While it’s true that 156 golfers will tee it up this week, that does not mean any golfer in the field can win the 118th U.S. Open. There are probably 20 or 30 — or maybe 50 — who have a real chance at taking the second major of 2018. And even then, I would say the bottom 40 have an equivalent chance of winning as the top 10.
That’s why you end up with gambling props like this one projecting the U.S. Open champion.
- D. Johnson/Spieth/McIlroy/Thomas/Day/Fowler/Rahm/Rose/Woods: -115
- Field (Any Other Player): -115
The last seven U.S. Open champions have been, in order: Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson and Rory McIlroy. That’s a murderer’s row of greatness, and it speaks to how difficult it is for anyone outside the top 10 or 20 in the world to emerge as champion of this event in this week.
Each of the last seven #USOpen champions were in the top-30 of the World Ranking. The average of 12.1 is the lowest of any of the four majors during that span.
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) June 11, 2018
Shinnecock, too, has produced sublime leaderboards. The last two winners — Corey Pavin in 1995 and Retief Goosen in 1994 — have both been ranked in the top 10 in the world at the time they won here. Take a look at the top 10 from the last three U.S. Opens here.
Shinnecock is a winnowing fork of sorts. It might not show through 18 holes or even 36, but by the time that 72nd hole rolls around on Sunday, this course will deliver a world class board rife with the best players on the planet. Based on all of this information, here is the pool of nine golfers from which I think the eventual winner is coming (in no particular order).
We’re at the point of the week where I’ve legitimately talked myself into Mickelson finishing what he started in 2004 and finally winning his first U.S. Open. My biggest concern for Lefty this week is that this is his third event in a row, and he’s struggled in the past few years with physical and mental energy.
This U.S. Open feels very Fowler-ish. Potentially windy, difficult conditions at a place where patience through 72 holes is rewarded and shot-making is paramount? Maybe the buildup over the past 10 years has all been pointing to this.
Because Shinnecock tests every aspect of your game, Thomas should probably be next-closest favorite to Dustin Johnson. We think of him in terms of a bomber off the tee, but every part of his game is solid, including his ability to get up and down (9th on the PGA Tour), which could prove monumental this week given how many greens these guys are going to barely miss.
Speaking of guys who can get up and down! Day ranks No. 4 in that category so far this season, and (somewhat interestingly for someone who traditionally hits the ball like he does) I’m actually more concerned about his ball-striking. He’s 177th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained on approach shots so far in 2018. If that trend continues this week, he’ll have absolutely no chance. But four top 10s in his last five U.S. Opens (as well as two wins so far this calendar year) put me at ease.
He’s the best player alive: No. 1 in scoring average, strokes gained off the tee, strokes gained from tee to green and strokes gained overall. He’s also top 10 in scrambling and No. 20 in putting. The U.S. Open runs through Johnson.
I had Jon Rahm in this slot because he’s hotter coming in, but shame on me for ever excluding Spieth on any list of nine guys who can win any major championship for the next decade. That’s how historically good he has proven to be.
I worry about the driving inaccuracy a little bit, but he’s only percentage points behind D.J. in this category, so it’s not a massive concern. I also get dubious about guys going back to back at the U.S. Open in this era. It hasn’t happened in 30 years, and it’s nearly impossible because of the depth of these fields. Still, he’s among the nine with a real chance after the way he’s played since coming back from injury (two top-12 finishes in five starts).
Two Englishmen to close, both of them ball-striking savants. Fleetwood is going to win one of these monster majors at some point, and we’re all going to retroactively look back and say, “Yep, should have seen that one coming.” I think Shinnecock is going to fit his game beautifully, and my only concern is that he’s 150th in scrambling.
I’ve talked a lot about D.J.’s list of bagged courses, but you could reasonably argue that Rose’s is even better. He’s coming off a win at the Fort Worth Invitational, and I fully expect him to be in the thick of it on the weekend here. Rose is also second on the PGA Tour in strokes gained overall.