U.S. Open: Players to Watch


Shinnecock Hills Golf Club was one of the United States Golf Association’s five founding members, and the club near Long Island’s eastern tip will host the United States Open for the fifth time. That’s two more than any of the other founding clubs.

After hosting the Open’s second edition in 1896, it would be 90 years before the club opened its gates to another. Raymond Floyd captured the 1986 championship, followed by Corey Pavin in 1995 and Retief Goosen in 2004. All three were solid ball-strikers and supreme strategists.

Justin Rose

Even as the world No. 1 ranking has shuttled between Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas of late, Rose has been no less exceptional over the past 10 months. Rose’s victory at the Fort Worth Invitational on May 27 was the English pro’s fourth since last September, one more than Thomas in the same span.

Rose also had 11 other top-15 finishes during that time frame, rising to No. 3 in the world that matched his career high.

The 37-year-old is also a former Open champion, having won five years ago on a challenging course at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania, the last time nobody broke par over 72 holes. Rose shot a 1-over par 281, making no worse than bogey and emerging as the only man to post no round higher than 71.

Brooks Koepka

A four-month layoff to allow a nagging wrist injury to heal yielded quick dividends for the Open’s defending champion. Koepka’s third start back produced a tie for 11th at the Players Championship, and he followed by placing second behind Rose in Fort Worth.

Both of those events, too, were played on courses that reward strategy and placement — offering a counterpoint to Koepka’s reputation as a power hitter.

When healthy, Koepka also has shown a flair for excelling on the major stage. He followed last year’s Open triumph with shares of sixth at the British Open and 13th at the P.G.A. Championship, extending a run of six consecutive top-15 finishes in majors dating from the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania.

Bryson DeChambeau

A playoff victory at the Memorial Tournament gave the unconventional DeChambeau his fifth top-5 finish of 2018 — one of each, by the way — and suggests that the former United States Amateur champion might be poised for something more.

While any mention of DeChambeau quickly brings to mind his all-one-length irons and “mad scientist” reputation, it’s worth noting that he won the Memorial at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Ohio while not at his best. He hit just five fairways on the final day.

That probably won’t work at Shinnecock Hills, but the 24-year-old Californian’s analytical mind should play well on a classic layout known for deceptive looks, subtle breaks and potentially extreme consequences.

Webb Simpson

A commanding victory at the Players Championship was Simpson’s first since 2013, ending an exasperating journey that required him to remake his putting stroke after the belly putter was outlawed starting in 2016.

Simpson tried to get a head start before the ban went into effect, going so far as to break his belly putter in two in late 2014 so he wouldn’t be tempted to go back. Simpson’s caddie, Paul Tesori, who pushed for going early, recently estimated that it might have cost Simpson $5 million in tournament earnings.

Fast-forward to 2018: Simpson ranks No. 6 in the Tour’s strokes-gained putting measurement. If he can bring that stroke to Shinnecock Hills, it’ll be a potent combo with his solid ball striking.

Tiger Woods

This is the 10th anniversary of Woods’s epic 2008 Open crown, when he hobbled around Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego for 91 holes before outlasting Rocco Mediate in sudden death on a Monday. It remains his last major title.

It is also the end of his 10-year exemption for winning that Open, sending him back into the qualifying pool unless he can win another major, finish among the top 10 at Shinnecock, qualify for the Tour Championship or get his world ranking into the top 60 a year from now.

Any of the above are certainly possible, and 2018 has produced far more positives than negatives. That said, Woods has been struggling with the putter in recent starts, finishing next-to-last in that category at the Memorial that took the shine off stellar ball striking.

Phil Mickelson

No one at Shinnecock Hills will have more previous Open appearances than Mickelson’s 26, and no one in Open history has come in second more often than the Hall of Famer’s six. It’s finishing on top that remains elusive.

[READ MORE: Another Chance at the U.S. Open for Phil Mickelson and Shinnecock Hills]

This is Mickelson’s fourth attempt at completing the career Grand Slam, needing only the Open to go with three Masters green jackets and one trophy each from the British Open and the P.G.A. Championship.

Mickelson took momentum into the Masters with a run of four straight top-6 finishes, including a win at the World Golf Championships Mexico Championship, but stumbled in Augusta, Ga., with a Friday 79. Shinnecock has been kind to him, though — a share of fourth in 1995 and runner-up to Goosen in 2004.

Source : NYtimes