The US Open golf championship is usually played on courses with narrow fairways but there will be a different test this year. The host course for the second major of the season which begins on Thursday is Shinnecock Hills in New York State. In a departure from the traditional layout the 18 holes have forgiving fairways but the rough is still penal. This could turn out to be a driver’s course and that suits Rory McIlroy as he tries to win the US Open for the second time.
The former world number one has won four majors in total and three different ones but he has not won at the highest level since the USPGA Championship in 2014. Only five players have achieved the career Grand Slam by winning all four majors at least once and McIlroy requires the Masters Tournament to complete the set. The pressure at Augusta will always be the most intense but winning any major adds to the legacy left by a player. McIlroy can win the US Open again this week.
The sentimental favourite has to be Phil Mickelson who has five majors on his CV but has never won the US Open. In fact he has finished second or joint second six times in his national championships but never managed to get over the line in front. He is now 47 and if winning this week would become the oldest major champions in the history of the sport. The wider fairways give Mickelson a chance but he looks destined to never win the championship he craves most.
The best left hander ever does not have a game suited to typical US Open courses but this year the more manageable fairways play into his hands. However, there is reason why only five players have won all four majors and that is the degree of difficulty. Dustin Johnson is more likely to be the champion than his compatriot. However, Johnson won last week and no player has won in the week before the US Open and the big one. Johnson is second in the all-round rank so ticks plenty of boxes.
The Tour leader for composite skills is Justin Thomas who has been the hottest player in golf over the last 18 months. He won last year’s PGA and reached the pinnacle of golf before being overhauled by Johnson in the world rankings on Monday of this week. Thomas has the game and temperament to win a US Open but dropping out of contention during the final round last year to finish 9th may have left scars. His score of 63 in the third round is a record for the US Open.
Nine of the last 18 winners of the US Open have only won one major and that includes Justin Rose in 2013. The 2016 Olympic champion is right in form and is a leading contender this week. Rose is fourth for his all-round game and only Thomas, Johnson and Rickie Fowler are above him. The English player is a regular contender in majors and he is due to win another one but he may have to wait longer because McIlroy has a better profile.
The Irish player is making a habit of getting in contention and then not playing well enough over the weekend. Players rarely come from well off the pace in the US Open and defending a lead is more important than pulling away from the field. At his best McIlroy can win any tournament and the course and nature of the championship play into his hands this week. Rory McIlroy is tipped to win the 2018 US Open.