I have always thought of the US Open as the hardest but fairest of all the Majors. Those in charge want par to be the winning score, so this week at Shinnecock Hills will be tough and a case of grinding it out. That won’t suit everyone.
Americans currently hold all four of the Majors and you’d have to say that the likes of world No1 Dustin Johnson, defending champion Brooks Koepka and 2015 winner Jordan Spieth are among the favourites, although if I had to tip one player it would be Justin Rose.
I think the course will suit a straight hitter and Rose is a beautiful driver of the ball. His form is also tremendous. He won the Fort Worth Invitational last month, has four victories in his last 16 tournaments and is probably playing as well as he ever has.
At 37, the Englishman has learned a lot. He has been through many stages in his life, from his amateur success to his initial struggles on tour and then, more recently, winning his first Major at the 2013 US Open and becoming one of the world’s very best players.
I fancy his chances strongly. It’s surprising that a player of his quality hasn’t won more than one Major, so it would be great for him and utterly deserved.
There are a host of formidable rivals at Long Island, however – not least Johnson, who reclaimed top spot in the world rankings with a timely win at the St Jude Classic on Sunday. That was his second title of 2018 and he has only finished outside of the top 20 on one of 11 appearances this year. He was sublime last week; as good as it gets.
Koepka missed the first few months of the year with a wrist injury but has come back very strong, finishing tied for 11th at The Players Championship and then second to Rose at the Fort Worth. He is a great ball-flighter and his ability to play in windy conditions should help him on this links-style course.
Spieth has had his struggles recently but is a three-time Major winner and cannot be ruled out.
World No2 Justin Thomas drives it beautifully and far, although he and others, such as Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm might find that asset taken away from them by the severity of the rough. McIlroy and Rahm could equally win it by 10 shots, but it will be down to them to harness their game in other ways.
It’ll be a mental test and few are stronger in that regard than Tiger Woods. His game looks to be well and truly back, he looked red-hot at the Memorial Tournament last month and the fast greens of Shinnecock Hills ought to suit him.
Of the other European players, it could be time for Tommy Fleetwood to take another step up. He has come a long way in the last 18 months, winning three titles and holding off Rose and Garcia to claim the Race To Dubai last year.
He hasn’t won in the US before, nor, more importantly, has he won a Major. But he was fourth at the US Open 12 months ago and has two top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year. The 27-year-old from Southport is never happier than when playing golf – that temperament will help him here – and looks ready for another jump.