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The Top 50 Players Competing In The U.S. Open At Pinehurst No. 2, Ranked

Andrew Redington. Getty Images.

Another major championship week is upon us, with the best in the world congregating in the sand hills of North Carolina to face the beast that is Pinehurst No. 2. The first two majors of the year have delivered: the world's best player winning on the sport's most famous venue at Augusta and Xander Schauffele excoriating his can-he-close demons at Valhalla after that prevoiusly mentioned world's-best player spent some time behind bars. What this week has in store is anyone's guess. 

Happy reading, and happy major week. 

50. Tiger Woods
Age: 48 Data Golf Ranking: N/A Best U.S. Open finish: WIN, 2000, 2002, 2008
There will come a day where I’m comfortable not putting Tiger Woods on one of these lists. It might even come very soon. But it’s not today. I was actually encouraged by what I saw at Valhalla. I know, I know, he missed the cut by a gazillion. But he looked physically stronger than he has in any tournament since the accident. He also sneaky has a great record at Pinehurst with a T3 in 1999 and a solo second to Michael Campbell in 2005. 

49. David Puig
Age: 22 Data Golf Ranking: 88 Best U.S. Open finish: T39, 2023

LIV’s first-ever college recruit, he was a top player at Arizona State before opting for LIV over joining the PGA Tour ecosystem. Qualified for this event through the sectional in California and comes in off a top-five finish at LIV Houston. 

48. Gordon Sargent (a)
Age: 21 Data Golf Ranking: N/A Best U.S. Open finish: T39, 2023

Locked up his PGA Tour card midway through this junior year at Vanderbilt through the PGA Tour U Accelerated program but has since decided to return to Nashville for his senior season. He’ll get a PGA Tour card the moment he turns pro. Still the world’s top-ranked amateur, he had a chance to win the NCAA individual crown but came up just short. Might be the longest player in the field. 

47. Harry Higgs
Age: 32 Data Golf Ranking: 362 Best U.S. Open finish: Rookie

It wasn’t so long ago he was a check-casher on the PGA Tour, but golf doesn’t care who you are. As such, he’s had to swallow his pride and head back to the Korn Ferry Tour to grind. And grind he has—won back-to-back weeks, both in playoffs, to guarantee a return to the PGA Tour. And that happened just a week after he got married, which makes you wonder why he waited so long. Needed extra holes in his Final Qualifier to book his spot in his first U.S. Open. 

46. Adam Scott
Age: 43  Data Golf Ranking: 41 Best U.S. Open finish: T4, 2015

It was a downright poetic scene: 43 years old, former world No. 1, Masters champion, playing his 38th hole of the day as the sun set on Springfield, Ohio, trying to keep his streak of playing in 91 consecutive majors alive. Scott lost that sudden-death playoff to fellow Aussie Cameron Davis but got into the field late to continue playing in every single major for the past 23 years. He’s into the Open and next year’s Masters, too, so it should reach 94 without incident.

45. Akshay Bhatia
Age: 22 Data Golf Ranking: 64 Best U.S. Open finish: T57, 2021

Hardly ever takes a week off because that’s what you do as a 22-year-old with elastic bones. Pinehurst will mark his 18th start of the season already and his sixth consecutive week playing; he also played seven in a row during one stretch this year. Lives nearby in Wake Forest so this is a quasi home game and he’ll be very familiar with North Carolina’s sandy soil. 

44. Lucas Glover
Age: 44 Data Golf Ranking: 33 Best U.S. Open finish: WIN, 2009

GIve his Sirius XM show a listen if you haven’t—he’s in the self-described “get off my lawn” stage of his career and he doesn’t hold back at all with his opinions on the pro-golf divide. “Tour players play golf,” he said recently. “Businessmen run business. They don’t tell us how to hit 7-irons. We shouldn’t be telling them how to run a business.” Lone major came 15 years ago at Bethpage Black. 

43. Jordan Spieth
Age: 30 Data Golf Ranking: 42 Best U.S. Open finish: WIN, 2015

Wish I had better news here. With each successive year the world-beating ways of the mid-to-late 2010’s feel more and more like a distant memory. Still just 30 years old, there’s plenty of time for him to regain that form but he simply hasn’t been able to put 72 holes together for a good while now. Missed the cut at the Masters, was never relevant at the PGA Championship and missed the cut last week at the Memorial. Now down to No. 25 in the world and outside the top 50 in the FedEx Cup he needs to find some form toward the end of the year to ensure exemptions into next year’s signature events. All that said, he’s having one of the better driving years of his career, and perhaps a canvas like Pinehurst No. 2 will allow him to tap into his creative side. That’s when he’s at his best. 

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42. Keegan Bradley
Age: 37 Data Golf Ranking: 21 Best U.S. Open finish: T4, 2014

Really slow start to the year but since the Masters he’s been a different player, and there’s no time to catch a heater quite like during this condensed major season. A solid T22 at the Masters was bettered by a T18 at Valhalla and he comes in off a T2 at Colonial and a solid week at Memorial. His best-ever U.S. Open finish came the last time Pinehurst No. 2 hosted the event a decade ago. 

41. Tony Finau
Age: 34 Data Golf Ranking: 30 Best U.S. Open finish: 5, 2018

Feels like we haven’t heard much from him this year, doesn’t it? He’s got just two top-10s on the year and zero in majors or signature events. Speaking of majors…he had nine top-10s in a 13 major stretch from the 2018 Masters through the 2021 PGA Championship and no top-10s in his last 12 major starts. He remains an elite ball striker (ninth on tour in strokes gained tee to green) but his putting has been a major issue for close to a year now and he entered Memorial at 155th in strokes gained on the greens. His longtime agent, Chris Armstrong, just left the golf business to run the expansion NHL team in Utah. 

40. Wyndham Clark
Age: 30 Data Golf Ranking: 25 Best U.S. Open finish: WIN, 2023

The defending champ has had plenty of good weeks this year—a win at Pebble Beach, runner-ups at the Players and Bay Hill and a T3 at the RBC Heritage—but he’s had a lot of bad ones, too. Missing the cut in the first two majors of the year, in addition to last week at the Memorial, is unacceptable for a player ranked No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking even with all the shortcomings of that system. Those high-profile flops help explain the huge delta between his OWGR ranking and his Data Golf ranking.  

39. Brian Harman
Age: 37 Data Golf Ranking: 28 Best U.S. Open finish: T2, 2017

Started the year off nicely with a T5 at Kapalua and missed a putt for a playoff at the Players Championship but it’s been a pretty meh summer so far—he missed the cut at the Masters, took T26 at the PGA Championship and got off to a slow start at Memorial. He’s giving up significant distance to the top-level guys every week and there’s not enough rough at Pinehurst—there’s none, basically—for him to make up for that deficit with his accuracy. 

38. Cameron Young
Age: 27 Data Golf Ranking: 45 Best U.S. Open finish: T32, 2023

One of the more impressive guys to watch on the range and has all the physical tools to be one of the best in the world. That’s why he’s such a popular gambling pick but has yet to deliver that first win and isn’t playing his best coming in—no top-30 finishes since the Masters as his iron play has held him back. 

37. Justin Thomas
Age: 31 Data Golf Ranking: 14 Best U.S. Open finish: T8, 2020

Seemed to have put last year’s struggles behind him with a very strong start to the year but missed the cut at both the Players and the Masters, and that’s tough to swallow. Bounced back with a top-10 at the PGA Championship for his first major top 10 since he won the 2022 PGA Championship. He and Spieth are now no longer the young guns, and they’re having to compete with a new crop of 20-somethings (Scheffler, Aberg, Morikawa, Hovland, etc) who have all the tools and zero fear. 

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36. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
Age: 30 Data Golf Ranking: 22 Best U.S. Open finish: T31, 2021

He’s fighting an uphill battle in that he doesn’t hit it very far at all, but he’s fighting it well. A solo second in Palm Springs in his first start of the year surely put the mind at ease and he’s added plenty of solid weeks since, though he doesn’t seem to have the top-gear necessary to win a major championship. At least not right now. Coming off his best showing of the year with a solo fourth at Memorial.

35. Adam Hadwin
Age: 36 Data Golf Ranking: 73 Best U.S. Open finish: T7, 2022

He’s got some extra motivation as it’s getting to be crunch time for this Canadian to make the Presidents Cup team so he can play on home soil in Montreal. He’ll want that especially badly after missing the cut in the RBC Canadian Open a few weeks ago. A solo third at Memorial, then, was just what the doctor ordered. 

34. Patrick Cantlay
Age: 32 Data Golf Ranking:12  Best U.S. Open finish: T14, 2023

Just two top-10 finishes in 13 starts thus far this season, including a missed cut last week at the Memorial, has you wondering if maybe all his off-course responsibilities with the PGA Tour board might be negatively impacting his play. He’s 122nd in strokes gained approach this year, which is worse than tour average, and Pinehurst will demand total precision with the irons. Made the cut in eight straight majors but really hasn’t contended for one in his career despite being a top-20 level player for a half-decade at this point. 

33. Tom Kim
Age: 21 Data Golf Ranking: 36 Best U.S. Open finish: T8, 2023

Finally posted his first top-10 finish of the season a few weeks ago at the RBC Canadian Open. Still not even 22 years old, he was excellent in the majors last year with two top-10 finishes and made the cut in both the Masters and PGA Championship this year. All that said it’s been a pretty forgettable year—he ranks in the positive in every strokes gained statistic but not better than 75th in any one area. 

32. Billy Horschel
Age: 37 Data Golf Ranking: 38 Best U.S. Open finish: T4, 2013

At Valhalla he posted his first major top 10 since the 2013 U.S. Open, a hard-to-believe barren stretch for a player of his caliber. He’s firmly on the comeback trail—it was just a year ago that he broke down in tears after shooting an 84 during his title defense at the Memorial. Worked hard at it and made a few tweaks, including bringing back his caddie who was on the bag when he won the FedEx Cup, and it’s paying off with a win at the opposite-field event in the Dominican Republic and that great week in Kentucky. A solid T23 at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014.

31. Dean Burmester
Age: 35 Data Golf Ranking: 26 Best U.S. Open finish: T56, 2018

Playing the best golf of his career in his mid 30s on LIV Golf. Got a special exemption from the PGA of America into the field at Valhalla and finished T12, an excellent showing, then got through Final Qualifying at the Bear’s Club. Won at Trump Doral this season and has been T15 or better in his last four LIV events. 

30. Alex Noren
Age: 41 Data Golf Ranking: 18 Best U.S. Open finish: T17, 2020

A missed cut in Canada broke a streak of eight straight top-25 finishes, which helps explain why he’s a top-20 player in the world by Data Golf’s standards. Now north of 40 he remains a constant fixture on the driving range and cuts a unique figure as he’s still constantly doing that jackhammer rehearsal. 

29. Denny McCarthy
Age: 31 Data Golf Ranking: 19 Best U.S. Open finish: T7, 2022

Top-20 finishes in the past two U.S. Opens for one of the grittier players on tour. That’s part of the equation at U.S. Opens: it’s not always going to be pretty, but making a few 20 footers always helps the cause and that’s the name of his game. Lost playoffs at last year’s Memorial and this year’s Texas Open and thus is still looking for that first PGA Tour win. 

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28. Justin Rose
Age: 43 Data Golf Ranking: 72 Best U.S. Open finish: WIN, 2013

Showed at Valhalla that, at age 43, he still has plenty in the tank. His lone major came at this event 11 years ago and he’s spoken honestly about how badly he wants to add another one to cement Hall-of-Fame status. Unfortunate, then, that he missed the cut at the Memorial in his last tournament of prep. Was T12 at No. 2 in 2014. 

27. Byeong-Hun An
Age: 32 Data Golf Ranking: 24 Best U.S. Open finish: T16, 2019

“The Weapon,” as his coach Sean Foley calls him. Hasn’t played a U.S. Open since missing the cut at Winged Foot in 2020. He’s having a career resurgence after briefly losing his PGA Tour card with four top-four finishes on the season. Always been a better-than-average ball striker but he’s finally in the positive in strokes gained putting, which has keyed the bounce back. He’s a stocky guy and while you may not think of him as a bomber, he’s third on tour in driving distance. 

26. Harris English
Age: 34 Data Golf Ranking: 35 Best U.S. Open finish: 3, 2021

He’s got three top-10s in the last four U.S. Opens, and top 25’s in both majors thus far this year. Which makes sense—he plays a flat cut that doesn’t ever go too far off line and he’s got an extremely even-keeled demeanor which helps him whether the punches a U.S. Open course throws at you. Made the cut at No. 2 in 2014 in what was his first U.S. Open appearance. 

25. Sam Burns
Age: 27 Data Golf Ranking: 23 Best U.S. Open finish: T27, 2022

It’s been a down year. Not an awful one—he has five top-10 finishes on tour—but he’s only really had a chance to win once and has slipped considerably in the world rankings. There is, however, still plenty of time to turn that around, and a T10 at the Canadian Open provides some reason for optimism. Now that Max Homa’s removed himself from the conversation he’s probably the best player with the worst major record, if that makes sense. He’s played in a Ryder Cup and a Presidents Cup and won five times on the PGA Tour and his best finish in 16 major starts is a T20.  

24. Tyrrell Hatton
Age: 32 Data Golf Ranking: 13 Best U.S. Open finish: T6, 2018

LIV’s fourth best player according to Data Golf behind just Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau and Joaquin Niemann. His worst finish in seven LIV events is a T21 so he’s racking up the dollars. Also posted his best-ever Masters finish with a T9 and made the cut in 10 straight major championships. Lack of advanced statistics on the LIV Golf circuit make any further analysis pretty difficult. 

23. Jason Day
Age: 36 Data Golf Ranking: 31 Best U.S. Open finish: T4, 2014

Made plenty of headlines with his clothing this year but the golf’s been solid, too, and he’s got a T4 at Pinehurst No. 2 to fall back on. One of my favorite little anecdotes of the year: last week, in an effort to make the Memorial feel like a regular tournament (he lives in Columbus) he opted to sleep in his trailer, like he does at other events. (He has flies to each tournament and pays for someone to meet him there with the trailer). The trailer was parked directly outside his home. 

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22. Min Woo Lee
Age: 25 Data Golf Ranking: 43 Best U.S. Open finish: T5, 2023

He’s been consistent in the majors in his young career with a best-ever finish of T5 last year at Los Angeles Country Club. Hasn’t played since Colonial so he comes in off two weeks’ rest as he’s just outside the top-30 OWGR cutoff that gets you into the signature events. Last four finishes have all been between T22 and T26. The good news is the putting has been much steadier after a poor start to the year on the greens. He won the Australian PGA Championship and finished solo third at the Australian Open on sandy-soil courses that Pinehurst could well remind him of. Virtually everyone in the game thinks he’s got the horsepower to win majors in the future.

21. Will Zalatoris
Age: 27 Data Golf Ranking: 62 Best U.S. Open finish: T2, 2022

There have been plenty of impressive showings since his return from back surgery, namely top 10s at the Genesis, Bay Hill and Masters. His approach play, which has been his strength, has picked up where he’s left off but he’s had to be a bit careful with his body as the recovery continues. When he’s on he’s as accurate as they get and that’s translated into two top-six finishes at U.S. Opens already. If I had to pick one major that he’s most likely to win it’s this one, and he’s been inside the top 10 in seven of the 12 majors he’s teed it up in. 

20. Shane Lowry
Age: 37 Data Golf Ranking: 44 Best U.S. Open finish: T2, 2016

Made serious strides up the FedEx Cup standings thanks to his win with Rory McIlroy at the Zurich Classic and a T6 at the PGA Championship, where had a legitimate chance to win when he teed off Sunday. One of the better iron players on tour, he’s got a great major championship record and still rues over the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont that he feels he could’ve won. Missed the cut in his first start of the year but not a single one since. I do feel obligated to note that he shot 85 at Muirfield Village on Sunday. 

19. Corey Conners
Age: 32 Data Golf Ranking: 15 Best U.S. Open finish: CUT all five times

Had to double-check this stat but it’s true, he’s missed the cut in all five U.S. Opens he’s played in. Clearly something about this week irks him since he’s made the weekend in 12 of 17 major starts outside the U.S. Open. Absolutely flushes the golf ball with his syrupy tempo and hasn’t missed a single cut in 15 starts this year, and he’s gained ground on the field with his approach play in each and every tournament he’s played. For the season he trails only Scottie Scheffler in strokes gained:approach.

18. Sepp Straka
Age: 31 Data Golf Ranking: 29 Best U.S. Open finish: T28, 2019

The big Austrian (by way of Valdosta, Georgia) is on a good run of form that began with a T16 at the Masters. He followed tha tup with a T5 at the RBC Heritage, a T8 at the Wells Fargo and bounced back from an MC Hammer at the PGA Championship with a T5 at Colonial and a strong week at the Memorial. Ball striking has been excellent in recent weeks. Get the sense he’s a much more confident player after his runner-up at last year’s Open Championship and his experience playing for the European Ryder Cup team.

17. Jon Rahm
Age: 29 Data Golf Ranking: 6 Best U.S. Open finish: WIN, 2021

From a pure golf perspective his stock’s as low as it’s been in quite some time. Made the move to LIV Golf and has finished in the top 10 in every LIV event but hasn’t yet won, and in his two chances to compete against the PGA Tour’s best he went T45 at the Masters and missed the cut at the PGA Championship. That broke his streak of making the cut in 18 straight major championships and you wonder what’s going through his head right now as Scottie Scheffler soars as the clear-cut No. 1 while Rahm doesn’t get many chances to compete against him or Rory or Viktor or the rest. Adding injury to insult, he withdrew from LIV Houston last week with an apparent foot injury.  He likely wouldn’t admit it but he’s got something to prove this week—a third straight major dud after making such a drastic switch in the prime of his career would qualify as cause for concern.

16. Russell Henley
Age: 35 Data Golf Ranking: 8 Best U.S. Open finish: T13, 2021

The advanced statistics love this Georgia Bulldog because he’s steady eddy. Three fourth-place finishes this year, a T10 at Quail Hollow, a T23 at Valhalla, he hardly ever misses a cut even if he also hardly ever contends for big-time trophies. An impressive 10th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained overall this season. 

15. Cameron Smith
Age: 30 Data Golf Ranking: 37 Best U.S. Open finish: 4, 2023

Was the world No. 2 when he joined LIV Golf and he’s won three times on the breakaway circuit. Still, and this isn’t a commentary on whether it’s fair, it does feel like he’s fading from the golf’s public consciousness a bit. This should be a good course fit for him—you’re going to have to scramble and I suspect wedge play could be crucial, and he’s a genius from inside 100 yards. Loves firm and fast layouts that allow for shot-shaping (like the Masters, where he was T6) way more than a point-and-shoot situation like Valhalla (T63). 

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14. Sahith Theegala
Age: 26 Data Golf Ranking: 20 Best U.S. Open finish: T27, 2023

A fan favorite with a certain “it” factor he had his first real taste of major championship pressure at Valhalla and it was…a learning experience. Got off to a poor start in the final round and never really righted the ship, but his rise has been steady and remains ongoing. Two solo seconds in signature events have him flying high in the FedEx Cup. Told me last week that the round he played on No. 2 in the 2019 U.S. Amateur was the most difficult round of golf he’d ever played—he shot +2 and rocketed up the leaderboard. 

13. Bryson DeChambeau
Age: 30 Data Golf Ranking: 10 Best U.S. Open finish: WIN, 2020

They’ll teach college courses on his PR turnaround, for it is truly remarkable—he went from being Public Enemy No.1 to taking $100 million+ from the Saudis and now people like him way more. He was the clear crowd favorite down the stretch at Valhalla and YouTube seems to have made all the difference. He’s happier now and he’s moved into his Entertainment Era; he’s as demonstrative as they get out there and he hams it up for the crowds and they absolutely eat it up. A T6 at the Masters and a solo second at the PGA Championship have us believing he’s going to add to that major championship tally, though this course setup wouldn’t seem to be the best fit. 

12. Sungjae Im
Age: 26 Data Golf Ranking: 40 Best U.S. Open finish: 22, 2020

He’s a bit of a horses for courses guy this year. When it’s firm and you have to control your ball, he’s fine. It was that way at Quail Hollow (T4), Colonial (T9) and Muirifeld Village (T8(. When it’s softer and it’s a darts fest, like it was at Valhalla (MC), it’s a different conversation. I’m expecting it to be extremely firm at Pinehurst, so this is a good week for him. One of the better chippers/bunker players out there which should also be a help this week. 

11. Max Homa
Age: 33 Data Golf Ranking: 17 Best U.S. Open finish: T47, 2022

Properly contended at major for the very first time at the Masters, which must’ve lifted a huge weight off his shoulders. He’s missed the cut in four of five U.S. Open starts but it’s not fair to compare the Max from then to the Max from now—didn’t post a since top 10 in his first 16 major starts but has in two of the last three. Been hard at work with instructor Mark Blackburn after a few poor off-the-tee weeks in a row. The next step in his career progression is to win one of these. Much easier said than done, obviously.

10. Matt Fitzpatrick
Age: 29 Data Golf Ranking: 27 Best U.S. Open finish: WIN, 2022

Not having the best season by his always lofty standards, but shot the lowest final round of the day at Muirfield for a backdoor top-5 finish. He’s had some high-profile equipment issues and has struggled with a left ball off the tee at times this year. Good record in U.S. Opens—the iconic win at Brookline, plus a T17 last year, a T12 in 2019 and 2018—because historically he’s been very straight off the tee and tends to fare best when courses are crusty and scores are high. That should be the case at Pinehurst. He was the only amateur to make the cut at the 2014 U.S. Open on No. 2. 

9. Hideki Matusyama
Age: 32 Data Golf Ranking: 16 Best U.S. Open finish: T2, 2017

He’s as dependable as there is and, in DFS formats where making the cut is absolutely vital, his streak of 16 straight major championship weekends jumps off the page. Hasn’t played much in recent months as he didn’t play between the Masters (T38) and PGA Championship (T35) as he withdrew from the Wells Fargo Championship with a back issue. Returned to action at the Memorial and looked solid through two rounds. Seventh in strokes gained overall and first in strokes gained around the green—he’s thought of as a ball striker type but his short game has been filthy this year. 

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8. Brooks Koepka
Age: 34 Data Golf Ranking: 47 Best U.S. Open finish: WIN, 2017, 2018

Two-time U.S. Open champion and five-time major winner called his T45 at the Masters “embarrassing.” Played three solid rounds at Valhalla but a Saturday 74 torpedoed any chance he had of defending his PGA Championship title from Oak Hill. Always one of the harder players to forecast and that’s become especially true since his move to LIV Golf, but he’s won two of these and finished T4 at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst before he was really on anyone’s radar. Doubt him at your own peril.

7. Rory McIlroy
Age: 35 Data Golf Ranking: 3 Best U.S. Open finish: WIN, 2011

He’s playing fantastic golf despite living in the headlines, and I do mean living in them. It feels like it’s something different every week, and every week he finds a way to post a top finish. Has been part of three-times-per-week meetings with the Saudi Public Investment Fund as part of the PGA Tour’s transaction subcommittee in addition to what’s surely been a stressful time on the home front. Two PGA Tour victories already this year but hasn’t had a proper chance to win either of the first two majors in this, the 10th anniversary of his last major championship victory. A firm-fast golf course that demands precision with the irons wouldn’t seem to be best fit for his game—but this is Rory McIlroy we’re talking about, after all. 

6. Ludvig Aberg
Age: 24 Data Golf Ranking: 5 Best U.S. Open finish: Rookie

Hadn’t played much golf at all leading into last week’s Memorial; after going solo second/T10 at the Masters and RBC Heritage he withdrew from Quail Hollow with a knee injury, making the PGA his first start in nearly a month. He missed the cut at Valhalla then took another couple weeks off before returning to action at Muirfield Village and playing well. He refuses to the blame that knee injury for his off week in Kentucky—Todd Lewis reported it’s a partially torn meniscus, but Ludvig was not willing to discuss specifics with the press in what was a bit of a testy exchange. A ball striker’s ball striker, he’ll be very much looking forward to getting his first crack at a U.S. Open on such an iconic course. Lost in the round of 32 at Pinehurst No. 2 in the 2019 U.S. Amateur.

5. Tommy Fleetwood
Age: 33 Data Golf Ranking: 11 Best U.S. Open finish: 2, 2018

Been an interesting year for him as his longtime caddie, Finno, has been out with an illness that required open-heart surgery. He posted his best-ever Masters finish with a local Augusta caddie on the bag and has played solidly all year. He’s the only player to have shot two 63s in the final rounds of U.S. Opens—he did it at Shinnecock in 2018 and last year at LACC for a backdoor T5 finish—and has top 10s in three of the last four majors. He’d be an immensely popular winner and there’s no reason his first PGA Tour victory can’t be a major championship. 

4. Viktor Hovland
Age: 26 Data Golf Ranking: 7 Best U.S. Open finish: T12, 2019

He’s gone back to instructor Joe Mayo and it’s made all the difference. Immediately. Flew to Vegas to consult with him on Monday of the PGA Championship and had a chance to win all the way up until the 72nd hole. Looked good at Memorial, too, so it seems the struggles from early this year and firmly in the rearview mirror. It’s curious why he ever went away from him in the first place but Hovland’s a tinkerer, and he said he doesn’t have any regrets because it’s all brought him to this position. His short game, historically a weakness and awful at the beginning of the year, was much-improved at Valhalla and he’ll need every bit of it around Pinehurst’s turtle-back surfaces. Few have been more consistently great in the majors recently—in his last seven he’s got four top-7 finishes and two more top-20s. 

3. Xander Schauffele
Age: 30 Data Golf Ranking: 2 Best U.S. Open finish: T3, 2019

Golf’s newest major champion was a much-deserved winner at Valhalla. His peers have deep respect for just how well-rounded his game is and how consistent he’s been at the majors. He’s got nine straight major finishes of T18 or better and, beginning in 2017, his U.S. Open finishes are as follows: T5/T6/T3/5th/T7/T14/T10. Yeah, that’ll get it done. Ball striking looked a little shaky the first few days at the Memorial but that’s to be expected after some prolonged celebrations, and he was hard at work on the range Friday evening drilling home his feels. He’s the best player on the planet not named Scottie Scheffler right now, there’s not a single hole in his game, he’s been incredibly good in U.S. Opens and he now has the swagger that comes with winning a major. The proverbial floodgates just might’ve opened in Kentucky. 

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2. Collin Morikawa
Age: 27 Data Golf Ranking: 4 Best U.S. Open finish: T4, 2021

He’s back to hitting it right where he’s looking after reuniting with longtime coach Rick Sessinghaus. Contended all the way to the finish at both the Masters and the PGA Championship and has eight top-10 finishes in 16 career major championship starts. Comes in off a solo second at Memorial and gave Scheffler all he could handle in what amounted to a mano-y-mano battle. No one’s more in control of their irons at the minute other than Mr. Scheffler and Morikawa’s putting, historically the question mark, has been very solid since Augusta. Never short on confidence, he’s gone T4/T5/T14 in the last three U.S. Opens and the game’s trending right where it needs to be to add the third leg of the Grand Slam. I love his chances…if it weren’t for that Scottie guy. 

1. Scottie Scheffler
Age: 27 Data Golf Ranking: 1 Best U.S. Open finish: T2, 2022

What’s there left to say? Starting to feel like an over-aggressive police officer might’ve derailed a legitimate bid for the calendar year Grand Slam. That sounds ridiculous at first glance but are you betting against this guy, in this form? Comes in off 11 straight top-10 finishes including five wins—the Masters, Players, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Memorial Tournament and RBC Heritage, all majors or signature events—and two runner-ups. We hypothesized just how dominant he might become if he could turn around his putting and he’s done exactly that, gaining ground on the field in eight straight starts as the work with Phil Kenyon is paying massive dividends. With those charges now dropped he’s freed up to focus on his golf, which has been better than any player since prime Tiger Woods. He has total and complete control of both his clubface and his emotions, which is a frightening combo. It is a virtual certainty that he’ll be in the mix come Sunday afternoon and I’m sure as hell not picking anyone else to hoist the trophy and pick up his third major championship. It’s him, and then it’s everyone else. 

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