SAN DIEGO – When Patrick Reed finished his training round on Tuesday in preparation for this week’s US Open, he threw two balls into the rough on the ninth hole of the South Course in Torrey Pines.
One ball bounced into the rough, the other into the kikuyu, an aggressive and fast-growing grass.
“It’s bad,” said Reed. “[The ball] im kikuyu sat up because it’s so thick, actually sat up where I had the feeling that I could almost knock the driver away. The other was maybe 3 feet away and sank to the ground. … I pushed it out maybe 6 inches in front of me. “
The ability of the players to keep their tees on the fairways could set the legitimate competitors apart from all others.
Jump to a step:
Level I: Guys Who Can Win | Level II: If everything goes well | Stage III: Miracles Happen | Stage IV: Happy about the cut | Level V: The qualifiers | Level VI: The amateurs
Level I: The guys who can win
Here are the legitimate contenders to win the US Open. You have the game, the courage and the nerves to tackle four punchy rounds of Pacific winds and lush, thick rough.
The Spaniard had to retreat after the third round of the Memorial, an event he led after 36 holes with 6 strokes. He tested positive for COVID-19 but has since received two negative tests and is allowed to practice in Torrey Pines for a full week. Originally, he was supposed to stay in quarantine until Tuesday. He’s a combined 51 under par in five starts at the Farmers Insurance Open – the regular PGA Tour event held in Torrey Pines – including a win in 2017.
The 27-year-old was born in La Jolla, played much of his high school golf in Torrey Pines and attended college in the state of San Diego. After missing the cut on four of his first five starts on the South Course, he finished second at the Farmers Insurance Open in January. That has to be the major he’s finally winning, right?
The four-time major champion – two U.S. Opens, two PGA Championships – finished second behind Phil Mickelson at the PGA last month, a sign that he is nearing full recovery from knee surgery in March. Koepka tries to win the US Open as the seventh player at least three times.
The reigning US Open champion obviously has the length to fight again at Torrey Pines. It will be crucial for him to keep his tees on the fairways as always. Since winning the US Open, DeChambeau has finished 34th in the Masters in November, 46th in the Masters in April and 38th in the PGA Championship.
It’s been a mediocre season for JT since winning the Players Championship in March. His best result since then was a tie for 13th place at the Valspar. He missed the cut at the PGA Championship. A wobbly putter was the main culprit.
McIlroy ended an 18-month drought without a PGA Tour win by winning the Wells Fargo Championship in May. Now he will try to win his first major championship since the 2014 PGA championship. He’s a total of 32 under in his last three starts on the South Course at the Farmers Insurance Open.
The low point of Spieth’s nearly four-year slump could be in the U.S. Open in Winged Foot, where he shot an 81 in the second round and missed the cut by 8 shots. Since then, the 2015 US Open champion won the Valero Texas Open in April and had seven other top 10 finishes.
He won the Farmers Insurance Open in January with 5 strokes for his ninth Tour win. Controversy arose when he declared an embedded lie in the rough after his ball hit the spot on the third round on the 10th hole. Reed is # 7 in the Ryder Cup standings; the first six are automatic qualifiers.
DJ is still number 1 in the world, but hasn’t played like this since winning the Masters in November. He had a good result (10th place) in South Carolina last week, but he missed the cut at Augusta National in April and again at the PGA Championship, becoming the first world No. 1 since Greg Norman to do it in 1997 failed to cut into two consecutive major subjects.
At the age of 24, Morikawa has already won four tours, including the 2020 PGA Championship. He did all of this despite a hot and cold putter; This season he is 167th in the number of shots he has won while putting (-.316).
With his second win of the season at the Memorial two weeks ago, Cantlay jumped to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings, which is quite remarkable after missing the cut in four of his previous seven starts. His best result at the US Open was a tie for 21st place in 2011 and 2019.
It’s only a matter of time before the 23-year-old Norwegian wins his first major championship. He did well in his last two US Open starts when he finished 13th in Winged Foot and 12th in Pebble Beach – as an amateur!
Simpson has grown to be one of the best putters on the tour. He won the 2012 US Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, finished eighth in Winged Foot, tied 16th in Pebble Beach in 2019, and tenth in Shinnecock in 2018. He doesn’t know the South Course very well out. however. He’s only played there once in the past decade and missed the 2011 Farmers Insurance Open cut.
Finau owns one of the craziest stats on the tour: he’s got 39 top 10 finishes – but no wins – since 2017. That’s twice as many as anyone else. He has been in the top 10 in six of his last 10 starts in the majors, including 10th in the Masters in April and 8th in the PGA.
When it comes to a big championship, the South African numbers play a role. He won the 2010 Open Championship and was at least level with second place in the other three, including the 2015 US Open. He was solo third in Winged Foot, 8 shots behind DeChambeau.
The 24-year-old introduced himself to the golf world by finishing sixth on Winged Foot. Since then he has not let up, finished second in the Masters and tied eighth in the PGA Championship.
The Australian won the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open and has six more top 25s in 13 starts on the South Course, averaging 1.68 shots per lap on the field.
Smith finished fourth at the 2015 US Open in Chambers Bay with an eagle on the 72nd hole. He has finished his four starts since then no better than a draw for 38th place.
It took Kokrak, 36, 233 career starts to win his first tour event at the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek in October. It only took him 17 starts to win again with a 2-shot win over Spieth at the Charles Schwab Challenge in May. His putting skills will come in handy on the typically smooth greens at the US Open.
Berger has cooled significantly with just two top 10s in eight starts since his victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February.
He built on his historic Masters victory with three consecutive placements outside the top 20, including a tie for 62nd place at the Memorial.
The Englishman had been pretty calm this season – he hasn’t had a top 10 result in a stroke play event on tour since he finished seventh at the Houston Open in November – until he straightened the ship and ended up in a tie finished runner-up last week in South Carolina.
Stage II: If everything goes well …
Here are the sleeper candidates who will raise the US Open trophy on Sunday. The list includes a former winner, emerging stars, and other players whose games have been in the works so far this season. Will it all come together at Torrey Pines?
Perhaps the 43-year-old Englishman will be inspired by Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship and win his first major. He has finished in the top 5 in the last two PGAs; his best result at a US Open was a tie for 10th place in 2007.
The 2013 US Open champion’s most recent PGA Tour win came in Torrey Pines South, a 2-shot win over Adam Scott in the 2019 Farmers Insurance Open.
He will make his second US Open start as a professional; In 2019 he missed the cut in Pebble Beach. He has consecutive top 10 finishes in the PGA Championship and has as much potential as any younger player.
Scott, 40, is making his 80th straight start in a major, the longest current streak on tour. His best US Open finish was a tie for fourth place in 2015.
The Canadian is one of the tour’s top ball strikers and will be looking to make his first cut at the US Open after failing to do so in 2017 and 2020.
Ancer finished eighth with tied points at the PGA Championship, his best result in a major.
If accuracy from the tee and second strokes are a priority, the left-handed player may only have one shot. At the US Open 2017 in Erin Hills, the longest course in the history of the great championships at the time, he finished second with tied points.
When the Englishman broke the final record of the U.S. Opened with a 63 and finished second at Shinnecock Hills in 2018, he seemed like a star not to be missed. Three years later, he’s still looking for his first win on US soil.
The Irishman will no doubt enjoy his last month as the reigning Open Championship winner. His best result at the US Open in 2016 was a tie for second place.
The U.S. 2019 Open Champion showed positive signs with a solo fifth at the Wells Fargo Championship in May.
The 22-year-old will try to become only the third Chilean to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in July.
Poulter, 45, missed the cut on his two previous US Open starts and was never better than 12 on 15 starts.
Ortiz and his younger brother Alvaro both play in the US Open. You are one of two pairs of brothers in the field; Italy’s Francesco and Edoardo Molinari are the other. It is the first time since 1990 that two pairs of brothers play at this event.
You know the plot: he’s 0-29 at the US Open, which is the only major he’s missing on his Hall of Fame résumé. San Diego is his hometown, but he hasn’t particularly enjoyed the South Course since it was redesigned by Rees Jones in 2001. It is his seventh attempt to finish the career grand slam.
English finished fourth in Winged Foot even after losing his tee shot and making a double bowey at the opening hole of the final lap. With a hole-out from the bunker, he recovered to birdie number 2.
He missed the cut on Winged Foot, and then made a noise by complaining about DeChambeau’s distance gains and calling it “a bit of a mockery of the game”.
The 26-year-old starts his third start at the US Open; In 2017 he reached 32nd place in Erin Hills and missed the cut in Winged Foot in 2020.
Kisner’s season so far has been pretty unspectacular, but what makes him stand out is that he puts on poa annua greens.
Westwood, 48, has cooled significantly after his March heating with two consecutive runners-up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship. He married Helen Storey in Las Vegas last week, who also happens to be his caddy.
The former Florida Gator just announced that he will be hosting a minority golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass in late July.
Garcia missed the cut in two of his last three US Open starts and finished 52nd in Pebble Beach.
His shape hasn’t been very good lately; he missed the cut in three of his previous five starts.
It won twice in 2020 to complete one of the most notable comeback stories in tour history. He has two top 10s in 21 starts this season.
The 30-year-old will try to make his first cut on his third US Open start.
Henley’s best result in seven US Open starts came in 2010 at Pebble Beach, when he shared the honor of a low amateur with Scott Langley.
The five-time tour winner missed two of three US Open cuts after finishing seventh in Oakmont in 2016.
The two-time Masters champion missed the cut in five of his seven US Open starts.
The San Diego native knows Torrey Pines inside out. Since 1994 he has contested 71 competition rounds there. He has four top 25 finishes at the Farmers Insurance Open (formerly Buick Invitational), including ninth solo place in 2020.
The 22-year-old South African won his first PGA Tour event by hitting 6 shots in the final round and beating six players with 1 shot at the Palmetto Championship in Congaree last week. Higgo, who played for UNLV, had won the European Tour three times in the past nine months, including twice within three weeks.
Stage III: Hey, miracles happen
They are the long shots. This tier includes a handful of aging former champions and a few newbies.
The Austrian has 12 world victories; his best result at the US Open was a tie for 16th place at Erin Hills.
Rafa Cabrera Bello
Since second place in Winged Foot and second place in the Shriners Hospital for Children Open at his next start, it has been an unforgettable season for Wolff. He hasn’t been in the top 25 since then, retired from two events and was disqualified from the Masters in April for signing an incorrect scorecard. He also withdrew from the PGA championship for unspecified reasons.
Erik van Rooyen
Go over, DeChambeau. The longest club in professional golf is this 21-year-old South African who averaged a whopping 361.4 yards from the tee on his PGA Tour debut at the Palmetto Championship in Congaree last week. He finished 14th with the same number of points, 4 strokes behind Higgo. DeChambeau’s average driving distance this season is 322.7 yards; the tour average is 295.7. In November, Nienaber had a 439 yard drive, a European Tour record, at the Joburg Open in South Africa.
Si Woo Kim
Stage IV: Happy about the cut
They are not expected to be among the contenders unless something magical happens.
The 19-year-old who skipped college to turn pro is getting his first jump into a major. He finished ninth at the Safeway Open and was the first player since 2008 to hit each of the 18 greens of Pebble Beach, the smallest putting surface on the tour, shooting an 8-under 64 Pro Am in the first round of the AT&T.
Armitage, 33, delivered an emotional post-victory interview after winning the European Tour at the Porsche European Open in Germany. It was a long road for the Englishman who lost his mother to cancer at the age of 15.
K. H. Lee
The former East Tennessee State star is the first player from Poland to compete in the US Open. Meronk, 6-foot-6, has a win on the European Challenge Tour.
Strafaci became the fourth Georgia Tech player to win the US amateur with a 1-up win over Ollie Osborne in the 36-hole final at Bandon Dunes in August. He used the new rule of the USGA, which allows the reigning US amateur champion to play as a professional at the following US Open.
J. J. Spaun
Level V: The qualifiers
Here are the remaining players among the 66 who are not PGA Tour regulars. They survived the local and final qualifying to get spots in the field.
The South African has 11 world victories, including three on the European Tour. At the US Open 2015 in Chambers Bay, he finished 25th.
Luis Fernando Barco
Barco, who played collegially at Purdue, is considered the first player from Peru to qualify for the US Open.
Johnson’s older brother Bradley was with the U.S. Junior Amateur 2005 second behind Kevin Tway. About eight months later, Bradley Johnson was killed in a car accident in Lay Lake, Alabama. He was 17.
The former USC star finished 37th at the Farmers Insurance Open and donated half of his $ 34,125 winnings to the tournament’s charity.
Young, 24, won consecutive events on the Korn Ferry Tour in May, the first wins of his professional career. He had missed the cut in five of his previous six starts.
Level VI: The amateurs
Here are the amateur players who will try to do what stars like Cantlay, Mickelson, Rahm and Spieth and so many others do in the U.S. Open did before they went pro – winning a medal as a low amateur.
As an aspiring junior in Texas, Hammer is taking part in his third US Open; he missed the cut on Chambers Bay and Winged Foot.
What a month for Highsmith, who led Pepperdine to his second NCAA championship, went 3-0 in match play and then honored medalists in a final qualifier in Richland, Washington.
The Englishman won the amateur championship at Royal Birkdale in August, securing his first start at the US Open.
The five-year-old senior from Georgia shot 3 under 139 on his PGA Tour debut as an amateur at RBC Heritage 2020.
As a three-time All-American with Pepperdine, he won the Jack Nicklaus Award 2020, the Ben Hogan Award and the Haskins Award for best college player in the country. At his first tour start he finished 14th at the Safeway Open in September.