The US Open begins Thursday at venerable Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. Thirty under par will not be the winning score. A look at some of the contenders:
Dustin Johnson — Like a great closer in baseball, he forgets his bad shots (and rounds) quickly. He shot 80-80 at the Memorial and less than two months later he is named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. He is definitely player of the past month. Of the year? Debatable. But he is dedicated and motivated. Maybe he’ll win a major in honor of injured buddy Brooks Koepka.
Jon Rahm — Rahmbo won the two toughest tournaments this season — the Memorial and the BMW — overcoming penalty strokes in each. At the BMW, he mindlessly picked up his ball on the green before he marked it in the third round. He drains a lot of bombs, he is clearly tough-minded, and he can play tough courses.
Rory McIlroy — He was the best player before the pandemic and he is the only player in the field who can win without his best stuff. His mind might be at ease now that he is a father. If the game comes down to a driving contest, he is the longest and the straightest. A beautiful long iron player, too. If he putts, game over.
Under the radar?
Xander Schauffele — Eliminate the FedEx scoring system, and he won the Tour Championship by three shots. He’s been in the top 10 in three of his past five majors. Exquisite course manager. Game made for a US Open.
Webb Simpson — A true Player of the Year candidate, he won twice this year and led the Tour in the second-most important stat, scoring average. He’s a US Open champion (2012 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco), makes a lot of birdies, and is accurate off the tee.
Viktor Hovland — Young players such as PGA champ Collin Morikawa and Mr. 59, Scottie Scheffler, have made more noise, but Hovland might be the most well-rounded of the under-25 cadre. He has not had a good year on the greens, but it takes only a tweak here or there at this level for the light to go on.
On the cut line
Tiger Woods — The iconic red shirt on Sundays is merely symbolic now, no longer a red flare for the opposition. His balky back always will be the issue, and the warning signs are prominent: He needs reps but he can’t play much (only six PGA tournaments in 2020), and he went to a longer putter to spare his back, allowing him to practice a bit more. It hasn’t worked. Making the cut would be his major victory this week.
Phil Mickelson — He prepped at the Safeway in California last week, and he hit it all over the place. And there are no Winged Foots on the Champions circuit, where he dominated a few weeks ago. The most intriguing stat of his Hall of Fame career is finishing runner-up at the US Open six times, a testimony to his gifted short game. Expect a lot of wedge shots from him this week: one chipping out from the rough, the next onto the green.
Bryson DeChambeau — Do you think the USGA is going to let him pound his tree-trunk-sized drivers and same-length irons and overpower its course? Not a chance. The muscle experiment remains in its infancy, but with all this newfound length, he has not figured out distance control or how to manage his game.
Jim Hoban can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org