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2024 PGA Tour Preview: The U.S. Open

It feels like if it were not for the Louisville Police Department, we could be watching Scottie Scheffler continue his effort for the season-long grand slam. A winner at the Memorial Tournament on Sunday, the 27-year-old edged out Collin Morikawa by one stroke for his fifth win in eight starts. He also became the first player to win five times before the U.S. Open since Tom Watson in 1980. The betting favorite heading into one of the sport's oldest venues this weekend, the U.S. Open, is set to return to Pinehurst for the first time since 2014. One of the most challenging and demanding tests in golf, the greens at the course have been described as turtle backs by golfers, meaning a narrow miss could lead to a large number.

Chris Gallagher and Everett Davidson contributed to this article.

The Course

A Donald Ross design, Pinehurst number two opened more than 100 years ago in 1907 and sits among nine other courses at the resort. It has hosted more single golf championships than any other course in America, including the 2014 U.S. Open, which Martin Kaymer captured. Measuring over 7,500 yards, the venue offers a high degree of difficulty to give even the top players in the world fits. Only four golfers have even finished under par in the three previous U.S. Opens hosted at Pinehurst. Primarily due to the challenging greens, they are hard to hold due to their upside-down bowl shape and lightning-quick speed. Furthermore, with unpredictable runoffs and sandy collection areas beside fairways, it is the perfect site to host the nation's national championship.

The Field

The U.S. Open has always been known for underdog stories shining through during sectional qualifying, and the same thing is true this year. Big names like Joaquin Niemann, Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Talor Gooch, and Louis Oosthuizen have all missed the show, and Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott would have missed the tournament had two lifelines not been thrown their way (Scott was ranked 61st in the OWGR but was given the final automatic qualifying spot because the late Grayson Murray is ranked 59th, and Garcia was put in after Jon Rahm withdrew earlier this week). Meanwhile, many names that fans may not have heard of before have made the field in their place, and that is the beauty of the U.S. Open. Of course, there are the big names (all but Jon Rahm are in attendance from the OWGR top 50), but there are also the seemingly random players who do well.

Chris' U.S. Open Picks

Outright: Scottie Scheffler

Is anyone surprised at this point? In the middle of one of the most historic years in modern golf history, Scheffler is looking to become one of only four players to win six times in a season since 1983. He also aims to become the first golfer since Jordan Spieth in 2015 to capture both the Masters and the U.S. Open in the same year. A perfect fit for Pinehurst, over his last 36 rounds, the New Jersey native is number one in the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, Strokes Gained: Approach, and Bogey Avoidance. Pair this with his creative short game and outstanding course management skills, and I am all over Scheffler to win again this week.

Outright: Viktor Hovland

A player primed and ready to win his first major, Hovland has had some close calls on the game's biggest stage. He finished top ten at The Masters Tournament and The PGA Championship a year ago. Also, after getting off to a slow start this season, the Norwegian reunited with his former swing coach, Joe Mayo. Returning to his best, the 26-year-old grabbed a T3 at the PGA Championship at Valhalla before a T15 at The Memorial Tournament a week ago. Remaining one of the best players off the tee in the field, the Oklahoma State University product ranks 94th on Tour in driving distance (299.5) while hitting over 64 percent of his fairways in regulation.

Outright: Ludvig Aberg

Now up to sixth in the Official World Golf Rankings, Aberg has shined in his first full season on Tour. The Swedish native finished solo second behind Wyndham Clark at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am after it was called following 54 holes due to inclement weather. Along with this, he was also runner-up to Scottie Scheffler at The Masters Tournament before a T5 at The Memorial Tournament. The 24-year-old is third on Tour in Stroked Gained: Driving, tenth in scoring average (70.25), and seventh in proximity to the hole (35'2"). Furthermore, while battling a torn meniscus, Pinehurst offers a much flatter terrain for him to walk on.

Top-10: Xander Schauffele

Schauffele, the most consistent golfer this season behind Scheffler, won the first major of his career at the PGA Championship. Additionally, the San Diego native has finished inside the top ten in six of his last seven tournaments, including an eighth-place finish at The Masters Tournament and a runner-up finish at The Wells Fargo Championship. Furthermore, the 30-year-old has an excellent track record at the U.S. Open throughout his career. He has finished inside the top ten in six of his last seven starts at the tournament, highlighted by a tie for third at Pebble Beach in 2019. He is set to play his first two rounds with the other top two players in the world, Mcilory and Scheffler, and the count of Schauffele will be in the mix on Sunday afternoon.

Head-to-Head: Tommy Fleetwood over Justin Thomas

A seven-time winner on the DP World Tour, Fleetwood is more than due for his first win on the PGA Tour. The 33-year-old placed T7 at the Valero Texas Open before a T3 finish at the Masters Tournament in April. Moreover, he has an outstanding track record at the U.S. Open. Fleetwood finished fourth at Erin Hills in 2016 after holding the 36-hole lead. A year later, he finished runner-up to Brooks Koepka at Shinnecock.

Despite a top-ten finish at the PGA Championship in his hometown of Louisville, Thomas has struggled with the 2024 season. The Alabama product placed T64 at the Valspar Championship and T33 at The Memorial Tournament a week ago. Moreover, Thomas has also missed the cut in four of his last six majors. In this battle of two of the biggest names in golf, Fleetwood enters the week in better form. He should come out on top.

Everett's U.S. Open Picks

Outright: Collin Morikawa

Morikawa might be the hottest player on the PGA Tour outside of Scottie Scheffler. In his last three starts, he has finished no worse than T4, and he is coming off a solo second-place finish last week at the Memorial, which essentially turned into a duel between himself and Scheffler at the end, and Morikawa finished one stroke behind. Morikawa has a good history at the U.S. Open, as he has finished T4, T5, and T14 in the last three years and always seems to be a threat at major championships. He has only six career wins, but two of them have come at majors, and he has only missed three cuts in majors out of 18 starts, with two of those coming at the Open. Given that Pinehurst requires accuracy over distance, Morikawa should be a threat, and if his putting is up to what it can be, he will be in contention on Sunday.

Outright: Brooks Koepka

At the PGA Championship last year, Koepka became the first member of the LIV Tour to win a major, and he could easily win his sixth major overall this week. Koepka played at Pinehurst in 2014 and finished T4 at +1, two strokes off second place (Martin Kaymer ran away and won by eight strokes). Since 2014, he has only finished outside the top 20 once, a solo 55th place finish in 2022. Koepka has experience at Pinehurst and played well there when he was a relative unknown on the world stage. Koepka's game sets up well for Pinehurst, and if he can find himself in contention on Sunday, he will already know how to get the job done.

Outright: Matt Fitzpatrick

The 2022 U.S. Open Champion isn't exactly a sleeper, but he has much longer odds than he should going into the tournament. Fitzpatrick has a great short game and is very accurate, which makes Pinehurst play into his wheelhouse. When he won at The Country Club in Brookline in 2022, he did so from his stellar short game. Fitzpatrick hasn't been playing amazingly to start the year, but he is coming off a T5 finish at the Memorial last week, so his game is peaking at the right time. It wouldn't necessarily be a surprise for him to win again this week, and he is hanging around +5000 odds to begin the week.

Top-10: Shane Lowry

Lowry was in contention late in the day at the PGA Championship in May, and he won the Zurich Classic in April (with Rory McIlroy) to claim his first win worldwide since 2022. Lowry has made the cut seven times in 11 starts at the U.S. Open, and he was one of three players who finished T2 at Oakmont in 2016, three strokes behind winner Dustin Johnson. He missed the cut here in 2014, but Pinehurst plays somewhat like a links course, so Lowry should have a decent chance to do well this week. Lowry may not win, but he can do well and finish with his third top 10 in this tournament and his first since 2016.

Head-to-Head: Max Homa over Patrick Cantlay

Neither player has been playing exceptionally well to start the year, but Homa has been the better player by far. Homa finished T3 at the Masters in April and has three top-10s to start the year. Still, he has an awful history at the U.S. Open, with one cut in five starts, while Cantlay has had only two top-10s this year. Still, his history at the U.S. Open is at least respectable, with eight made cuts in eight starts, though he has never finished in the top-10, with his best finish being T14 each of the last two years. However, Homa's breakthrough at the Masters for his first top-5 and second top-10 in a major is something that seems to be changing him as a player, as he appears more confident going into the week. If Homa can use his momentum, he should beat Cantlay this week.

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