US Open checklist: How a best players mount a month out

9:16 AM ET

The 118 U.S. Open is reduction than a month divided and earnings to Shinnecock Hills, a fifth U.S. Open to be played during a ancestral march on Long Island. And it promises to be distant opposite from a year ago during Erin Hills, a long, wide-open venue that constructed record scoring.

Shinnecock total to be a many sterner test, a 7,445-yard, par-70 blueprint agreeable usually dual sub-par 72-hole scores in 2004, a final time a U.S. Open was staged during a course. Retief Goosen won during 276, 4 underneath par, and Phil Mickelson during 2 underneath was a usually other actor in red numbers.

The dual other prior U.S. Opens during Shinnecock in complicated times (the initial was a second U.S. Open played, in 1896), also meant tough scoring conditions. Corey Pavin was even standard in his 1995 victory, while Raymond Floyd was 1 underneath in 1986.

So players can design a some-more normal U.S. Open setup, with slight fairways, formidable severe and harsh greens.

With that in mind, we try to consider where several of a categorical contenders stand, and what they could use before a year’s second critical opens on Jun 14.

The fortifying champ: Brooks Koepka
Getting (and staying) healthy
The leader by 4 strokes during Erin Hills, Koepka usually recently returned to foe after a wrist damage kept him out given a Sentry Tournament of Champions in January. A regularity scarcely caused him to repel during a Players Championship, yet Koepka persevered and finished adult restraining for 11th. He is assured his diversion is in good shape, yet a think wrist in low severe during Shinnecock is no pledge for success.

The Masters champ: Patrick Reed
Even yet he had finished among a tip 10 in a critical before final year’s PGA Championship, Reed has never lacked confidence. The win in Apr during Augusta certified his status as a tip player. Now ranked 13th, he followed adult with an eighth-place finish during a Wells Fargo Championship. But he’s not fared that good during U.S. Opens, and has never unequivocally driven a spin good adequate to give himself a picturesque chance. Hitting fairways will be his large goal.

The PGA champ: Justin Thomas
Now ranked No. 1 in a world, Thomas will be a complicated favorite during Shinnecock, simply given he’s been personification some of a best golf over a past 6 months. He has 4 top-10 finishes in 2018 and hasn’t missed a cut going behind to final year’s Open. He shot 63 in a third spin final year during Erin Hills, removing a ambience of critical championship nerves before restraining for ninth. There he could strike his motorist some-more often, yet during Shinnecock he’ll need to be some-more strategic.

The Open champ: Jordan Spieth
It’s as elementary as that. Spieth has had a bizarre year. Most of his struggles have been attributed to some bad putting, generally a knack for blank brief ones. Ranking 183rd in strokes gained putting is tough to sense for a three-time critical champion. Aside from a U.S. Open he won during Chambers Bay in 2015, Spieth has not been a contender in a others. His best when he hasn’t won was a tie for 17th during Pinehurst in 2014. He needs to get a dabble dialed in to have a chance.

The Players champ: Webb Simpson
Improved driving
It’s unequivocally a usually thing blank from Simpson’s game. He valid during TPC Sawgrass that being a prolonged hitter is not indispensably critical to winning — nor should it be during a U.S. Open venue where correctness will matter. Simpson, who won a 2012 U.S. Open during a Olympic Club, is clever in scarcely each statistical category, including fifth in strokes gained putting and 23rd in strokes gained around a green. That will be a outrageous assistance during a U.S. Open, yet giving himself some-more chances from a fairway is imperative.

The many new No. 1: Dustin Johnson
There competence not have been a some-more still No. 1 who hold a ranking for as prolonged as Johnson. He won progressing this year in Hawaii, finished second during Pebble Beach, afterwards went blank — zero bad yet zero great, either. Famed instructor Butch Harmon, whose son, Claude, works with Johnson, wondered if a 2016 U.S. Open champion was putting in a work. If he can win during Oakmont, he can win during Shinnecock.

A would-be No. 1: Jon Rahm
The Spaniard already has 5 worldwide victories, including a win during a Spanish Open a week after finishing fourth during a Masters. Rahm clearly has a game, yet can he keep his emotions in check? He has shown a inclination for a prohibited temper, and that won’t work during a U.S. Open, where copiousness is organisation to go wrong. Rahm missed a cut during Erin Hills a year ago and seems to get streaky. Nobody would be astounded to see him in a brew on Long Island.

A former champ: Justin Rose
Hit greens
The 2013 U.S. Open is plain in scarcely each statistical difficulty on a PGA Tour, lacking usually somewhat in greens strike in regulation, where he ranks 75th on a PGA Tour. That is apparently pivotal during a U.S. Open, where blank greens is unavoidable yet gripping that to a smallest is rarely advisable. Rose won 3 times late final year and has combined 4 some-more top-12 finishes in 2018. But he has missed his final dual cuts during a U.S. Open.

The major-less one: Rickie Fowler
Fowler can’t shun his possess fame, maybe a biggest barrier for him in channel a line during a major. With usually 4 PGA Tour victories (he also has 3 general wins), Fowler’s resume comes adult brief of all a fanfare. But he’s an glorious player, borne out by all a U.S. teams he’s been on as good as his No. 6 ranking. And he done a good run during a Masters, entrance adult one shot brief of Reed.

The man with 5 top-10s: Jason Day
Sickness and damage have kept Day from serve greatness, and that is observant something for a man who has a critical championship and been No. 1 in a world. After a muted 2017, Day is behind on form, winning twice this year and clearly dynamic to get behind to a tip mark after behind problems and illnesses — not to discuss personal family matters — derailed him. Day missed a cut final year, yet in 6 other U.S. Open appearances he has 5 top-10s including dual runner-ups.

The one stalled on 4 majors: Rory McIlroy
It unequivocally is this simple: when McIlroy is normal on a greens, he has a possibility to contend each time. Such is a strength of his prolonged game. McIlroy putted beautifully during Bay Hill and won. Still, he sees distant too few of those weeks. Now into his fourth year given winning his final major, he is also 7 years private from his sole U.S. Open pretension — during soothing Congressional, that is a distant cry from what is approaching to be firm, quick Shinnecock. But hole a few putts? Don’t bonus McIlroy.

The Japanese star: Hideki Matsuyama
In position to spin a initial Japanese men’s actor to win a critical championship final year during a PGA Championship, Matsuyama finished adult restraining for fifth and has occasionally success since. He has been traffic with a wrist injury. Putting typically binds him back, and Matsuyama — who ranks 147 in strokes gained putting — apparently needs a few some-more to drop. He tied for second final year during Erin Hills, yet was 4 strokes behind of Koepka.

The six-time runner-up: Phil Mickelson
Some luck
Lefty will spin 48 during U.S. Open week. He is stretching a bounds for winning a major. Only Julius Boros, who won a PGA Championship during age 48, was comparison than Mickelson during this point. Shinnecock is a site of one of his 6 second-place finishes during a U.S. Open — in 2004. And he was tied for fourth during a same venue in 1995. Mickelson has shown flashes this year, winning in Mexico, contending during Quail Hollow. Getting into row is a trick. If he can do that, maybe it is a matter of some good happening that carries him to completing a career Grand Slam.

The nine-time USGA champ: Tiger Woods
Iron play
For all a speak about Woods’ haphazard driving, what has let him down a many is his irons, privately brief irons. In approaches from 100 to 125 yards, Woods ranks 91st on a PGA Tour, with an normal vicinity of 20 feet. From 125 to 150, he ranks 136th. These are typically wedges that he is not removing tighten adequate to take advantage of prolonged driving. We saw it during a Players where over a final few holes he misfired twice with a silt wedge. Woods is 10 years private from his final critical and his third U.S. Open. In 2004, he tied for 17th during Shinnecock when he was in a midst of a pitch change and a 10-major widen but a victory. The U.S. Open competence be a toughest of a majors for him to win during t

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