U.S. Open 2020: Ranking the top 100 golfers competing at Winged Foot
And just like that, it’s major week once again. ¶ The 120th U.S. Open begins this Thursday at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck. N.Y. In normal years, roughly half the field is filled by qualifiers, which results in a wonderfully diverse field of competitors—all the top players in the world, of course, but also mini-tour warriors and up-and-coming amateurs and everything in between.
There was no qualifying this year—something about a pandemic—but the USGA granted exemptions to a wide range of players, with the aim of replicating what you’d see in non-COVID times.
Ahead of golf’s toughest test, Golf Digest once again ranked the top 100 players teeing it up to help you make better wagers, win your pool or simply be a more informed viewers as you settle in to watch what promises to be an exciting, albeit fanless, national championship.
100. Zach Johnson
Age: 44 World ranking: 178 U.S. Open appearances:16
Best U.S. Open finish: T-8, 2016
Winner of 12 PGA Tour events including a Masters and a British Open at St. Andrews, so he has precisely zero left to prove. Had top 10 at the Wyndham to get into the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but that was his sole top 10 of the season. Missed the cut in 2006 at Winged Foot and has just one top 10 in 16 career U.S. Open starts.
99. Romain Langasque
Age: 25 World ranking: 106 U.S. Open appearances: First
Frenchman won the British Amateur in 2015 at Carnoustie, then made the cut in both the British Open and the Masters as an amateur. Won his first European Tour event three weeks ago in Wales.
98. Jim Herman
Age: 42 World ranking: 94 U.S. Open appearances: 4
Best U.S. Open finish: T-47, 2010
A most unlikely winner at last month’s Wyndham Championship, as he’d missed eight of his last 11 cuts prior. Did something similar in 2019, winning the Barbarsol Championship out of nowhere. Those two victories are his only top 10s on the PGA Tour in 42 months, so not exactly a consistent performer. Ranked 181st in strokes gained/overall last season, and this is a ton of golf course for him.
97. Ricky Castillo (a)
Age: 19 World ranking: N/A U.S. Open appearances: First
No. 2 amateur in the world was the highest ranked player in last month’s U.S. Amateur field until he pulled out due to COVID concerns. (He tested negative, but felt extremely tired). Now a sophomore at Florida, was national freshman of the year with the Gators last season.
96. Jazz Janewattanond
Age: 24 World ranking: 63 U.S. Open appearances: First
Dominates on the Asian Tour, which is how he got as high as No. 38 in the World Rankings, but has struggled competing in America. In his six starts stateside in 2020, he has five missed cuts and a T-59. Did have T-14 showing at last year’s PGA Championship down the road at Bethpage Black.
95. Lucas Glover
Age: 40 World ranking: 109 U.S. Open appearances: 14
Best U.S. Open finish: Win, 2009
Signature moment of his career came Bethpage Black in 2009, where he made Phil Mickelson a runner-up once more. Incredibly, Glover has missed the cut in 11 of his other 13 U.S. Open starts, including his last eight. Also missed his last four PGA Tour cuts coming in. No bueño.
Lucas Glover celebrating his 2009 U.S. Open win at Bethpage.
94. Takumi Kanaya (a)
Age: 22 World ranking: 240 U.S. Open appearances: First
Japanese golfer was just named winner of the McCormack Medal as the top-ranked amateur in 2020. The 2018 Asia-Pacific Amateur champ made the cut in last year’s Masters and won a professional event at home last fall, then finished T-3 at the Australian Open in December. Finished T-5 two weeks ago in another Japan Golf Tour event after not playing competitively for nine months during the COVID-19 pandemic.
93. Paul Waring
Age: 35 World ranking: 105 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2018
Got into the field when Brooks Koepka pulled out with a lingering knee injury. Here’s how he summarized the news on Twitter: “Just had a call to say I’m now in the US Open. One of the past US Open Championships was dubbed ‘The massacre at Winged Foot.’ Yay.” In other words, he knows what he’s in for.
92. Eddie Pepperell
Age: 29 World ranking: 126 U.S. Open appearances: 2
Best U.S. Open finish: T-16, 2017
Perhaps the funniest man in professional golf, this will be the Englishman’s first start in the U.S. in 14 months. Opted not to play in the PGA Championship despite being exempt as he didn’t want to deal with travel issues and quarantine restrictions. Done nothing of note in four European Tour appearances since the restart against modest competition, going T-47/WD/MC/T-65.
91. Renato Paratore
Age: 23 World ranking: 171 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2019
Young Italian player who putts with a glove on won the British Masters in July for his second European Tour victory. Might have the most fun name to say in the entire field. Also might be one of the fastest players.
90. Rafael Cabrera Bello
Age: 36 World ranking: 71 U.S. Open appearances: 6
Best U.S. Open finish: T-32, 2016
The Spaniard is free-falling down the World Ranking and would have lost his PGA Tour card if it weren’t for the pandemic, which has thrown a lifeline to guys who finished outside the top 125 in the FedEx Cup points. Going through a rough spell with no top 10s, three top 25s and six missed cuts in 16 starts last season. Has made the cut in five of his six U.S. Open starts, though hasn’t posted a top 30 in golf’s toughest test.
89. Mark Hubbard
Age: 31 World ranking: 133 U.S. Open appearances: First
Quietly had a solid PGA Tour season, finishing 44th in the FedEx Cup, which is how he got into the field this week. Made the cut at the PGA in August in his first major start.
88. Brandon Wu
Age: 23 World ranking: 199 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: T-35, 2019
Emerged as a fun story at last year’s U.S. Open, where he finished T-35 as an amateur but was forced to miss his Stanford graduation when playing the final round at Pebble. No bother—he received his diploma right after walking off the 18th green. Grew up for a time in Scarsdale, N.Y., five minutes away from Winged Foot. Won his last start, the Korn Ferry Tour Championship, and should be a PGA Tour player for many years to come.
Brandon Wu's one previous U.S. Open start came as an amateur in 2019 at Pebble Beach.
87. Michael Thompson
Age: 35 World ranking: 113 U.S. Open appearances: 3
Best U.S. Open finish: T-2, 2012
Has an unexpectedly rich history at the U.S. Open—was the low amateur in 2008 at Torrey Pines and nearly pulled off the impossible in 2012, going through sectional qualifying and finishing just one shot behind winner Webb Simpson in a tie for second. Won his second PGA Tour event and first in seven years at July’s 3M Open.
86. Richy Werenski
Age: 28 World ranking: 132 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2018
Found something in July, finishing T-3 at the 3M Open then winning the Barracuda Championship to book the last spot into the PGA, where he missed the cut. All good things, as they say. Missed the weekend in all three of his major appearances to date.
85. Brandt Snedeker
Age: 39 World ranking: 73 U.S. Open appearances: 13
Best U.S. Open finish: 8/T-8, 2010 and 2015
Still one of the better short games on tour but struggling otherwise, having missed three of his last six cuts and not posting a finish better than T-42 in that stretch. Does have an impressive five top 10s in U.S. Opens.
84. Graeme McDowell
Age: 41 World ranking: 59 U.S. Open appearances: 14
Best U.S. Open finish: Win, 2010
This is the last year of his 10-year U.S. Open exemption for his victory at Pebble Beach in 2010. Since the restart, he has six missed cuts and two finishes of T-35.
Graeme McDowell is playing in his final U.S. Open off the 10-year exemption earned from winning back at Pebble Beach in 2010.
83. Andy Sullivan
Age: 33 World ranking: 96 U.S. Open appearances: 2
Best U.S. Open finish: T-12, 2016
Brit peaked, at least so far, in 2015-’16 and earned his way onto the 2016 European Ryder Cup team. Dropped outside the top 100 in the world shortly after and stayed there until a feel-good victory at last month’s English Championship, where he shot 27 under par and won by seven. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t even his most lopsided victory in Europe—he won the 2015 Portugal Masters by nine.
82. Sung Kang
Age: 33 World ranking: 68 U.S. Open appearances: 2
Best U.S. Open finish: T-18, 2016
Pound for pound, one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour—he ranked 39th in driving distance at 303.4 last year despite a 5-foot-8, 165-pound frame. Has not played well since the restart, with five missed cuts and no finishes better than T-46 in nine appearances.
81. Davis Riley
Age: 23 World ranking: 170 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2015
Finished a stellar college career at Alabama in 2019 and has continued to impress on the Korn Ferry Tour, where he’s won twice this year. If he can win one more before the end of the 2021 season, he’ll receive the rare “battlefield promotion” to the PGA Tour.
80. Bubba Watson
Age: 41 World ranking: 62 U.S. Open appearances: 13
Best U.S. Open finish: T-5, 2007
With 12 PGA Tour victories and two Masters, he’s in the conversation for the Hall of Fame. Spoke candidly of late about struggling to believe he can compete with the younger players, but finished the season strong with a T-18 at The Northern Trust and T-16 at the BMW. Might be the ultimate horse-for-course as eight of those 12 wins have come at three events. Meanwhile, U.S. Opens don’t really suit a guy who likes to curve it 30 yards and doesn’t find too many fairways; he’s missed the cut in five of his last six U.S. Opens.
Bubba Watson's best U.S. Open finish is a T-5 in 2007.
79. Danny Willett
Age: 32 World ranking: 44 U.S. Open appearances: 6
Best U.S. Open finish: T-12, 2019
Won the 2016 Masters then disappeared before a resurgence late in 2018. On one hand, had a solid major season last year, posting a T-12 at Pebble Beach and a T-6 at Royal Portrush. On the other, missed six of his last nine cuts, including against a rather weak field at the ISPS Handa U.K. Championship.
78. J.T. Poston
Age: 27 World ranking: 72 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2017
Had top 10s in his first two appearances after the restart but it’s been a slog since, with four missed cuts and four finishes between T-30 and T-59. Two top 10s and seven missed cuts in 23 starts last season. Will be making his second U.S. Open appearance.
77. Adam Long
Age: 32 World ranking: 76 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2011
Played in the U.S. Open in 2011 just after turning pro out of Duke, then spent years on the mini-tours before finally getting to the PGA Tour for 2019. Runner-up finish at the 3M Open was one of three top-10 finishes for him last season.
76. Brian Harman
Age: 33 World ranking: 110 U.S. Open appearances: 4
Best U.S. Open finish: T-2, 2017
Lefty played quite well in both FedEx Cup playoff starts, posting a T-11 at The Northern Trust and a T-12 at the BMW. Shared second with Hideki Matsuyama behind Brooks Koepka at Erin Hills in 2017, although that was a distinctly un-U.S. Open like setup.
75. Adam Hadwin
Age: 32 World ranking: 64 U.S. Open appearances: 4
Best U.S. Open finish: T-39, 2011
Canadian posted three top fives on the PGA Tour last season, two of which came in the fall of 2019. Could well make the cut but seems to lack the top-level firepower to compete at majors: In 13 career starts in them, has just one top 25 finish.
74. Thomas Detry
Age: 27 World ranking: 80 U.S. Open appearances: First
Belgian native spent four years at the University of Illinois, where he won the 2016 Big Ten Championship. Not exactly a quick start to his professional career but has come on strong recently, with two runner-up finishes on the Euro Tour since the restart, losing out to Sam Horsfield both times. Making his first start in a major championship.
73. Danny Lee
Age: 30 World ranking: 108 U.S. Open appearances: 2
Best U.S. Open finish: T-57, 2016
Former U.S. Amateur champ had a pair of top 10s last fall in the PGA Tour’s Asia swing but just one since, a T-5 at Bay Hill. Short-game numbers are not pretty—he was 181st in strokes gained/around the green and 139th in strokes gained/putting—so he’ll be hoping for a great ball-striking week.
72. Tom Lewis
Age: 29 World ranking: 54 U.S. Open appearances: 2
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2014 and 2018
Englishman secured his PGA Tour card through last year’s Korn Ferry Tour finals and used a T-2 at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but missed the cut at The Northern Trust to end his season. Has missed the cut in all four major appearances in the U.S. but did finish T-11 at last year’s Open Championship at Portrush.
71. Charles Howell III
Age: 41 World ranking: 86 U.S. Open appearances: 11
Best U.S. Open finish: T-18, 2002
Had a prototypical CHIII season: 20 events, no wins, three top 10s, six top 25s, $1.37 million and kept his card. He seems to do it every single year. His U.S. Open record is a microcosm of his career: 11 starts, eight made cuts, best finish T-18 in 2002.
70. Jordan Spieth
Age: 27 World ranking: 67 U.S. Open appearances: 8
Best U.S. Open finish: Win, 2015
At what point has a slump persisted so long it’s no longer a slump? Wherever that point is, Spieth is dangerously close. Has experienced a breathtaking drop from his boy-wonder days of 2015-’17 and is still squarely in the wilderness. Has not won anywhere since the 2017 British Open and has not been particularly close, either. Able to get into contention through 36 holes but can’t keep it together for four rounds. Continues to be wide with his tee shots—he finished 165th in strokes gained/off the tee and 190th in fairway percentage, so he’s up against it in a big way this week. Double-bogeyed his last hole of the Safeway Open on Friday to miss the cut. Insult, meet injury. His victory at Chambers Bay remains his only top 10 in nine career U.S. Opens. Continues to keep a positive attitude and say all the right things, but you shudder at the profound doubt that has to have crept in by now.
Jordan Spieth reacts to a shot on the 15th hole during the second round of the 2019 U.S. Open.
69. Max Homa
Age: 29 World ranking: 79 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2013
Popular player—he’s hilarious on social media—was going along quite nicely before the COVID hiatus, but it’s been a struggle since apart from T-3 at the 3M Open. Has six missed cuts, a T-52 and a T-59, in his 10 starts since the restart. Only previous U.S. Open appearance was as an amateur in 2013. Typically a very good ball-striker but it’s been squirrely recently—he’s dropped an average of 3.35 shots tee-to-green over his last four starts.
68. Matthias Schwab
Age: 25 World ranking: 88 U.S. Open appearances: First
Austrian played his college ball at Vanderbilt. Had a terrific second half of 2019 in Europe and took T-4 in the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China. Missed the cut at TPC Harding Park in his first career major start.
67. Victor Perez
Age: 28 World ranking: 51 U.S. Open appearances: First
Tall Frenchman played four years at New Mexico before returning to Europe to begin his professional career. Won his first European Tour event last fall and finished an impressive T-4 at the WGC-HSBC in China in November. As such, in good position to make the 2021 Ryder Cup team given Team Europe’s point freeze. Made his first major appearance at Harding Park and finished a respectable T-22.
66. Martin Kaymer
Age: 35 World ranking: 87 U.S. Open appearances: 12
Best U.S. Open finish: Win, 2014
One of the stranger career arcs in recent memory. Reached World No. 1 and won a major in 2010, then fell off the map, then won the Players and the U.S. Open (by eight at Pinehurst) in 2014, and has not won since. Lost his PGA Tour card at the end of last season and has been playing primarily in Europe. Shot 66-81 to miss the cut at the PGA in August, a shocking microcosm for his see-saw journey. Been close to ending that six-year drought in each of his last two Euro Tour starts, but stumbled both times on 71st hole. Clearly, the game’s in good enough shape to win. And clearly, there are some mental demons to exorcize.
Martin Kaymer's U.S. Open win at Pinehurst in 2014 was his last victory on any tour.
65. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
Age: 26 World ranking: 52 U.S. Open appearances: First
South African finished just short of getting his PGA Tour card through non-member points. Played nine PGA Tour events last year and made the cut in six, with his best finish a T-18 at Bay Hill. Won the 2019 Andalucia Masters on the European Tour by six, so there’s a top-level gear there. Missed the cut at the PGA. Finished second in Dubai at the start of the year and won an event at home in February to sneak into the top 50 in the world. Will be making his first start since the Wyndham Championship five weeks ago.
64. Bernd Wiesberger
Age: 34 World ranking: 32 U.S. Open appearances: 5
Best U.S. Open finish: T-16, 2017
Won three times in Europe last year to catapult up the World Ranking, but the Austrian has not shown particularly well against world-class fields. Did play in the final pairing of the 2014 PGA Championship alongside champion Rory McIlroy. Has missed the cut in three of his five U.S. Open starts.
63. Thomas Pieters
Age: 28 World ranking: 77 U.S. Open appearances: 2
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2017 and 2019
Big Belgian played college golf at Illinois, where he won the NCAA and Big Ten titles. Professional career got off to a hot start as he received a captain’s pick for the 2016 Ryder Cup and took T-4 at the 2017 Masters. Looked destined for stardom but hit a bit of a wall since, though he has gone T-21/T-3/T-15 in his three appearances since the restart, all in Europe.
62. Marc Leishman
Age: 36 World ranking: 22 U.S. Open appearances: 9
Best U.S. Open finish: T-18, 2016
Had three top-three finishes before the COVID hiatus, highlighted by a final-round 65 to win the Farmers at Torrey Pines. Also finished solo second in the last event pre-COVID, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but has really struggled since the restart. Came dangerously close to setting the record for worst 72-hole score in PGA Tour history by shooting 30 over par at the BMW Championship, where he finished last by nine shots. Also missed the cut in his two starts prior to that and finished 28th out of 30 at the Tour Championship. Plays the U.S. Open worse than the other three majors, with just one top-25 finish in nine starts, as well as four missed cuts. He’s struggling, and this is not a course you want to be struggling on.
61. Chez Reavie
Age: 38 World ranking: 40 U.S. Open appearances: 7
Best U.S. Open finish: T-3, 2019
Gets an incredible amount out of his limited physical gifts. Had a phenomenal 2018-’19 season that included a victory at the Travelers Championship but was unable to replicate that success in 2019-’20, with just two top 10s in 22 starts. Was hardly shown on TV last year at Pebble Beach despite finishing T-3, a phenomenal accomplishment for a player who ranked 184th in driving distance. Winged Foot will be a much beefier test.
60. Henrik Stenson
Age: 44 World ranking: 41 U.S. Open appearances: 14
Best U.S. Open finish: T-4, 2014
Another guy who has been super selective with his starts since the hiatus—he’s played just twice, a T-35 at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and a missed cut at the PGA Championship. Would be much lower in the World Rankings if not for a victory at the 18-man Hero World Challenge in December, and his days as a top-10 player may be over at 44. Finished T-26 at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot and does have top 10s in each of his past two Opens, a T-9 at Pebble Beach and a T-6 at Shinnnecock Hills.
59. Ian Poulter
Age: 44 World ranking: 60 U.S. Open appearances: 14
Best U.S. Open finish: T-12, 2006
Just one top 10 in 13 starts last season on the PGA Tour and, at 44, sees his chances of winning a major dwindle with each passing year. Yet to pick up a top 10 at the U.S. Open, though his best finish came at Winged Foot in 2006, where he was paired with eventual winner Geoff Ogilvy on Sunday and wore an all-pink outfit that drew torrents of torment from the New York crowds. Missed the cut last year at Pebble. Ranked 114th in strokes gained/tee to green and does not hit it long enough to give himself any margin of error on this setup.
Ian Poulter's pink outfit in the final round of the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot drew plenty of comments from New York fans.
58. Keegan Bradley
Age: 34 World ranking: 103 U.S. Open appearances: 8
Best U.S. Open finish: T-4, 2014
Won the 2011 PGA in his first major-championship start. Had a rather forgettable 2019-’20 season—it wasn’t awful, as he made the FedEx Cup Playoffs and made the cut in 14 of his 20 starts, but he had no top 10s on the season and hasn’t had one since June 2019. Missed the cut in three of his last four U.S. Opens and each of his last three major starts.
57. Cameron Smith
Age: 27 World ranking: 50 U.S. Open appearances: 3
Best U.S. Open finish: T-72, 2019
Aussie has one of the best short games on the planet. Won his first individual PGA Tour title in January at the Sony Open but was largely quiet afterwards and missed his first three cuts after the restart. Found a bit of form in the playoffs, going T-18/T-22 in the first two events to get to the Tour Championship. Ball-striking isn’t sharp enough to win a U.S. Open, at least not now.
56. Matt Wallace
Age: 30 World ranking: 47 U.S. Open appearances: 3
Best U.S. Open finish: T-12, 2019
Brit has worked his way up the European pro golf ladder, from the Alps Tour to the Challenge Tour to the European Tour, where he won four times in a 16-months span before just missing out on making the 2018 Ryder Cup team. A proper hot head, he’s gone through his share of caddies and is prone to bouts of frustration on the course. Missed the FedEx Cup Playoffs in his first season as a PGA Tour member but did take T-4 at the Memorial, which played quite like a U.S. Open. Also finished T-3 at last year’s PGA Championship and T-12 at last year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, so he’s had some success in majors.
55. Cameron Champ
Age: 25 World ranking: 74 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: T-32, 2017
Does the majority of his damage with the driver—ranked second in driving distance and strokes gained/off the tee last season, behind only Bryson DeChambeau in both. Won his second PGA Tour event last fall at the Safeway Open. Still working on becoming a more well-rounded player with coach Sean Foley. Gave us a glimpse into his big-tournament potential at the PGA Championship, where he was in the mix on Sunday before a disappointing back nine saw him drop to T-10. Making just his second U.S. Open appearance, his only previous coming as an amateur at Erin Hills in 2017.
Cameron Champ's performance as an amateur in the 2017 U.S. Open spurred him to turn pro early.
54. Lee Westwood
Age: 42 World ranking: 42 U.S. Open appearances: 18
Best U.S. Open finish: 3/T-3, 2008 and 2011
May be something of a forgotten man to U.S. golf fans because he’s chosen to stay in Europe since COVID, including skipping the PGA Championship. With 44 professional wins, he’s one of the more accomplished players not to have won a major. And it is not for lack of close calls—he has three top-five finishes in U.S. Opens, including missing the Tiger Woods-Rocco Mediate playoff by a shot in 2008. Finished T-10 in his last start in Spain before making the trek over here for his first stateside start since March.
53. Si Woo Kim
Age: 25 World ranking: 90 U.S. Open appearances: 3
Best U.S. Open finish: T-13, 2017
Suffered brutal patch from November 2019 to the RBC Heritage in June, missing eight cuts and withdrawing once in a 10-event stretch. Has made nine straight cuts since then, including a 54-hole lead and a T-3 at the Wyndham Championship. Shot four rounds under par at the PGA Championship and finished T-13. Best-known for his shocking victory at the 2017 Players Championship, so he’s beaten a field full of the world’s best players before.
52. Jason Kokrak
Age: 35 World ranking: 55 U.S. Open appearances: 3
Best U.S. Open finish: T-37, 2018
Took third at Colonial in the first PGA Tour event of the restart, then missed three straight cuts and WD’d from the Memorial. Finished T-44 at the WGC-FedEx and missed the cut at the PGA Championship. Nearly played his way to the Tour Championship with a T-13 at The Northern Trust and a T-6 at the BMW but narrowly missed out. Big, long-hitter finished seventh in driving distance and ninth in strokes gained/off the tee last season.
51. Kevin Streelman
Age: 41 World ranking: 43 U.S. Open appearances: 6
Best U.S. Open finish: T-13, 2016
Has two solo seconds this year, at Pebble Beach and the Travelers, and just finished T-3 at the Safeway Open last week. One of the shorter hitters but also one of the straightest, he can compete on “his” courses. It’s just those don’t tend to be major-championship setups; he has no top-10 finishes in 24 career major starts. Playing in his first U.S. Open in four years.
50. Robert MacIntyre
Age: 24 World ranking: 89 U.S. Open appearances: First
Scottish lefty has played just four events since February. One of those was the PGA Championship, where he made the cut in his second career major start—his first major yielded an ultra-impressive T-6 at last year’s British Open. One of the brighter young prospects overseas, he had three runner-up finishes on the European Tour last year. Surely has suffered from not having a PGA Tour card, which has made finding top-level starts rather difficult.
49. Will Zalatoris
Age: 24 World ranking: 119 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2017
He’s been the premier player on the Korn Ferry Tour, with a victory, seven top sixes and no finish outside the top 20 in his last 11 starts. Shot an eight-under 64 on Sunday at the Evans Scholar Invitational to finish one shot behind the winner. Data Golf, which ranks golfers according to its proprietary model, has him as the No. 41 player in the world.
48. Sergio Garcia
Age: 40 World ranking: 46 U.S. Open appearances: 20
Best U.S. Open finish: T-3, 2005
“El Nino” is a kid no longer, as he’s making his (gulp) 21st U.S. Open start and first as a 40-year-old. Finally won that elusive major three years ago at Augusta but has not been the same player since. Recently split with Callaway and spoke candidly at last week’s Safeway Open about the effects the equipment changes have had on his confidence and the need to re-discover some “good mojo.” Has missed the cut in eight of his last 10 major starts, with the other two resulting in a T-52 at last year’s U.S. Open and a T-67 at the British Open. Missed FedEx Cup Playoffs as he posted only one top-10 on the PGA Tour during the 2019-’20 season. Sample size from last season was small—just 32 measured rounds—but told familiar story: fourth in strokes gained/tee-to-green and 187th in strokes gained/putting. Missed cut in the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
This will be Sergio Garica's first U.S. Open start since turning 40.
Sean M. Haffey
47. Shane Lowry
Age: 33 World ranking: 29 U.S. Open appearances: 7
Best U.S. Open finish: T-2, 2016
Likely won’t have a better career moment than last year’s British Open, where the Irishman won by five at Royal Portrush. You get the sense he took his time enjoying that victory and he has just two top 10s worldwide since, the most recent a T-6 at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude in July. Used the last event of the regular season to squeak into the FedEx Cup Playoffs but missed the cut at TPC Boston to end season early. As such, played at the Safeway Open to get some reps in. Held the 54-hole lead by four in the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, another exacting ball-striking test, before a final-round 76 saw him finish three back.
46. Lanto Griffin
Age: 32 World ranking: 70 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2018
A perfect example of why so many players refuse to give up the dream—grinded on mini-tours for seven years before getting to the PGA Tour for the 2017-’18 season, only to lose his card, then get it back, then make the 2020 Tour Championship and take home more than $3.5 million on the season. Somehow managed 27 starts during the truncated season and posted 14 top-25 finishes, including a T-19 at the PGA Championship.
45. Byeong-Hun An
Age: 28 World ranking: 57 U.S. Open appearances: 6
Best U.S. Open finish: T-16, 2019
Was the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur as an 18-year-old at Southern Hills in 2009. A very solid ball-striker, he’s made seven of his last eight cuts in majors, but his putter continues to hold him back from contending in the biggest events. Still looking for his first PGA Tour victory and fell short of making the Tour Championship despite a solid end to the season, with three finishes of T-22 or better in his final four starts. Picked up a top 20 last year at Pebble Beach and because he hits it so well, he’s a good bet to make the weekend on a course that will punish anyone who scraps it around.
44. Abraham Ancer
Age: 29 World ranking: 23 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: T-49, 2019
Something of a late bloomer, the Mexican native and Oklahoma grad is playing in just his second U.S. Open. Profiles as the type of guy to thrive on exacting setups, and the stats back that up—he finished 33rd in strokes gained/off the tee in 2019-’20 and 45th in strokes gained/approach. Had two runner-ups last season to get to the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. At 5-foot-7, he might be the shortest player in the field, but he’s not short off the tee and won’t be intimidated by anyone. Broke out at the Presidents Cup last December, where he won three of his four matches before running into an in-form Tiger Woods in singles.
43. Erik Van Rooyen
Age: 30 World ranking: 48 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: T-43, 2019
Stylish South African played collegiately at Minnesota and just got his PGA Tour card for this season through non-member points. Has made the cut in all five of his major starts and can handle brutish courses, having finished T-8 at the PGA at Bethpage Black last year. Finished T-3 at the WGC-Mexico before the COVID hiatus but no top 10s since.
42. Rasmus Hojgaard
Age: 19 World ranking: 66 U.S. Open appearances: First
An extremely exciting prospect out of Denmark. Teenager won his second European Tour event at the ISPS Handa U.K. Championship in August, becoming the second-youngest player to win twice on the Old World circuit. Been a dominant force in the post-COVID European slate, with a solo second, a T-6 and a solo third to go along with that victory. Has beautiful swing and a mature demeanor on course, leaving top-10 player in the world written all over him. Will be fascinating to see how he fares in his first major and his first professional start in the United States.
41. Kevin Na
Age: 36 World ranking: 34 U.S. Open appearances: 8
Best U.S. Open finish: 7, 2016
Exciting player to watch, with his unorthodox mannerisms and propensity to walk-in putts. Three of his four PGA Tour wins have come in the last two-plus years, including a victory in Las Vegas last October. Makes his hey on the greens—he was fifth on tour last year in strokes gained/putting. Not the purest ball-striker, though, which may explain why he only has two top-10s in 36 career major starts.
40. Matt Kuchar
Age: 42 World ranking: 27 U.S. Open appearances: 17
Best U.S. Open finish: T-6, 2010
Still inside the top 30 in the World Ranking but coming off a disappointing season with just one top 10 in 16 starts. Recently split with longtime caddie John Wood and had wife Sybi on the bag at the BMW. Ball-striking statistics dropped significantly from 2018-’19, though he did have one of the better putting seasons of his career. Only one top 10 in 17 career U.S. Open appearances but that paints a harsher picture than reality, as he has six finishes between T-12 and T-16, including last year at Pebble Beach. Time is running short for him to cap his career with a major championship. Missed the cut in the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
Matt Kuchar's had just one top-10 finish in 17 career U.S. Open starts.
39. Alex Noren
Age: 38 World ranking: 93 U.S. Open appearances: 7
Best U.S. Open finish: T-25, 2018
Crept inside the world top 10 a few years ago before losing form as he experimented with working the ball both ways. He’s back to almost exclusively cuts these days and seems to be on the mend, with three top-10 finishes in his last five starts. Also showed well at the PGA Championship, finishing T-22. Must acknowledge his disappointing record in U.S. Opens—he’s made seven appearances and played the weekend just twice.
38. Corey Conners
Age: 28 World ranking: 69 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2017
Kent State grad is one of the better ball-strikers on tour, ranking 13th in strokes gained/off the tee and 12th in strokes gained/approach last season. Canadian is blessed with fantastic rhythm and a beautiful swing. Missed back-to-back cuts, including at the PGA Championship, but bounced back with better play at Northern Trust (T-25) and BMW (T-33). Making just his second U.S. Open appearances and has missed the cut in four of his previous six major starts.
37. Joel Dahmen
Age: 32 World ranking: 61 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2019
Coming off a rather nice season, finishing 38th in the FedEx Cup and bringing home more than $2 million. A feel-good story having survived testicular cancer and long stretch on the mini-tours before a late breakthrough. Had some very solid finishes on difficult setups, finishing T-5 at Riviera and Bay Hill and T-10 at the PGA Championship. Keeps the ball in play well and ranked 29th in strokes gained/off the tee last season despite ranking 115th in driving distance. Three finishes of T-20 or better in his last four starts.
36. Sebastian Munoz
Age: 27 World ranking: 75 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2018
Native of Colombia impressed on the PGA Tour last fall, winning Sanderson Farms and finishing solo third at the RSM Classic. Cooled off after the new year with the odd solid finish sprinkled in, then bounced back with an extremely solid FedEx Cup playoffs—T-18 at Northern Trust, T-8 at BMW, T-8 at Tour Championship—to finish T-8 in the FedEx Cup. Yet to make a cut in three major appearances.
35. Matthew Wolff
Age: 21 World ranking: 36 U.S. Open appearances: First
Played in his first major at the PGA and contended deep into Sunday, finishing T-4 with an extremely impressive ball-striking display. Finished second in strokes gained/off the tee, third in SG/approach, first in SG/tee to green and first in greens in regulation for the tournament. Has an explosive swing and is fully capable of explosive ball-striking weeks. Oft compared with college teammate Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa, as they all turned pro within weeks of each other, but worth remembering that he’s significantly younger than both. Finished second at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July and has made his last six cuts, so he seems to have turned a consistency corner.
34. Kevin Kisner
Age: 36 World ranking: 30 U.S. Open appearances: 6
Best U.S. Open finish: T-12, 2015
Three top-four finishes in his last eight starts saw him get to the Tour Championship for the second straight year. He’d be the first to tell you Winged Foot is a lot of golf course for a guy who averaged 282 yards off the tee last season, 160th on tour, so he’ll need to hit a ton of fairways to have a chance. And even then, it might be a big ask—his best finish in six U.S. Open appearances was a T-12 at Chambers Bay in 2015, a vastly different test than he’ll face this week.
33. Rickie Fowler
Age: 31 World ranking: 38 U.S. Open appearances: 11
Best U.S. Open finish: T-2, 2014
His visibility hasn’t diminished, but his world ranking has. Fowler’s 2020 has been maybe his worst year as a professional, with just one top 10 in a full-field event, a T-10 at the American Express in January. As such, the “when-will-Rickie-win-a-major” storyline has quieted. He’d made 14 straight cuts in majors before missing the weekend at the PGA Championship in the worst possible way—by one shot, after flubbing a six-inch tap in. Saw his season end after The Northern Trust and has had three weeks off to re-set and find the magic that saw him finish in the top five in all four majors in 2014, including a runner-up at the U.S. Open.
Rickie Fowler had made 14 straight cuts at majors before painfully missing out by one stroke at the PGA Championship in August.
32. Joaquin Niemann
Age: 21 World ranking: 49 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2017
Former World No. 1 amateur is steadily progressing as a professional. Won his first PGA Tour event last fall at The Greenbrier and gained invaluable experience at the Presidents Cup last December. Nabbed two top-five finishes since the restart, including a T-3 at the BMW Championship, which got him to the Tour Championship for the first time. Low-ball hitter has missed the cut in five of his six major appearances, but he’s still just 21. Finished 23rd in strokes gained/tee-to-green last season, so he’s definitely capable of ball-striking his way to a solid finish.
31. Brendon Todd
Age: 35 World ranking: 39 U.S. Open appearances: 3
Best U.S. Open finish: T-17, 2014
Seen the deepest depths of professional golf, having missed 36 of 38 cuts at one point and dropping outside the top 2000 in the World Ranking before an astonishing comeback. Won back-to-back events last fall and spent rest of the 2019-’20 season proving it wasn’t a fluke, with top 20s in the WGC-FedEx St. Jude and the PGA, and a T-8 at the BMW Championship to get to East Lake. Overcomes a sizable distance disadvantage, as he ranked 194th out of 200 on tour in driving distance last season. As such, he’s fighting an uphill battle this week, but the same can be said for basically every event he plays.
30. Mackenzie Hughes
Age: 29 World ranking: 56 U.S. Open appearances: 2
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2013 and 2018
Runner-up at the Honda Classic in his last start pre-COVID hiatus. The Canadian came back after the restart in fine form, finishing T-3 at the Travelers (where he left a putt short for 59) and T-6 at the Memorial. A terrific FedEx Cup Playoff push saw him qualify for his first Tour Championship thanks to a clutch par-save on the 72nd hole of the BMW. Terrific short game and is well-known in Golf Twitter/DFS circles for an uncanny propensity to sink really, really long putts.
29. Ryan Palmer
Age: 43 World ranking: 35 U.S. Open appearances: 7
Best U.S. Open finish: T-21, 2011
Playing some of the best golf of his career as he creeps toward his mid 40s. Has three top-10 finishes since the restart, which helped him get to the Tour Championship for the first time in six years. Underrated ball-striker finished 40th in SG/off the tee and SG/approach, but has made the cut just twice in seven career U.S. Opens.
28. Phil Mickelson
Age: 50 World ranking: 53 U.S. Open appearances: 28
Best U.S. Open finish: 2/T2, six times
Returns to the site of his biggest U.S. Open heartbreak, which is saying something given his fraught history at this championship. Has finished runner-up a record six times, and it remains the only major he hasn’t won. Had best chance at Winged Foot 14 years ago, where he stepped to the 18th tee on Sunday with a one-shot lead before making an all-time infamous double bogey. At 50, still has boatloads of game, having finished T-2 at a WGC less than two months ago and winning his first start on the PGA Tour Champions in August, which did not seem like a fair fight. Rough is not his friend these days—he hit just 54 percent of his fairways (174th on tour) last season and 63.5 percent of his greens (177th)—and it promises to be unforgiving this week, so smart money says he’s more likely to miss the cut than contend. But where’s the fun in smart money?
27. Tiger Woods
Age: 44 World ranking: 21 U.S. Open appearances: 21
Best U.S. Open finish: Win, 2000, 2002, 2008
Two of his most iconic victories have come at this championship—the 15-shot romp at Pebble Beach in 2000 and the one-legged triumph at Torrey Pines in 2008. In contrast, Winged Foot is site of one of the darker weeks of his career in 2006, when he missed his first cut in a major as a professional while making his first start after the death of his father. Looked back to being arguably the best player in the world toward the end of 2019, but 2020 hasn’t been his friend, with just one finish better than T-37 in six appearances. On a more positive note, there were no physical concerns at TPC Boston or Olympia Fields as he played his first back-to-back 72-hole events in 19 months. His struggles this year have largely been on the greens—he would have finished near the bottom in strokes gained/putting last season had he played enough rounds to qualify. No secret that his best chances in majors at this stage are at the Masters, and the right British Open course. We can never count out Tiger Woods, but major No. 16 here would be sizable shock.
26. Viktor Hovland
Age: 22 World ranking: 31 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: T-12, 2019
Won the U.S. Amateur in 2018 then had a dream U.S. Open debut in 2019, finishing low amateur at T-12 and breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record for the lowest 72-hole score for an amateur in U.S. Open history that had stood for 59 years. Turned pro the next week and hit the ground running, winning his first tour event in February and making it to the Tour Championship in his rookie season. Tremendous ball-striker—he ranked 17th in strokes gained/off the tee and seventh in strokes gained/approach last season—which is why he very seldom misses a cut. Whether he contends depends largely on his short game and putter, which can be hit-or-miss. Seven finishes of T-23 or better in his 11 events since the restart, so he’s in solid if unspectacular form. Absolutely has a chance on a ball striker’s course if he can produce a hot flatstick.
25. Sungjae Im
Age: 22 World ranking: 24 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: MC, 2018
Was playing better than nearly anyone on tour before the pandemic hit, with his maiden victory coming at the Honda Classic then finishing third at Bay Hill the next week. Hasn’t been quite the same since, with only one top 10 in his last 11 starts, though he did show some signs of a rebound at the Tour Championship. Missed the cut in four of his five previous major appearances, including at the PGA Championship. Plays extremely aggressively, which may explain that poor major record, and he’ll have to fight the fire-at-every-flag impulse to have any chance at all at Winged Foot.
24. Jason Day
Age: 32 World ranking: 37 U.S. Open appearances: 9
Best U.S. Open finish: 2, 2011
Former World No. 1 and major champion dipped outside the top 60 in the World Rankings earlier this year as his perpetual back struggles have made finding rhythm and consistency tough. Looked close to regaining past form as he posted four consecutive top 10s earlier this summer, culminating with a T-4 at the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park … then missed cut by six at The Northern Trust and finished 64th in a 69-man field at the BMW. Enjoyed remarkable success in U.S. Opens earlier in his career, finishing T-9 or better in five of his first six with two runners-up, but has missed the cut in two of his last three. A very difficult player to predict this week.
23. Harris English
Age: 31 World ranking: 45 U.S. Open appearances: 4
Best U.S. Open finish: T-37, 2016
Quietly had a terrific season, with six top 10s and just two missed cuts in 20 starts. Won the ‘B’ flight at The Northern Trust, where he shot 19 under and lost to Dustin Johnson by 11. Has made the cut in each of his four U.S. Open appearances but hasn’t finished better than T-37, which came at Oakmont in 2016. T-9 at Bay Hill and T-13 at the Memorial, two of the toughest setups all year, so he’s comfortable on difficult courses. Zero top 10s in 16 career major starts, but he’s playing better than he has in quite a while.
22. Billy Horschel
Age: 33 World ranking: 33 U.S. Open appearances: 7
Best U.S. Open finish: T-4, 2013
Five-time tour winner made the Tour Championship when his playing partner on Sunday at the BMW, Corey Conners, three-putted from inside five feet. Finished last at East Lake but still took home $395,000 for his efforts. Just one top-25 finish in 26 starts in majors—the first of which, coincidentally, came as a 19-year-old amateur at Winged Foot in 2006. He missed the cut that week.
21. Justin Rose
Age: 40 World ranking: 20 U.S. Open appearances: 14
Best U.S. Open finish: Win, 2014
Typically a terrific ball-striker who has fared well in U.S. Opens, with five top 10s and his lone major victory at Merion. But his ball-striking has dropped off significantly from his World No. 1 best, as an experiment with Honma equipment failed miserably and he’s back to a mostly TaylorMade bag. Chipped and putted his way to a T-3 at last year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and manufactured a top 10 at the PGA Championship last month, so he’s still finding a way to compete on the toughest courses against the best fields. There have been some good weeks in his eight events since the restart—he was a T-3 at Colonial and a T-14 at the Heritage—but he’s also missed four cuts. Had three weeks off to tidy up his game before this week in hopes of rediscovering the swing magic.
A T-3 at last year's at Pebble Beach was his fifth career top 10 in the U.S. Open.
20. Paul Casey
Age: 43 World ranking: 19 U.S. Open appearances: 16
Best U.S. Open finish: T-10, 2007
The Englishman has had a fantastic career, with 18 worldwide victories and rising as high as No. 3 in the World Ranking. Will be making his 65th start in a major and had his best chance to win one in his 64th, contending all the way to the end at last month’s PGA Championship en route to a T-2, his best career finish in one of the big four. Still an elite ball-striker, he ranked 15th in strokes gained/off the tee and ninth in strokes gained/approach last season, but was outside the top 150 in both SG/around the green and SG/putting. Been just OK in his three starts since TPC Harding Park—T-31, T-49, T-16—and missed out on the Tour Championship. Finished 15th at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
19. Gary Woodland
Age: 36 World ranking: 26 U.S. Open appearances: 9
Best U.S. Open finish: Win, 2019
The defending champion was a popular winner at Pebble Beach. (Man, does that feel like decades ago.) Played some great golf in the fall and into January but hasn’t done anything particularly noteworthy since. Had no top-10s in his first 27 major starts but has three in his last six. Consistent performer who does not miss many cuts and finished 10th in strokes gained/approach last season.
18. Bryson DeChambeau
Age: 26 World ranking: 9 U.S. Open appearances: 5
Best U.S. Open finish: T-15, 2016
Was golf’s biggest newsmaker in the weeks after the COVID hiatus as he returned with 40 pounds of muscle, obscene ball speed and a number of rules/media imbroglios. Finished in the top 10 in each of his first four starts, including a breathtaking display of power in winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Brought his new game to the PGA Championship and promptly picked up his best finish in a major, T-4. Disappointing close to the 2019-’20 tour season, though, as he missed the cut at The Northern Trust, finished 50th (out of 69) at the BMW Championship and 25th (out of 30) at the Tour Championship. Struggling of late with his approach play. Will be fascinating to watch his strategy at Winged Foot, which will have some of the narrowest fairways and gnarliest rough you’ll ever see. Will he continue to smash driver as hard as he can? Or will he dial it back? Wouldn’t seem to be the greatest fit course-wise, but if he has an accurate driving week, well … any course is a great fit if you’re driving it 350 down the middle.
17. Louis Oosthuizen
Age: 37 World ranking: 25 U.S. Open appearances: 10
Best U.S. Open finish: T-2, 2015
One could argue he’s underachieved by winning just the one major, particularly when you watch his swing and looking at his major results. Has finished second in all four majors to go along with his 2010 British Open victory. Comes to Winged Foot in solid form having made seven cuts in a row, including a T-33 at the PGA Championship, a T-13 at The Northern Trust and a T-25 at the BMW. Has six top-25 finishes in 10 U.S. Open appearances including the last four years, highlighted by a T-7 in 2019 at Pebble Beach.
16. Adam Scott
Age: 40 World ranking: 12 U.S. Open appearances: 18
Best U.S. Open finish: T-4, 2015
Crept back up to No. 6 in the World Ranking early in 2020 off wins in back-to-back starts, at the Australian PGA Championship and then the Genesis Invitational at Riviera. Stayed home in Australia for the first two months after the restart and has made just three starts since March, going T-22 at the PGA before a T-58 at The Northern Trust and a T-25 at the BMW. Elegant game and still an elite ball-striker. Finished T-7 last year at Pebble Beach, but his record at the U.S. Open is worse than the other three majors. No clear reason why, though he can get a bit loose with the driver and finished 161st in driving accuracy last season. Took T-21 in the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot
15. Tommy Fleetwood
Age: 29 World ranking: 15 U.S. Open appearances: 4
Best U.S. Open finish: 2, 2018
Got a late start when the tour season resumed, as he chose to remain in England for the first month post-restart. Has not found his groove stateside since, with no top-25 finishes in his five starts. Was one of just two top-100 players to tee it up in the Portugal Masters the week prior to Winged Foot, so he clearly feels he needs reps (and got them with a T-3 showing). Still chasing that first PGA Tour win, but has fantastic record in Europe and has contended loads of times in huge tournaments, including runner-up at the 2018 U.S. Open, where he shot 63 in the final round, and in the 2019 British Open. Has made 11 straight cuts in majors and sat near the top of the leader board at the PGA Championship before a disappointing weekend saw him slide to T-29. Drives the ball as good as anyone, which will be a key at Winged Foot. Will be a trendy sleeper pick given his pedigree.
Fleetwood shot a 64 during the final round at Shinnecock Hills and has a solid record at the U.S. Open.
14. Rory McIlroy
Age: 31 World ranking: 4 U.S. Open appearances: 11
Best U.S. Open finish: Win, 2011
Playing his first major as a father after birth of baby girl Poppy the Monday after the BMW Championship. Went eight straight starts without picking up a top 10, his longest such stretch since the combined end of the 2017 season and start of 2018, before a T-8 at the Tour Championship. That came after he had posted seven straight finishes inside the top five, so a somewhat dramatic difference after the COVID hiatus. In retrospect, that subpar form (by his standards) makes more sense now. His coming-out party came the U.S. Open nine years ago, where he blew out the field at an ultra-soft Congressional to win by eight. Key word there: ultra-soft. McIlroy typically has not fared well on firm golf courses with penal rough, and he’s actually missed the cut in five of his 11 U.S. Open appearances, including three in a row before a T-9 at Pebble Beach last year. Major drought is six-plus years and counting, but perhaps fatherhood will spark an inspired performance—then again, you wonder how much he’s been sleeping and practicing.
13. Tyrrell Hatton
Age: 28 World ranking: 14 U.S. Open appearances: 3
Best U.S. Open finish: T-6, 2018
Won his first tournament in the U.S. at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, the last completed tournament before the COVID hiatus. Picked up where he left off after the restart, posting two top fives in first two starts but then had a rough two-week stretch at the WGC-FedEx (T-69 out of 78) and a missed cut at the PGA Championship. Rebounded with three top 25s in the playoffs, including a seventh-place finish at the Tour Championship. Strokes-gained numbers were terrific across the board—he finished eighth in strokes gained/overall—and has been solid in his last two U.S. Opens, a T-6 at Shinnecock and a T-21 at Pebble Beach. Runs hot and is prone to an outburst of frustration, so he’ll need to stay patient and accept the myriad bogeys that Winged Foot is sure to claim. A sleeper indeed.
12. Hideki Matsuyama
Age: 28 World ranking: 18 U.S. Open appearances: 7
Best U.S. Open finish: T-2, 2017
Former world No. 2 is no longer a young gun by today’s standard, and he has not won a tournament anywhere in more than three years. Had yet another fantastic ball-striking season, finishing second on tour in strokes gained/tee-to-green, but continues to live and die on the greens, where he finished 170th in strokes gained. Hung around all week at the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields, which played like a U.S. Open course, and has had plenty of success in past U.S. Opens—he’s gone T-2, T-16 and T-21 the last three years. Which makes sense, of course, as hard golf courses reward good ball-strikers, and he certainly fits the bill. Has 17 top-25 finishes in 30 career major starts and a player of his talent should win at least one major before it’s all said and done. No reason it can’t be this week should he finish in the top 10 on the greens.
11. Matthew Fitzpatrick
Age: 26 World ranking: 17 U.S. Open appearances: 5
Best U.S. Open finish: T-12, 2018 and 2019
He’s a tough-course specialist, plain and simple. The three hardest setups on PGA Tour this year were the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial and the BMW Championship, and he finished T-9, third and T-6 in those events. Makes sense, then, that he has back-to-back T-12 finishes in U.S. Opens. Also a former U.S. Amateur champion, he loves USGA setups. Has three top-10 finishes in his last five starts, but the other two have been missed cuts, one of which was the PGA Championship. His chances this week should correlate with the firmness of the golf course—the harder it gets, the better he tends to play. Flat-ball hitter doesn’t carry it miles but it can roll for days when the fairways are firm, so length shouldn’t be too much of an issue provided it’s not spongy. Arrived in New York nearly two weeks before he’ll hit his first tee shot at Winged Foot, so he’ll be comfortable and rested. Might be the most under-the-radar player inside the world top 20, but that could well change this week.
10. Tony Finau
Age: 30 World ranking: 16 U.S. Open appearances: 4
Best U.S. Open finish: 5, 2018
Has a remarkable 32 top-10 finishes since the beginning of the 2016-’17 season … but no victories. He’s a fixture on the first page of leader boards at the biggest events—he’s got six top 10s in his last nine major starts—but simply has not been able to kick down the door. Was in contention at TPC Harding Park right to the end, eventually finishing T-4. Contends on all shapes and sizes of courses. Sometimes struggles to hole the putts you need to win down the stretch, but it’s bound to happen in a big way sooner or later. Played in the final group at the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock, then shockingly missed the cut at Pebble Beach last year.
Tony Finau has six top-10 finishes in his last nine major starts.
9. Webb Simpson
Age: 35 World ranking: 6 U.S. Open appearances: 9
Best U.S. Open finish: Win, 2012
The swing isn’t beautiful, but the game is world class. Led the tour in scoring average and birdie average last season. Has two wins in 2020, one before the COVID hiatus (Waste Management Phoenix Open) and one since (RBC Heritage). Racked up two more top 10s at the Wyndham and Northern Trust before skipping the BMW Championship to rest, only to be meh at the Tour Championship. Crowning achievement of his career remains his 2012 U.S. Open victory at Olympic Club but he has just one top 10 in his seven Open starts since, though he was solid in finishing T-16 at Pebble Beach last year.
8. Patrick Reed
Age: 30 World ranking: 10 U.S. Open appearances: 6
Best U.S. Open finish: 4, 2018
Golf’s lightning rod just turned 30 and boasts eight PGA Tour victories and a major. In fairness, he probably is a bit underrated given his lack of popularity. Plays a crazy amount of tournaments all around the globe and won his first WGC in Mexico in February. Never short of confidence and tends to play well on tough layouts, as he’s got a grinder gear. Possesses a great set of hands and terrific short game to bail himself out of trouble. That’ll be a key at Winged Foot, where the short-game wizards who were at the top of the leader board in 2006—Geoff Ogilvy and Phil Mickelson—prove. Tied for eighth at the Tour Championship, then took a rare week off to rest up for Winged Foot. Can’t shake the feeling he’ll win at least one more major and if it’s possible for a top-10 player in the world to qualify as a “sleeper,” he’s it.
7. Patrick Cantlay
Age: 28 World ranking: 11 U.S. Open appearances: 4
Best U.S. Open finish: T-21, 2011 and 2019
He’s got a game made for majors: a flusher of the golf ball with a steely demeanor and uncanny patience. Has made the cut in each of his last eight major starts, including a T-9 at last year’s Masters and a T-3 at the PGA Championship. No reason he can’t get to that Dustin Johnson-Justin Thomas-Collin Morikawa tier, although he didn’t seriously contend for a tournament in 2020 and has “slid” to No. 12 in the World Ranking. That said, he ranked inside the top 25 in strokes gained/off the tee, SG/approach, SG/tee-to-green and SG/overall last season, so it hasn’t been anywhere close to bad. He’s missed just one cut in his last 26 starts worldwide, but you feel he’s underachieved a bit with only two PGA Tour victories despite some serious injury issues earlier in his career. Would be anything but surprising to see him hoist the trophy on what will be a brutal setup, and he offers good betting value.
6. Daniel Berger
Age: 27 World ranking: 13 U.S. Open appearances: 5
Best U.S. Open finish: T-6, 2018
His game isn’t the prettiest, but it’s among the best in the world at the moment. Began the year outside the world’s top 150 but played his way back into the top 15 with a stunning run that began before the pandemic and continued since it. Has seven top 10s and 10 top 25s in his last 11 starts, including a victory at Colonial and a runner-up at the WGC in Memphis. Cooled off just a bit of late with only one top 10 in his last four starts. Finished sixth in strokes gained/overall for 2019-’20 and has a solid record in U.S. Opens, making the cut in four of his five appearances and playing in the final group two years ago at Shinnecock. Amazingly, he’s not in the Masters field as he didn’t satisfy any of the criteria by the cut-off dates, so this will be his last major start of the year … unless he wins. Then something tells us he may be getting a special exemption.
5. Justin Thomas
Age: 27 World ranking: 3 U.S. Open appearances: 5
Best U.S. Open finish: T-9, 2017
One of two players with three victories in the 2019-’20 tour season, Thomas continues to add to an ever-growing trophy case that houses 13 PGA Tour titles. Does have a major (2017 PGA at Quail Hollow) but hasn’t been the consistent force in the big four he seems to be in normal tour events—he has just three top-10 finishes in 18 major starts. Led the tour last season in strokes gained/approach, tee to green, approaches from 125-150 yards and par-5 birdie or better percentage. Arrived at last month’s PGA Championship with loads of momentum coming off WGC-FedEx St. Jude victory only to post a disappointing T-37 at Harding Park. Had Jim (Bones) Mackay on the bag for five events, but his normal looper Jimmie Johnson is expected to return this week after some health concerns.
4. Collin Morikawa
Age: 23 World ranking: 5 U.S. Open appearances: 1
Best U.S. Open finish: T-35, 2019
Turned pro a week before last year’s U.S. Open, finished T-14 in his debut at the RBC Canadian Open, then T-35 at the U.S. Open … and the rest is history. Already a major champion, three-time PGA Tour winner and top-five player in the world, golf has its next American star. Mature beyond his years, he stared down an ultra-crowded leader board that included superstars at TPC Harding Park and emerged with the trophy. His game fits the bill of the prototypical great U.S. Open player: tons of fairways and greens, and rarely makes a big mistake or beats himself. Odds are he’ll win at least one of these before he’s done. While he’s rightfully known already as perhaps the best iron player on tour—he finished second in strokes gained/approach last season—won the PGA with his putter, as he lead the field in strokes gained/on the greens that week. Any time he putts anywhere close to that well, he’s going to have a chance down the stretch. Of course, we cannot expect any player to follow up his first major with another in his very next start. But the course sets up well for him, and he won’t shy away from the moment.
In his first PGA Championship start last month at TPC Harding Park, Collin Morikawa walked off with the title.
3. Jon Rahm
Age: 25 World ranking: 2 U.S. Open appearances: 4
Best U.S. Open finish: T-3, 2019
He’s reached the point where you expect him to contend in every tournament, no matter where it is and what type of course it’s played on. Has made 100 career starts as a professional and has 11 victories and 51 top 10s to show for it, which isn’t quite Tiger Woods-level, but remarkable all the same. Won the Memorial to reach World No. 1 then shot a preposterously good 66-64 over the weekend at the BMW—with a penalty stroke for moving his ball without marking it on the green—to get into a playoff, which he won with a preposterous 66-foot birdie. Just a stunning golfer in virtually all facets of the game and led the tour in strokes gained/overall last season. Always had the physical tools but now seems better able to handle his emotions, which he credits to getting married over the winter. He’ll need every ounce of self-control at Winged Foot. Missed the cut in the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Opens before a T-3 last year at Pebble Beach. He’ll have been disappointed with a T-13 at the PGA Championship last month, which tells you the expectations this guy has for himself. And they’re not unwarranted. As good a chance as any this week.
2. Dustin Johnson
Age: 36 World ranking: 1 U.S. Open appearances: 12
Best U.S. Open finish: Win, 2016
Had faded from the best-in-the-world conversation until a victory at the Travelers Championship in June, then shot 80-80 at the Memorial, then pulled out of the 3M Open after a first-round 78 … then ripped off a dominant stretch and is now considered the favorite by many this week. Held the 54-hole lead at the PGA Championship, shot 68 and was still leapfrogged by Collin Morikawa for his fifth career runner-up in a major. Had one of the best performances in PGA Tour history two weeks later in Boston, posting 30-under total to win The Northern Trust by 11. Lost in a playoff the next week to Jon Rahm at the BMW then won the Tour Championship/FedEx Cup for a $15 million payday. Every aspect of his game seems to be working and is hitting the ball better than anyone else by a wide margin, picking up a combined 55 shots on the field over his last four starts. Since 2014, his finishes in U.S. Opens are: T-4/T-2/WIN/MC/3/T-35, and he won his lone major at Oakmont, so he’s gotten it done at an über-tough Open setup before. Overflowing with confidence and swagger right now, he knows he’s the man to beat and it would be a semi-shock should he not have a chance down the stretch on Sunday. Would be criminal for him to finish his career with “only” one major, and he’ll love his chances to add No. 2 this week.
1. Xander Schauffele
Age: 26 World ranking: 7 U.S. Open appearances: 3
Best U.S. Open finish: T-3, 2016
A world-class player who fares best in majors—he’s played in 12 in his young career and has six top 10s. And at the U.S. Open, it’s even better—three starts with finishes of T-5, T-6 and T-3. No holes in his game, nor his cool-as-can-be demeanor. Finished third on tour in strokes gained/overall last season and eighth in strokes gained/off the tee, which will be a crucial stat this week. Also ranked second in scrambling from 20-30 yards, which could come in handy given the forced layups Winged Foot’s rough will demand. Shot the lowest 72-hole score by three at the Tour Championship in his last start. Has just three finishes outside the top 25 in hist last 22 starts worldwide, so there’s a remarkable level of consistency there. As far as his grinding chops, we’ll submit his week at the Memorial: he was eight over par through 13 holes on Thursday and ended up shooting 78, then made the cut on the number and ended up T-13. Never panics, trusts his game and buckles down as good as anyone for the marathon that is a major championship. It’s why we’re passing on the DJ hype and picking X-man to win his first this week.
Xander Schauffele's U.S. Open finishes in his three career starts have been impressive: T-5, T-6, T-3.
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