If you woke up this morning with a little more pep in your step, I think I know why. After all — it’s U.S. Open week: the second greatest week of the golfing year.
This year’s tilt will be the 118th in history and will take place at Shinnecock on Long Island. If the name sounds familiar to those casual fans, it’s for good reason. All you golf nerds like me already know the stories, the Opens, the triumph and the (relative) tragedy this legendary golf course has seen.
Beginning with the second U.S. Open ever played in 1896, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club has played a major roll in not only the year’s second major, but American golf as a whole. The list off winners includes James Foulis, Retief Goosen, Raymond Floyd and Corey Pavin.
Who it doesn’t include — Phil Mickelson. Mickelson, famously a bridesmaid six times in the U.S. Open, suffered his most devastating defeat in our nation’s national tournament here in 2004. After skipping last year’s edition at Erin Hills, Mickelson returns to Shinnecock looking for a little karma.
Enough about history — what about today? Who has a chance to claim major glory? Who is already looking forward to the Travelers next week? Here’s a look at this with a chance — and those who should be contacting their travel coordinator Friday morning:
Justin Rose — Few players on the planet are hotter than Justin Rose is right now. A win at Colonial a few weeks ago was chased by a T-6 at the Memorial in his last start. Rose is already a U.S. Open Champion, having hoisted the trophy at another legendary venue — Merion in 2013. If we’re lucky — we could be treated to Rose/Mickelson Round 2 this week.
Dustin Johnson — Coming in to Long Island hot, Dustin Johnson’s impressive win last week at the FedEx St. Jude Classic means history is not on his side. No previous week’s winner has ever won the U.S. Open. That said, it’s hard to believe DJ cares about (or hell, is even aware of) such trivial matters. Johnson won at Oakmont in 2016 to buck the monkey that formerly resided on his back and is poised to collect major No. 2.
Phil Mickelson — There’s never been a more confounding fantasy player than Phil Mickelson. Momentum means nothing. Trends mean nothing. Age means nothing. Mickelson can go boom or bust whenever he wants. Lefty, who turns 48 on Saturday, needs to put together a historical week at Shinnecock if he’s to finally cap the career grand slam. Mickelson has won already this year — a first since 2013 — so why not?
John Rahm — The best bet for a first-time major champion this week? That would be the young Spaniard, John Rahm. Recently, he’s been great — just like he has since day one on Tour. Rahm won his national open just a few weeks ago and finished T-5 at Colonial in his most recent start this side of the pond. Just 23 years old, Rahm already picked up his best career finish at a major this year when he finished T-4 at the Masters. Could he best that spot by three this week at Shinnecock Hills? My guess is yes.
Rickie Fowler — I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I’m not taking Rickie in a major until he wins one. I’ve picked him far too many times to do something big only to be disappointed. Do I believe Rickie will win a major? Yes. Do I think it’ll be this week? No — but I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong in this particular instance. Fantasy players who are dead-set on the orange one are welcome to test their luck, but I just don’t have that much faith and believe there are better options available this week.
Jordan Spieth — This may be the first time ever that Jordan Spieth has found his way into the “Posers” section of this piece, but I’ve got to do it. I firmly believed that his putting woes would be corrected or work themselves out by now but it just hasn’t happened. Tee to green, Spieth has been his old familiar self — but he has struggled mightily with the flat stick since his solo-third at Augusta in April. If he hasn’t been able to figure it out yet, I doubt the test that is the U.S. Open will the place he does.
Matt Kuchar — I’ll be honest: I don’t think Matt Kuchar is fully recovered from his loss to Jordan Spieth at the Open Championship last July. While he has begun to show some form, Kuchar still isn’t the bulldog he was about this time last year and for years before. He’s currently the best player without a major title and coming so close last year just to fall short may have broken him. A good week at Shinnecock would go a long way in changing the narrative, but as a fantasy player, you’ve got to believe there are more sure options than Kuch.