With the first round of the 118th U.S. Open a few short days away, today’s task takes us to the inexact science of prediction. The U.S. Open may be the toughest major to predict now that the USGA has gone away from tradition and turned what used to be golf’s most thorough examination into a more birdie-friendly celebration. Perhaps there is an over-riding fear that the world’s best players struggling to shoot even par makes for bad television. Whatever the thought process, we’re here today to bring food for thought, so let’s get to it.
THE TOP FIVE:
Justin Rose: Rested and ready. Comes in off victory in Fort Worth and a T6 at The Memorial. All facets of his game are working, he’s confident and you better be coming into this week. Won the 2013 U.S. Open in Merion when the USGA still went traditional. At least they’re back at one of the traditional venues this week and we like Rose’s chances.
Dustin Johnson: Won on Sunday and didn’t look like he was playing all that well. Had his “B” game until he jarred that walk-off eagle from 171 out on the 72nd hole. You think this guy’s got some confidence going? Oh yeah!
Brooks Koepka: Looked a bit disinterested Sunday in Memphis, tied for 30th but his runner-up in Fort Worth showed us his game is there. There hasn’t been a repeat U.S. Open winner since Curtis Strange (1988-89).
Jason Day: With that win at Wells Fargo, his case got a lot stronger. He struggled at The Memorial, like he typically does. Comes in this week well-rested, a key for J-Day.
Jon Rahm: Top five in Fort Worth, a win at the Open de Espana, and a ton of confidence. Finished fourth at The Masters, he should contend this week.
THE NEXT TIER:
Justin Thomas: No longer No. 1, D.J. took it back on Sunday. He actually comes in a bit under the radar. Has all the tools and talent.
Patrick Reed: Top 10 at Wells Fargo, other than that, nothing to brag about since winning The Masters. Is he up to contending this week?
Rickie Fowler: Hopefully he doesn’t have the Wedding Bell Blues after presenting Allison with a giant rock on the beach last Saturday in Southampton.
Rory McIlroy: Wondering about his confidence level and his putting stroke? He just doesn’t seem like the player he was when he was Poor, Hungry and Driven.
Tiger Woods: When will folks realize that in his prime, he made EVERYTHING on the greens? No so much anymore. Also there’s the Devil Ball, waiting to rear its ugly head when least expected.
Francesco Molinari: He’s picked up a lot of length off the tee this season. Won BMW PGA at Wentworth, was second at the Italian Open. Has the patience.
Henrik Stenson: When there’s a premium on ball-striking, count him in. Putter needs to show up, he’s been struggling with that facet of his game.
Bryson DeChambeau: Understands a USGA setup. Has the talent and may be the smartest guy on tour. Someone once said that to succeed at this game you have to be really smart or really dumb. He’s really smart, for sure.
Hideki Matsuyama: He’s been breaking out of a mini-slump. Needs to get the putter going.
Tommy Fleetwood: Time for one of Europe’s best players to show up with his “A” game.
Alex Noren: Good ball-striker, putts well enough, can he raise his game to the next level?
Matt Kuchar: Kooch will Top 10 you to death, which is what we expect of him this week.
Sergio Garcia: He’s been in a funk since he made that 13 on the 15th at The Masters. Water shouldn’t bother him this week.
Phil Mickelson: Playing pretty decent. Makes too many bogeys. Best 48-year-old player on the planet.
Rafa Cabrera Bello: Good player, has a great group the first two days with Sergio and Jon Rahm.
There you have it. Twenty guys to keep an eye on.