U.S. OPEN

THE FRONT 9

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - GOLF -

A look at nine top con­tenders at the U.S. Open, in order of pre­dicted fin­ish Rory McIl­roy NORTH­ERN IRE­LAND

Age: 29 Vic­to­ries world­wide: 22 Ma­jors: U.S. Open (2011), British Open (2014), PGA Cham­pi­onship (2012, 2014)

Best U.S. Open fin­ish: Won in 2011 at Con­gres­sional. U.S. Open memory: Win­ning with a record score (268) just 10 weeks after los­ing a four-shot lead in the Masters. Back­spin: McIl­roy has missed the cut four times in the U.S. Open, com­pared with once for the other three ma­jors. He at least has a vic­tory this year (Bay Hill) head­ing into the ma­jor sea­son.

Rickie Fowler UNITED STATES

Age: 29 Vic­to­ries world­wide: 8 Ma­jors: None Best U.S. Open fin­ish: Run­ner-up in 2014 at Pine­hurst No. 2. U.S. Open memory: Play­ing in the last group at a ma­jor for the first time in 2014.

Back­spin: The best player younger than 40 to have never won a ma­jor. Fowler earned that with eight top 5s in the ma­jors. His prob­lem has been go­ing back­ward at the start of the fi­nal round when he has a chance, and mak­ing a run when it’s too late.

Pa­trick Reed UNITED STATES

Age: 27 Vic­to­ries world­wide: 6 Ma­jors: Masters (2018) Best U.S. Open fin­ish: Tie for 13th in 2017 at Erin Hills. U.S. Open memory: Shar­ing the 36-hole lead with Jor­dan Spi­eth in 2015 at Cham­bers Bay.

Back­spin: Reed has only one vic­tory in his past 53 tour­na­ments world­wide, but it was at the Masters, as big as it gets. Cap­tain Amer­ica loves the grind of the U.S. Open, but it’s the kind of course that will ex­pose any weak­ness in this game.

Dustin John­son UNITED STATES

Age: 33 Vic­to­ries world­wide: 18 Ma­jors: U.S. Open (2016) Best U.S. Open fin­ish: Won in 2016 at Oak­mont. U.S. Open memory: Win­ning his first ma­jor with­out know­ing the score over the fi­nal seven holes at Oak­mont. Back­spin: John­son hasn’t been sharp since Fe­bru­ary, that is un­til he won last week. Also, he hasn’t fin­ished out of the top 20 in stroke play since Septem­ber. The one area of his game that will need to get bet­ter for Shin­necock is off the tee.

Tiger Woods UNITED STATES

Age: 42 Vic­to­ries world­wide: 90

Ma­jors: Masters (1997, 2001, 2002), U.S. Open (2000, 2002, 2008), British Open (2000, 2005, 2006), PGA Cham­pi­onship (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007) Best U.S. Open fin­ish: Win­ning at Peb­ble Beach in 2000 by 15 shots. U.S. Open memory: Win­ning at Tor­rey Pines in 2008, play­ing with se­verely dam­aged knee lig­a­ments and two stress frac­tures in his left leg. Back­spin: Woods has shown all the el­e­ments of be­ing among the best if he could ever put them all to­gether.

Jor­dan Spi­eth UNITED STATES

Age: 24 Vic­to­ries world­wide: 14 Ma­jors: Masters (2015), U.S. Open (2015), British Open (2017) Best U.S. Open fin­ish: Won in 2015 at Cham­bers Bay. U.S. Open memory: Get­ting the sec­ond leg of the Grand Slam at the Cham­bers Bay course.

Back­spin: Spi­eth has strug­gled with short putts for a lit­tle over a month. That’s get­ting bet­ter, and then his swing was out of whack at the Memo­rial. Even at 24, he’s wise enough to know one week changes ev­ery­thing.

Phil Mick­el­son UNITED STATES

Age: 47 Vic­to­ries world­wide: 46 Ma­jors: Masters (2004, 2006, 2010), British Open (2013), PGA Cham­pi­onship (2005) Best U.S. Open fin­ish: Run­ner-up six times at five cour­ses.

U.S. Open memory: A toss-up be­tween Winged Foot, where he had a one-shot lead on the 18th hole and took dou­ble bo­gey; and Me­rion, where he led go­ing into the fi­nal round and twice made bo­gey over the last six holes. Back­spin: Mick­el­son needs the U.S. Open to com­plete the Grand Slam, and this is his fourth at­tempt.

Justin Thomas UNITED STATES

Age: 25 Vic­to­ries world­wide: 8 Ma­jors: PGA Cham­pi­onship (2017) Best U.S. Open fin­ish: Tie for ninth in 2017 at Erin Hills. U.S. Open memory: Hit­ting 3-wood from 310 yards to an el­e­vated green on the 18th at Erin Hills and mak­ing an 8-foot ea­gle putt for a record-ty­ing 63. Back­spin: Com­ing off a break­through year, Thomas is get­ting bet­ter each week. He doesn’t have a weak­ness in any part of his game. The key el­e­ment for him at Shin­necock Hills is keep­ing his pa­tience.

Ja­son Day AUS­TRALIA

Age: 30 Vic­to­ries world­wide: 13 Ma­jors: PGA Cham­pi­onship (2015) Best U.S. Open fin­ish: Run­ner-up in 2011 at Con­gres­sional and in 2013 at Me­rion. U.S. Open memory: Post­ing a score that would have won or tied 26 of the pre­vi­ous 29 U.S. Opens, only to fin­ish eight shots be­hind Rory McIl­roy at Con­gres­sional. Back­spin: Day has turned the cor­ner, but isn’t all the way back. He has won twice this year, in a play­off at Tor­rey Pines and by two shots at Quail Hol­low.

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