The toughest test in golf heads to Southhampton, New York this week when the best players golf has to offer tee it up at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in the 2018 U.S. Open.
The United States Golf Association always likes to present the biggest challenge for the world’s top players, often making the course tougher to navigate than Disneyland in the summer.
Shinnecock Hills is a more traditional U.S. Open course than Erin Hills, which hosted last year’s tournament, and should be a formidable foe to the 156 players set to vie for the U.S. Open trophy. The USGA narrowed the fairways at Shinnecock Hills by about 20 yards, making the average fairway 41 yards wide. While that is narrow, it’s about 15 yards wider than the average width the last time Shinnecock hosted the U.S. Open in 2004.
In tightening the fairways, the USGA removed large portions of fairway grass and replaced it with between 90,000 and 100,000 square feet of fescue grass in order to put more of an emphasis on accuracy off the tee and punish those with wayward drives.
Retief Goosen won the 2004 U.S. Open at 4-under-par and was one of only two players to finish under par. Tiger Woods finished that week tied for 17th place a 10-over-par.
There’s no reason to expect this week to be much different. The course will be playing fast and firm and if the wind kicks up, it could be a bloodbath on Long Island.
Without further ado, here are six golfers with the best chances to win the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills:
Rickie Fowler — Fowler’s game is tailor-made to win a U.S. Open. He’s as patient as anyone on the course and has a knack for draining round-saving par putts, something that will be key this week. Fowler has come close a number of times at major championships, normally fizzling on Sunday. But he fired a final-round, 5-under-par at the 2018 Masters to finish second and force eventual winner Patrick Reed to make par on the final hole to win.
Jon Rahm — Shinnecock Hills sets up beautifully for the powerful Spaniard. The No. 5 golfer in the world is one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour and will be able to use that to combat the wind that could torment golfers over the weekend. Rahm already has five wins since turning pro in 2016 along with 18 top-five finishes. But for all of Rahm’s talent, he does have a tendency to lose focus and compound mistakes when the going gets tough.
Dustin Johnson — The world No. 1 is coming off a six-shot win at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Nashville and heads to Southhampton as the betting favorite to win his second U.S. Open. Johnson leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained off the tee, scoring average, strokes gained tee to green and strokes gained overall. There’s a reason he’s the favorite.
Tommy Fleetwood — The Englishman burst onto the scene at Erin Hills last year. He’s one of the best ball strikers in the game, a skill that will acquit him well when firing into the small greens at Shinnecock. He has a precise putter and the temperament needed to keep his cool in the pressure cooker that is the U.S. Open.
Justin Rose — Rose is one of the most consistent golfers on tour. He won three weeks ago at the Fort Worth Invitational and has the experience of winning the U.S. Open at Merion in 2013. He’ll be there come Sunday.
Rory McIlroy —Simply put, McIlroy’s A-game is better than anyone else’s A-game, even Johnson’s. The Northern Irishman prides himself on driving the ball long and straight, which will be of the utmost importance this weekend. McIlroy faded on Sunday at Augusta National, but he has all the tools to win major No. 5 this weekend and we predict he will.