The Money List: How to pick a US Open champion
Our extensive research reveals which three players are best placed to win the year's second major at Shinnecock Hills.
Young man’s game
The US Open is golf’s toughest major, played at courses with narrow fairways, treacherous rough and super-fast greens.
The tricky set-ups devised by the USGA should, in theory, benefit the most experienced players, but the physical demands of this tournament have actually led to younger players leading the way in recent years.
Of the last 18 US Open champions dating back to 2000, 14 were under the age of 33, including each of the last 10.
Last year’s champion Brooks Koepka was 27, and Jordan Spieth triumphed at Chambers Bay at the age of 21 three years ago.
So, as tempting as it is to back Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for sentimental reasons this week, the fact that no one over the age of 37 has won the US in the last 18 years means it’s best to avoid the over-40s.
Over the past decade, the US Open has been a tournament in which great players have made their breakthrough. Seven of the last nine champions had not won a major before triumphing at this event.
Given that nine of the last 10 major champions were winning a major for the first time – including Koepka and Dustin Johnson in the last two US Opens – another maiden winner is likely to emerge this time around.
Find the form
While plenty of players have broken through at the US Open of late, rank outsiders rarely win at this event.
Of the last 18 champions, 15 were inside the top 40 in the world rankings at the time of their win, with Lucas Glover, Michael Campbell and Retief Goosen the only exceptions.
The tournament is typically won by great players who are, crucially, also playing well.
Just one of the last 18 champions came into the tournament on the back of a missed cut in their previous start: Webb Simpson in 2012.
It’s very difficult to bounce back from a disappointing result and win at an event as demanding as this, so players like Spieth and Sergio Garcia – both of whom are out of form and missed the cut in their last start – should be avoided this week.
Been there, done that
You don’t need to be a past US Open champion to have a chance of winning it this time around, but you do need to have played well at the tournament in the past.
Since 2000, 16 of 18 champions had at least one top-20 finish at golf’s second major, while Glover is the only player to triumph having never previously made the cut.
That’s bad news for Jon Rahm, Alex Noren and Francesco Molinari, who are among the players to have no US Open top-20s to their name.
The majority of winners had also played well in the previous year’s tournament, with 14 of 18 having made the cut 12 months before winning.
That rules out Johnson, Rose, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, all of whom were out of the picture after two days at last year’s US Open.
Finally, it’s important to have won in America in the past, as 14 of the last 18 champions already had a PGA Tour victory under their belt at the time of their triumph.
It’s no surprise that European players haven’t fared well, then, with just four winners from the continent since 2000.
Profile of a winner
Just three players fit all of our criteria at this year’s US Open.
Rickie Fowler has been a nearly man for years, but the American’s form heading into this week – which includes a T8 in his last start at the Memorial Tournament and a second place at this year’s Masters – makes him an ideal candidate for Shinnecock Hills.
This would be his first major victory, following three top-five finishes in his last four starts at golf’s biggest events.
Hideki Matsuyama also fits the bill, having placed second at Erin Hills last year – his best finish at a major to date.
The 26-year-old was 13th at the Memorial Tournament in his last start – his second successive top-20 – and he also has two PGA Tour wins to his name.
Branden Grace is the third player to match our profile.
The 30-year-old South African won the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage in 2016 and has been close to winning a major on several occasions, finishing in the top five at the US Open and PGA Championship in both 2015 and 2016, and sixth at the Open last year.
The world No. 34 made the cut at the Memorial Tournament last time out, and at last year’s US Open.
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