The prediction business is difficult stuff. But for the past month we’ve compiled a weekly ranking of the golfers that have the best chance of walking away from Oakmont Country Club with the US Open trophy. Here’s the final edition of our list.
1. Jason Day
US Open History: A pair of runner-up finishes in 2011 (Congressional) and 2013 (Merion)
Reason To Pick: He’s Jason Day. He’s the clear No. 1 player in the world and he’s won seven of his past 17 tournaments.
Cause For Concern: He’s sensitive about criticism of his “neckbeard”? Sorry, there’s not much else we can think of.
2. Jordan Spieth
US Open History: Defending champ
Reason To Pick: So much for that “slump.” Spieth is pushing favourite status once again after his win at Colonial. His short-game magic around Oakmont’s ultra-slick greens doesn’t hurt.
Cause For Concern: Has Spieth put too much pressure on himself to follow up his incredible 2015 campaign? After missing the cut at the Players, Spieth acknowledged he needs to have more fun on the course. Then again, that’s easier said than done at a track as tough as Oakmont.
3. Rory McIlroy
US Open History: 2011 champ
Reason To Pick: We’ll keep the Big Three theme rolling with Rory. As he showed at Congressional in 2011, McIlroy has the capability to blow any field away. A victory in Ireland ended a winless drought of more than a year, and he’s posted four top-four finishes in his past seven US PGA Tour starts. The last of which was a T-4 at the Memorial, where statistically, he had the best putting week of his tour career after changing back to a conventional grip.
Cause For Concern: McIlroy just can’t shake that one bad nine per tournament. And at Oakmont, there’s even more chance of that happening. Also, switching putting grips a couple weeks before a Major isn’t usually a winning formula.
4. Dustin Johnson
US Open History: T-2 in 2015; 54-hole leader in 2010
Reason To Pick: Despite his history of heartbreaks in Major championships, there’s too much talent to overlook, which is reflected by his odds with various bookmakers. At least Oakmont isn’t a site of one of his close calls.
Cause For Concern: Besides DJ being seemingly cursed in Majors, he’s gone more than 15 months without a win anywhere.
5. Bubba Watson
US Open History: Five missed cuts in nine tries
Reason To Pick: With such an awful record, why would we rank Bubba this high? For one, he’s No.4 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Secondly, his lone good performance in this event came at Oakmont in 2007 when he finished T-5.
Cause For Concern: If Watson has an off week with the driver, he will quickly get frustrated with Oakmont’s notoriously thick rough.
6. Adam Scott
US Open History: Just two top-10s, but both have come the past two years
Reason To Pick: Before Jason Day took over, no one was hotter than Scott who went runner-up/win/win in a three-tournament stretch earlier this season. Scott’s relative lack of success in this event is scary, but again, he seems to be trending in the right direction.
Cause For Concern: The Aussie missed the cut at Oakmont in 2007. But he didn’t have a Major under his belt – or Steve Williams on his bag!
7. Danny Willett
US Open History: A T-45 and a MC in two appearances
Reason To Pick: The reigning Masters champ showed how well he can play – especially with the putter – under the ultimate pressure at Augusta National. It’s been a whirlwind since, but Willett should be focused and ready for the year’s second Major. The 40/1 odds might not be the 60/1 some books were offering before the Masters, but that’s still pretty good value for the only golfer with a shot of winning the Grand Slam this year.
Cause For Concern: Winning the US Open is difficult. Winning back-to-back Majors is even tougher.
8. Zach Johnson
US Open History: 12 appearances, five missed cuts, no top-25s
Reason To Pick: A look at the final leaderboard at Oakmont in 2007 shows you don’t need an excess of power to contend here. Also, those 60/1 odds are actually longer than the 50/1 Johnson had ahead of last year’s British Open at St Andrews.
Cause For Concern: Johnson’s US Open track record is horrifying – and surprising.
9. Branden Grace
US Open History: T-4 in 2015
Reason To Pick: Grace was a bit of an unknown when he contended at Chambers Bay until hitting a tee shot onto the train tracks on No.16. But he’s more than backed up that effort since with a solo third at the PGA Championship and a recent maiden US PGA Tour title at Hilton Head.
Cause For Concern: There are no train tracks at Oakmont, but there are a lot of bad places you don’t want to find off the tee. And Grace ranks near the bottom of the tour in driving accuracy.
10. Rickie Fowler
US Open History: T-10 in 2013; T-2 in 2014
Reason To Pick: Fowler won four events in eight months, including the Players, in 2015, and he has climbed into the top five of the Official World Golf Ranking with added power and ball-striking consistency to go with a great putter.
Cause For Concern: After establishing a reputation as a great closer, Fowler has failed to finish off several tournaments in the past few months. And he’s missed the cut in his last two starts. He’s also carrying around added pressure as the current best player to never win a Major. And we’re pretty sure no one has ever won the US Open wearing joggers and high tops.
11. Justin Rose
US Open History: Three top-10s, including his win in 2013 at Merion
Reason To Pick: Rose has been there, done that in golf’s toughest test. He’s struggled with his putter this season, but still has five top-10s, including a recent third at the Wells Fargo.
Cause For Concern: A lingering back injury that forced Rose to withdraw from the BMW PGA and the Memorial, remains. And again, the putter. Through the Players, Rose ranks just 115th in strokes gained/putting on the US PGA Tour.
12. Phil Mickelson
US Open History: Six-time runner-up (That’s not a misprint.)
Reason To Pick: He’s got to win this thing eventually, right? Mickelson would be the oldest winner of this championship if he can pull it off this year, but he’s already shown he’s far from a ceremonial golfer at this point with four top-fives in 2016, including a solo fourth at the Wells Fargo and a T-2 at the FedEx St Jude Classic.
Cause For Concern: Oakmont is about the only US Open venue where Mickelson hasn’t fared well. He finished T-47 in 1994 and missed the cut in 2007.
13. Jim Furyk
US Open History: 2003 winner, six top-fives
Reason To Pick: The ultimate grinder, Furyk would love nothing better than to win his national championship for a second time. And for the Pennsylvania native, Oakmont, where he finished T-2 to Angel Cabrera in 2007, would be the perfect place.
Cause For Concern: Furyk just recently returned after missing eight months due to a wrist injury. He’s only managed a T-35, a T-52 and two missed cuts in four starts since coming back. And like Mickelson, he’s also trying to become the oldest US Open champ.