at Royal Portrush that he isn't afraid of performing in the big events.
The 28-year-old Belgian has missed the cut in his previous two US Open starts, but ventures across the Atlantic in good shape, having posted a pair of solid finishes at Celtic Manor. Statistically one of the most impressive figures on the European Tour - he's second in Strokes Gained: Total, second in Strokes Gained: Approach, and ninth in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, the former Ryder Cup star has the numbers, now it could be time to fulfill the potential.
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