He's finished in the top 20 in four of his last six U. He's finished in the top five in four of his last six U. Opens, including that win at Oakmont in It will work a lot over the next years, and he'll win a lot of tournaments. But his short game is not where it needs to be, and he won't be able to decimate Winged Foot like he has other courses on the PGA Tour.
Maybe this is not surprising to some who have been following closely, but it will be to a broader audience that only tunes into the major championships. His game is not sharp and not where it needs to be to contend at a U. He won't miss the cut by a lot, but he'll be on the line all week long and ultimately fall on the wrong side of it come Friday evening. Whoever could get hot and roll off the most birdies would be in contention to win, and then on Sunday, the absence of fans helped alleviate some of the pressure that came from those late afternoon tee times.
But two tournaments stood out where the combination of course design and tournament-week maintenance provided a unique challenge to the field: the Memorial and the BMW Championship. Rahm won both those events because he's got world-class form that separates him from the rest when faced with a course that demands all of the shots.
His well-rounded game and continued maturity as a star on this stage sets up perfectly to win his first major championship and keep this hot streak going into the fall. Sleeper -- Matthew Fitzpatrick : Applying the same system here, Fitzpatrick finished third at the Memorial and tied for 6th at the BMW Championship making him the only other player with Rahm to log a top 10 at both events. You're also betting on some championship history as the USGA has not been the menace to Fitzpatrick like it is for some young stars.
He's made the cut in all five of his career starts at the U. Open, was the low amateur in and logged 12th place finishes at Shinnecock Hills in and Pebble Beach in Top 10 lock -- Xander Schauffele: There's just no holes in his game. Schauffele doesn't quite keep up with the distance of the bombers, isn't so dialed in that he pulls away from the field on approach shots and has been known to struggle with his putter from time to time, yet the year-old is top 10 in strokes gained tee-to-green, top 10 in strokes gained total and had seven top finishes on the season.
Schauffele succeeds on the game's biggest stages because he can hang in there even when he doesn't have his fastball, and that kind of resilience will be a key at Winged Foot. Star who definitely won't win -- Justin Thomas: I like J. Open in principle, but it's definitely not the case at Winged Foot. His best U. Open finish was in at Erin Hills when a record 31 players finished the tournament under par, coming in at T9 after a rollercoaster weekend with a white-hot 63 on Saturday and then a course-correcting 75 on Sunday.
He's playing well enough that he could definitely finish top 10, but it's not the right fit for him to be the winner. Surprise prediction: Phil Mickelson flirts with the lead on Thursday. He's too amped up and loose after dominating his first Champions Tour start and spending all week talking about his choke, the huge bet on him to win and -- oh yeah -- the annual U.
Open and grand slam talking points. It's his first U. Open after turning 50, and I think he comes out with stellar stuff, sending the golf world into a frenzy. He'll probably fade the background and might even miss the cut, but I think we get some Thursday thrills from Phil. Who will win the U. Open, and which long shots will stun the golfing world? Winner -- Collin Morikawa : That's right, back-to-back majors for the rookie. He's a monster with his irons and always plays with control, which will be crucial to success at what's sure to be a week filled with carnage at Winged Foot.
If he can shape his irons with sauce like he always does and get by around the greens, he'll be in the mix to win his second consecutive major championship after taking home the PGA Championship last month. Sleeper -- Phil Mickelson : At some point, karma has to take Phil's side, right? He's finished second or T2 in the U. Open on six different occasions throughout his career, some of which include some close-but-not-quites of haunting proportions.
It feels like the world owes him at least one -- and there's no better year to do it than this one. Jude Invitational. This is the best and most consistent D. Open in historic fashion in , Rory's been unable to recapture the magic with four missed cuts in eight U. Open outings in the years since. McIlroy has played well in his last two outings, but it's hard to ignore how pedestrian his outings were in the previous seven since the pandemic, six of which he finished outside the top He's an artist off the tees and has a way of rising to the occasion when the course turns tough, which should play into his favor this week.
Lowest round: 67 -3 Winning score: -4 Winner's Sunday score: 68 Despite that, he's been playing quite well in every phase of his game except with the putter. S Open field is taking shape, SportsLine simulated the event 10, times, and the results were surprising. Head to SportsLine now to see the projected leaderboard. One huge shocker the model is calling for at the U. Open Rory McIlroy, a former U. Open champion and one of the top Vegas favorites, stumbles and barely cracks the top five.
McIlroy's emphatic U. Open victory at Congressional Country Club was remarkable, defeating runner-up Jason Day by eight strokes. McIlroy was also sensational at the beginning of the season, finishing fifth or better in his first six starts. However, McIlroy has seen a dramatic drop-off after the PGA Tour resumed play following the hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
In fact, he has recorded just one top finish since June and enters the U. Open having finished outside the top 30 in six of his last nine starts. McIlroy's inconsistent performances can be directly attributed to his inability to find the fairway off the tee. The four-time major champion finished last season ranked th in driving accuracy percentage He's not a strong pick to win it all and there are far better values in this loaded U. Open field. Another surprise: Daniel Berger, a massive long shot, makes a strong run at the title.
He has a much better chance to win it all than his odds imply, so he's a target for anyone looking for a huge payday. After recording three consecutive top finishes before the PGA Tour shut down due to the coronavirus, Berger picked up right where he left off with a win the first week after the restart at the Charles Schwab Challenge. Berger went on to record three more top-three finishes down the stretch and has only landed outside the top 25 once since February.
Berger ranked 27th in strokes gained off the tee, so he has the length and accuracy to be a factor. He also ranked 17th in strokes gained putting, so he should be able to tame the lightning-fast greens at Winged Foot. The model is backing Berger as part of its U. Open bets. Also, the model is targeting four other golfers with odds of or higher to make a strong run at the title. It's also targeting an epic long shot to win it all.
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