2022 US Open Preview
JON RAHM will arrive at the fearsome Brookline Country Club looking to defend his US Open title.
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler will, of course, start the week as favourite, but Rahm will be looking to draw on some incredibly positive memories from his dramatic victory at Torrey Pines when, exactly when he needed to do so, the Spaniard holed a couple of crucial putts to hold off South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen.
This is a very different sort of a golf course. The greens, which are certain to be lightning-fast, are small, the fairways are narrow, the rough will be thick and there are plenty of trees to be avoided.
We have grown used to seeing tournaments won with incredibly low scores but anything around par is a great score at Brookline.
It means that straight driving and pinpoint accuracy around the greens are going to be essential. And that means there could be a surprise winner at the season’s third major.
Rory McIlroy has shown flashes of brilliance this year and produced some rounds that have left us breathless - his final-round 64 at Augusta and opening 65 at Southern Hills during the PGA Championship immediately spring to mind. Those rounds both featured sparkling displays from the tee.
And his recent decent form reached a new level when he won the Canadian Open, finishing with a glorious round of 62. Finally, the Northern Irishman strung together four good rounds and will head to Brookline in high spirits.
Abraham Ancer finds 70.66% of fairways and putts well, precisely what is required to do well here. The Mexican has missed five cuts this season but produced some glorious golf in finishing in a tie for ninth place at the PGA Championship so do not discount him.
Matthew Fitzpatrick is enjoying a superb season on the other side of the Pond. Crucially, he is the fourth-best putter on the PGA Tour although he is outside the top 100 when it comes to finding greens in regulation. But the winner of the US Open is probably going to be the man who scrambles better than any of his rivals - and that is all about holing crucial par putts when it matters most. And that is one of Fitzpatrick’s greatest strengths.
He is a man who thrives on difficult golf courses, finishing in a tie for ninth at Bay Hill, tied fifth at the Valspar, tied second at the Wells Fargo and tied fifth at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills. He is, of course, still looking for his first professional victory on American soil but he most definitely has the game to win at Brookline, where he clinched the US Amateur title in 2013.
Justin Thomas is on a high after winning at Southern Hills. Yes, he missed the cut the following week at the Charles Schwab Challenge but don’t read too much into that. Before that he had made 21 successive cuts. And rounds of 71 and 72 at Colonial Country Club hardly amount to a disaster. In truth, he was probably struggling for motivation after landing his second major. But that will not be an issue at Brookline, as he proved with his third-place finish at the Canadian Open.
Viktor Hovland is another major champion in waiting and definitely has the game to win the US Open. The 24-year-old has not been at his best recently but he has won on both the PGA and DP World Tours this season and will relish the sort of challenge that this course provides.
And there are two men it is impossible ignore - world number one Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris.
Scheffler is enjoying the sort of year that we haven’t seen since Tiger Woods was in his prime. Forget the fact that he missed the cut at Southern Hills. He bounced straight back, losing in a playoff to Sam Burns at the Charles Schwab Challenge. And although Zalatrois has yet to win, he has an extraordinary record in the majors, especially when you consider that he struggles with short putts.
Burns is another genuine contender. We can look forward to a long and thrilling rivalry between him and Scheffler in the coming years and who knows how many majors they will win between them?
If you are looking for an outsider, you could do an awful lot worse than keeping an eye on Corey Conners, another accurate driver and one of the best putters on the PGA Tour. He missed the cut at the PGA but finished in a tie for sixth place at The Masters, was third at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and was 12th at the RBC Heritage - all of these finishes were achieved on golf courses that call for accuracy.
It was won in 2015 by Jordan Spieth, in 2016 by Dustin Johnson, in 2017 and 2018 by Brooks Koepka, in 2019 by Gary Woodland, in 2020 by Bryson DeChambeau and in 2021 by Jon Rahm.
Brookline Country Club is one of the oldest courses in America, opening in 1882. It actually consists of 27 holes. The championship course is composed of the Clyde and Squirrel nines, essentially the original 18 holes. It measures 7,204 yards, is a par 70 and features narrow fairways and small greens. Don’t expect too many low scores.
Scottie Scheffler starts among the favourites on Betway. He has become a serial winner in 2022, the highlight coming with his victory at The Masters. Although he has yet to win his maiden PGA Tour event, Will Zalatoris has an outstanding record in the majors and the tougher the course the better he seems to play. And it would be a huge surprise if England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick is not there or thereabouts. He tied for ninth at Bay Hill, tied fifth at the Valspar, tied second at the Wells Fargo, tied fifth at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills and tied 10th at the Canadian Open.
Will Zalatoris. Loves tough courses - and they don’t come any harder than Brookline (22/1)
Scottie Scheffler. A serial winner (12/1)
Matthew Fitzpatrick. Ready for the big breakthrough (25/1)
Five to Follow:
Will Zalatoris. Has the game to win anywhere (22/1)
Scottie Scheffler. Will fancy winning his second major (12/1)
Matthew Fitzpatrick. Glorious short game (25/1)
Sam Burns. Weaknesses? Not a single one (28/1)
Justin Thomas. Confidence is sky-high (11/1)
Five Outsiders to Watch:
Lucas Herbert. The best putter on the PGA Tour (200/1)
Corey Conners. Great outside bet (40/1)
Webb Simpson. Don’t write off the former champion (66/1)
Mito Pereira. Will want to put Southern Hills behind him (50/1)
Francesco Molinari. Don’t write off this chances (150/1)
How to Watch The US Open:
Thursday, Friday, Sky Sports Golf 1pm
Saturday, Sky Sports Golf 3pm
Sunday, Sky Sports Golf, 2pm
This 2022 US Open preview article was written in collaboration with Betway
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