WERE it not for Rory McIlroy slipping up in Memphis on Sunday, we would be in the extraordinary position of heading into the US Open with the world’s top four all celebrating wins in their most recent tournaments.
Lee Westwood fulfilled his part of the bargain by completing an exemplary victory at the Nordea Masters in Sweden. The Englishman steadily built up his lead and pulled away in the final furlong to win by five shots – a great sign as he prepares for another stab at winning his first Major.
McIlroy, meanwhile, could not quite finish the job at the St Jude Classic in Memphis, where he had lead by two shots with seven to play, but he should not be too downcast. Approaching the last he was tied for the lead and only a wayward tee shot handed the title to Dustin Johnson. Having missed his last three cuts this was still a huge improvement from McIlroy and a sign that he is back in business.
Luke Donald won on his last outing, when he successfully defended the PGA Championship two weeks ago at Wentworth. He is also still waiting for his first Major victory, but the US Open ought to suit him down to the ground so he has to be among the favourites at Olympic Club this week, along with compatriot Westwood. Another Englishman, Justin Rose, is also in the reckoning, while you can’t ignore the form of American Jason Dufner, who has won two titles in recent weeks.
The man they will be looking to beat, however, and my personal favourite, is Tiger Woods. He pulled out some sensational shots on his way to winning the Memorial Tournament last week, not least that magical chip in at the 16th. No one should underestimate the significance of him equalling Jack Nicklaus’s record of 73 PGA Tour titles. At the age of just 36, that is an achievement comparable to his remarkable collection of 14 grand slam wins.
It was Tiger’s second tournament victory of the year and another sign that he might be recovering the form that lifted him head and shoulders above the rest. His comeback has had one or two false dawns but he is playing fantastically well and is the man for the big occasion. This US Open could be it.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator, who also led the side to victory as captain in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam