Dustin Johnson the favorite heading into 2018 U.S. Open

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After recent non-traditional US Open sites, this year the USGA prepares to host the historic championship at a historic location. For the fifth time, Shinnecock Hills C.C. will host the US Open. The Southampton, N.Y. masterpiece looks to be the next spot where professional golfers endure the carnage of a US Open.

The course

Shinnecock Hills, like most classic U.S Open venues, has stood the test of time. Opening in 1891, the windswept property has given golfers fits for years. Shinnecock Hills will play as a par-70 and around 7,400 yards. The course will play firm and fast as the Long Island area has experienced great weather the past two weeks. From the tee, the fairways are 41 yards wide on average which is 16 yards wider than the last time Shinnecock hosted a US Open.

Shinnecock Hills demands excellent iron play because a player won’t be able to hole putts consistently over 20 feet. At the pace the greens are currently rolling, putting in general may just be plain difficult. Around the greens there will be a lot of tight lies forcing players to spin the ball around the hole which is different from the fluffy rough that accompanies a usual US Open site. The weather will play a crucial part in how the course plays, if it rains the scores could be very low as greens soften, effectively taking the bite out of Shinnecock. If it stays warm the course could swallow up the players.

The Weather

According to weather.com

Thursday: Sunny with 10 to 20 mph winds coming out of the west.

Friday: Partly Cloudy with 10 to 15 mph wind out of the northeast.

Saturday: Sunny with afternoon clouds with 10 to 15 mph winds out of the west.

Sunday: Mostly Sunny with 10 to 15 mph winds out of the southwest.

The field

This U.S. Open field is as strong as it’s ever been. Every single player currently inside the top 10 of the World Golf Rankings is playing at Shinnecock Hills. The current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson comes off a dominant victory in Memphis, making him the odds-on favorite in Vegas, which is valid due to his success at the U.S Open in two out of the last three years.

Tiger Woods, “the needle”, as he always has been for the game of golf, comes into Shinnecock Hills in pretty good form as he looks to add to his 14 major championships. Shinnecock Hills sets up well for Woods as the firm conditions won’t make him hit too many drivers, but Woods won’t get No. 15 unless he figures out his putting woes, which he struggled with in his previous two events.  Rickie Fowler will play his first major after coming in second at Augusta, still searching for his first major. Fowler looks to be a popular pick this week in the Southampton. Fun story alert: current NHL referee Garrett Rank will get to fulfill his dream and get a chance to compete in the 118th U.S Open.

Does Phil Mickelson win his first U.S. Open?

Mickelson has came in second place six times at the U.S. Open and being winless in this event has been held over his head for years. Mickleson loves Shinnecock Hills and called this weekend the best setup he’s seen for the tournament in years. Being 47 years old, the clock is ticking for Mickelson, every chance at the U.S. Open excites the legend. Mickelson finished second in 2004 when it was last held at Shinnecock Hills. Lefty is comfortable with the set-up and seems to be energized after winning earlier this season in Mexico, I’d watch out for him on Sunday.

Groups to keep an eye on for Thursday and Friday (Both tee times listed in Eastern)

7:40 a.m/ 1:25 p.m.: Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka

8:02 a.m./ 1:47 p.m.: Rory Mcilroy, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson

1:14 p.m./ 7:29 a.m.: Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm, Rafael Cabrera Bello

1:47 p.m./ 8:02 a.m.: Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods

Dark horses: who could be in the mix on Sunday?

Shinnecock Hills is all about iron play, and an under the radar player who could make a lot of noise on the weekend is Kyle Stanley. Stanley is ranked No. 4 on the tour in Greens in Regulation and has been in contention constantly this season.His abilities suit Shinnecock Hills, he’d be a great value in your U.S. Open pool.

Who wins the U.S. Open?

This week I think Rickie Fowler finally breaks through. The experience he had at the Masters showed his ability to play in pressure-packed situations, and with his gift on greens and his accuracy with his irons Shinnecock Hills fits his game.

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